The Big Picture

As our team at Pellet Mill Magazine works to send this issue to print, we’re also in the throes of gathering and organizing data for our annual North American Pellet Producer Map
By Anna Simet | February 11, 2019

As our team at Pellet Mill Magazine works to send this issue to print, we’re also in the throes of gathering and organizing data for our annual North American Pellet Producer Map. To say this effort is challenging and time-consuming is an understatement, but we’re confident our data is becoming better and more accurate each year—a sincere thank you to all of the plant personnel who take a few minutes to call us back or respond to our emails. Copies of this map will be sent out soon—don’t hesitate to reach out with any updates.

The theme of this month’s edition is Global Production and Consumption, and though the pellet map only includes North American production, manufacturing in the U.S. and Canada has global implications, indeed. The U.S. is the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world, with Canada coming in second, and both markets are thoroughly discussed in my page-10 Q&A with FutureMetric’s William Strauss and Seth Walker. I asked them a variety of questions on the industrial and domestic markets, policy, trends and more, and to sum up the conversation in just a few words, the industry is once again gaining momentum, after a few years of slower, post-boom growth. As stated by Walker, who said markets are strong in Europe, “…demand has definitely caught up to supply, which means it may be time for new, greenfield mills. Combine that with expected growth from Asia, and we are entering a second phase of industrial pellet capacity expansion.”

Speaking of Europe, Senior Editor Ron Kotrba dug way into the ENplus certification program on page 16. While there are many parallels to the U.S.’s Pellet Fuels Institute Standards Program, one of the main differences seems to be how pellet buyers view each of them. The program is so popular in Europe that most customers won’t purchase pellets that aren’t certified, whereas in the U.S., the program is much lesser known, and the majority of consumers seem unaware or indifferent (though the PFI is working to change that). And while U.S. producers can become ENplus certified for a few thousand dollars, Kotrba reports, the costs don’t end there—if a U.S. producer becomes ENplus certified and sells only half of its inventory to Europe, for any labeled product sold in the states, pellet makers still must pay a royalty per metric ton.

Another issue with ENplus is the frequency of fraud attempts, but as Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada points out, this further demonstrates the value of the label. Revisions to further improve the program are in the works, according to Program Manager Gilles Gauthier, so stay tuned for a future update.

The last thing I’ll mention is that the agenda for the International Biomass Conference & Expo, this year being held in Savannah, Georgia, in mid-March, attracts attendees from all over the world. We have a track dedicated specifically to pellets and densified biomass, and some of the leading industry experts will join me on the general session stage and in breakout panels to answer your questions and provide some valuable insight. Hope to see you there. 


Author: Anna Simet
EDITOR
asimet@bbiinternational.com