Exports from North America to Europe continue to grow

Shipments of wood pellets from North America to Europe have doubled in two years, according to research compiled by the North American Wood Fiber Review, which reports that shipments reached 4.7 million tonnes last year.

In 2013, pellets with a value exceeding $650 million (€478 million) were sent to Europe, an increase of more than 250% in just two years. Two-thirds of this amount (around 3 million tonnes) was shipped from southern US. Export volumes hit a new record high in Q4 2013 and the total shipments for 2013 were up almost 50% from the previous year and more than double that of 2011.

The increase in pellet exports, from 800,000 tonnes in 2011 to 2.9 million tonnes in 2013, is driven solely by Europe's demand for biomass. This, in turn, is continuing to fuel a rapid expansion of pellet production capacity in the US south.

Many of the recent investments in pellet capacity in the US south have occurred along the Atlantic coast, with Enviva and Fram Renewables expanding production in the states of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

The report describes pellet export activity in Canada as 'less dramatic' compared to the US, however, despite 2013 volumes still over 50% higher than in 2011. Most of the pellet capacity leaving Canada is shipped from British Columbia. Interestingly, Canada has also begun exporting regular loads of wood pellets to South Korea.

Eastern Canada is expected to begin exporting additional pellet volumes later this year when Rentech begins operation at its two pellet facilities currently under development in Ontario. In the fourth quarter of last year, export volumes from the Eastern provinces accounted for 25% of Canada's total pellet exports, a share that is predicted to increase this year and next.

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