Report: Japan expected to set new record for pellet imports

By Erin Voegele | December 18, 2018

Wood pellet imports in Japan reached a record 506,000 metric tons in 2017, and are expected to increase this year, according to data contained in the country’s annual biofuels report recently filed with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agricultural Information Network.

According to the report, Japan has restarted only a limited number of its nuclear power reactors since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, forcing the country’s power companies to rely on other methods to generate power. Many of these companies have turned to wood pellets as a renewable energy source. According to the report, the current trend of mixing wood pellets or palm kernel shells (PKS) with coal for thermal power generation is expected to continue.

The report shows Japan imported 506,353 metric tons of wood pellets in 2017. Canada was the country’s top wood pellet supplier, with exports to Japan reaching 360,068 metric tons. Vietnam, Thailand and the U.S. supplied a respective 131,115 metric tons, 951 metric tons and 316 metric tons of wood pellets to Japan last year.

In 2012, Japan imported only 71,981 metric tons of wood pellets. By 2013, that volume grew to 83,769 metric tons. Wood pellet imports reached 96,745 metric tons in 2014, 232,425 metric tons in 2015, and 346,855 metric tons in 2016.

Japanese imports of PKS have also grown significantly over the past few years, from 26,211 metric tons in 2012 to nearly 1.14 million metric tons in 2017.

A full copy of the report is available on the USDA FAS GAIN website.