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Why burning wood for heat is good, because of course it’s good!

The world can often seem too complicated for its own good. It’s a big reason some people, such as I, live in a rural place, where things are simpler to some degree.

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Through this lens, I sort of hate having to write columns periodically on why burning wood for heat is good, because of course it’s good. We all know this. I don’t have to tell you that cutting your own firewood, or buying a load of logs from the local logger, or a pallet of pellets that were produced in the same region, and using that fuel to keep your family warm is a million times better than buying an imported fossil fuel product. You already know that the new wood chip boiler in your local public school has saved the taxpayers in your region hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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Wood pellet trade doubles over 5 years, driven by biomass power

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As the world works to replace fossil fuels, wood pellets are playing a key role in decarbonizing power grids. European nations, in particular, have invested heavily in pellets for both heating and electricity generation. To supply this increased demand, global trade in pellets has doubled since 2012, with U.S., Canadian and European producers all playing a role. How this supply stream may evolve is the focus of the European Pellet Supply and Cost Analysis, a new study from RISI, an information provider for the global forest products industry.

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Panamaxing It Out

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As the consumption of wood pellets in European power stations matures, shipping efficiency is maximized by utilizing the largest vessels available.

On June 2, at the Westview Terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a Panamax-class vessel, the Popi S, was loaded with nearly 60,000 tons of wood pellets produced by Pinnacle Renewable Energy. Thirty-four days later, the pellets were successfully unloaded at the Port of Immingham’s Renewable Fuels Terminal, making it the first successful use of a Panamax-scale vessel to transport wood pellets. The shipment is important for a number of reasons, significant among them that shipments of this size will need to become commonplace to make the widespread use of wood pellets for power generation economically sustainable in the long term.

The advantages of using larger vessels to ship wood pellets are easy to understand. Larger vessels generally allow for the transport of goods, including wood pellets, at a lower unit cost than smaller vessels. Still, there are numerous factors at play that complicate what initially looks like a simple business decision.

The movement toward the use of wood pellets to make electric power—in particular the conversion of nearly half of Drax power station’s annual output to biomass input—has created a demand for industrial wood pellets felt around the world. Producers with access to large volumes of wood fiber in close proximity to ocean shipping lanes have and continue to come online to satisfy this growing demand.

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Interview to Cristina Calderon, Project Leader for the EU funded project BASIS

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AEBIOM – Where did the idea of BASIS project come from? To which concerns does the BASIS project respond, according to you?

Cristina Calderon – Bioenergy will play an important role to achieve the 2020 objectives and that’s why national biomass strategies are crucial for Member States to assess their domestic biomass potential and increase the sustainable use of wood. However new investors and project developers require clear information on the availability of biomass and existing competition in order to secure the feedstock supply. Beyond the theoretical studies of biomass potential there is a need of real biomass demand at a regional level, so that future plants will be situated with a view on the sustainable biomass availability. Basis came as a solution to this barriers. The main target groups are bioenergy project developers, feedstock suppliers and investors, while information will be as well of high interest for national and European policy makers and the European Commission itself.

AEBIOM – What are your main expectations regarding BASIS project?

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