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Exportation of Wood Pellets from N.A. to Europe Reach New Record

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Demand for wood pellets in Europe has gone up dramatically the past few years as power companies on the continent have switched from using fossil fuels to renewable energy alternatives. Importation of pellets from North America increased more than 60% from 2011 to 2012 with the U.S. export volumes more than doubling, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review (NAWFR), Seattle, Wash., USA.

The wood pellet export industry in North America has grown exponentially in a relatively short period of time. The export value has increased from an estimated $40 million in 2004 to almost $400 million in 2012. This fairly new trade development is the result of Europe's quest to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Energy generation from renewable resources has, with varying pace, gone up in all countries in the EU the past decade.

Woody biomass, including wood pellets, is one energy source that has attracted much attention and investments in a number of countries on the European continent. With limited domestic wood raw-material sources, countries such as the U.K., Belgium, and the Netherlands have increasingly relied on the importation of industrial wood pellets to reduce the usage of coal at some of their power utilities. The relatively high costs for wood pellets in Europe have resulted in increased interest in importing pellets from British Columbia and the southern states of the U.S. where wood raw-material costs are lower than in Europe.

A record volume of 3.2 million tons of pellets was exported from North America to Europe in 2012, according to the NAWFR, which compiles and publishes pellet trade volumes based on surveys of pellet exporters and customs data in North America and Europe, each quarter. From the U.S. South, shipments were up more than 100% compared with 2011, while Canadian exports increased 25% year-over-year.

The expansion of pellet production has been particularly noteworthy in the U.S. South where there have been 14 new pellet plants that are either new or planning to expand production in the coming year. Location and capacity of the new plants are reported in the latest issue of NAWFR.


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