Rapid expansion of wood pellet production in both the southern U.S. and British Columbia has dramatically increased pellet exports from North America to Europe the past year, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review. In the third quarter of 2012, total shipments were up 70% year-over-year to a record high of 860,000 tons. The growth is expected to continue with numerous plans for adding capacity, particularly in the U.S. South.
Pellet exports from the U.S. South have skyrocketed the past two years, quadrupling to 485,000 tons in 3Q/12. Canadian exports have also gone up in the past few years, but at a slower pace, notes the Review.
Announced plans for additional pellet plants also emphasize the quickly growing trade relations that are being established between European power utilities and U.S. pellet producers. According to the NAWFR, the most striking announcement came in mid-December when Drax, a United Kingdom power company, stated its intention to build two 450,000 tons pellet plants, one in the state of Louisiana and one in Mississippi. Most other export-oriented pellet plants have investment from European utilities, but are separate US-based entities.
Export pellet facilities which are under construction, conversion or redesign will add an additional 1.7 million tons of capacity during 2013, as reported in the NAWFR.