German Pellets sets up new plant in Texas
Europe's largest producer of wood pellets has begun construction of a new production plant in Woodville, Texas, along with a storage and shipping facility in Port Arthur. The current gas rush in the US means that North America will remain uninterested in the consumption of wood pellets for the long term.
By the spring of 2013, German Pellets says it will be able to begin shipping from the harbor of Port Arthur to Europe. Apparently, it will only take a couple of months to complete construction, for the plant is to go into operation in early 2013. The firm says the machines and equipment are prefabricated and only need to be installed.
The plant in Woodville will have a capacity of 578,000 metric tons of pellets each year, making it one of the largest in the world. The German firm says that the forests in the southeastern United States produce timber three times faster than German forests, which is quite an achievement considering that Germany already produces the most timber of any country in the EU.
German Pellets is reportedly also interested in construction of a second plant in the US in the first 2 quarters of 2013. The European market is eager to buy up inexpensive wood pellets; while countries like the Netherlands and the UK mainly co-fire them in the coal plants, the feedstock is used largely in domestic heating systems in Germany.
The practice of trading wood pellets across the globe has been criticized for being unsustainable. For instance, a study published in March by certification body PellCert with support from Intelligent Energy Europe (PDF) found that the greenhouse gas balance of pellets shipped from British Columbia to Belgium was 16% worse than with pallets shipped within Europe. As with basically all biomass, the energy balance – and hence, sustainability – largely depends on short transport routes, meaning that all biomass consumed should preferably come from local sources.
Unfortunately, the current boom in fracking in the US means that Americans will be able to rely on inexpensive natural gas for the foreseeable future. Over the next 2 or 3 decades, North America is therefore highly unlikely to start consuming its own wood pellets. (Craig Morris)