As Europe increases its use of wood pellets to supplement coal as an energy source, U.S. wood pellet producers are exporting more pellets across “the pond.” From 2012 to 2013, wood pellet exports from the U.S. nearly doubled, with more than 98% of all exports shipping to Europe, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
In 2013, the U.S. was the world’s top wood pellet-producing country (5.7 million metric tons), followed by Germany (2.2 million metric tons) and Canada (1.8 million metric tons), according to the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization. When it came to exporting wood pellets, the U.S. and Canada topped the list.
Europe’s increasing demand for wood pellets has been driven mainly by requirements of the European Union’s climate and energy use goals for 2020. In response, new pellet processing plants are appearing in the U.S., especially in southeast and mid-Atlantic states accessible to wood harvesting areas and shipping ports. Some of these new plants can produce 500,000 metric tons of wood pellets per year.
After trees are harvested and debarked, the wood must be dried to reduce moisture content from about 50% to approximately 10% to create condensed, high-efficiency-burning pellets. This has created an opportunity for equipment manufacturers in the U.S., specifically large rotary dryer manufacturers.
We are keeping a close eye on wood pellets as a growing biomass energy source and the role of rotary drying technology. Meanwhile, South Korea also has an emerging wood pellet market, which could mean more processing plants in the future of the northwestern U.S.
The International Biomass Conference & Expo (April 20-22 in Minneapolis, MN) will feature the latest on wood pellets and much more in the world of biomass. Visit Uzelac Industries at Booth 105 – see you there!