The global wood pellet industry has developed remarkably fast, evolving from being practically non-existent 15 years ago to being an important wood fibre consumer which is increasingly competing with the pulp and wood panel industries for wood raw-material, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly.
Global pellet production was close to 10 million tons in 2008 and it is estimated that production will double over the next four to five years and some industry exports forecast an annual growth of 25-30% globally over the next ten years, according to WRQ.
Europe is currently the major market for pellets, but the interest for non-fossil fuels in North America is growing.
The major raw-material used for pellet manufacturing has traditionally been sawdust and shavings from the sawmilling industry, As this supply has started to tap out, there is now an increased interest in searching for alternative fibre. It can be expected, says WRQ, that European pellet manufacturers will increasingly use forest residues, urban wood waste and fast-growing tree species.
They will also begin to compete more aggressively with pulp mills and wood panel mills for sawmill chips and pulp logs, claims WRQ. Imports of wood chips from overseas may also be an option for some pellet plants.