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North American pellet exports reach record high in Q4 2015

North American overseas pellet exports increased for the third consecutive quarter in the Q4 2015, rising 7% from the previous quarter to just over 1.54 million tonnes, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review (NAWFR).

The total for the year was 55.3 million tonnes, which was 2% higher than in 2014 and almost four times as much as in 2010.

In the Q4 2015, total Canadian pellet overseas exports increased by 17% from the previous quarter with shipments going up to both Europe and Asia.

On a regional basis, British Columbian exports continued to shift slightly towards Asia, with a minor reduction in shipments going to Europe.

In the same quarter, shipping from Eastern Canada – albeit still in small volumes – rose to its highest level in almost two years.

Canadian pellet exports to Asia flow primarily to Japan, with a much smaller volume finding its way to South Korea, while China remains a tantalising but unrealised market prospect.

While South Korea is still concentrating on less expensive material from its neighbours to the south, principally Vietnam, Japan continues to show immediate and longer-term potential as a pellet and biomass consumer due to government policies that encourage growth of its renewable energy component of production.

US exports

In the US, overseas pellet exports are all flowing to Europe, principally to the UK, from the industrial pellet sector in the Southern States.

The volume exported in Q4 2015 climbed to a new record-high, with all of the increase coming from the export pellet plants in the US Gulf Coast region, according to the NAWFR.

Newly operating pellet plants in this region made their presence felt during the second half of 2015 with their first shipments to Europe.

German Pellets in Louisiana, Drax Biomass’ two new plants in Louisiana and Mississippi, and Zilkha Biomass Energy in Alabama all continued their ramp up of their operations.

Primarily due to these new facilities, exports from the Gulf Ports rose by almost 70% from Q2 to Q4 2015.

During Q1 2016, shipments to Europe from the US South have fallen in what is most likely a temporary pause caused by lower demand in Europe with the continent having an unusually warm winter.