Article produced by Lennart Ljungblom, published in Bioenergy International no 62 2012

The Pelletmarket is hot and
booming
– but also
very
sensitive

During the autumn two interesting conferences regarding pellets has been organised, one in Berlin, Germany and one in New Orleans, USA. And in the summer another one covered the situation in Asia Pacific. There is no doupt that the pellet market is movin. But as Christan Rakos said, the business is young and sensitive and the surrounding rules are changing all the time. But no doubt there is a strong expansion going on.
A
total of 310 participants from 32 nations attended the 12th Pellets Industry Forum from October 9-10 in Berlin. Experts from industry, the skilled trades and associations discussed state-of-the-art technologies and the development of international pellets markets. Sustainability in production and logistics was another key topic.
“We are happy with the response and delighted that attendees visited from 32 countries a testament to the success of our change in location from Stuttgart to Berlin” said Markus Elsässer, CEO of the organizer Solar Promotion GmbH.

The signs point to growth
The industrial pellets market is experiencing a major boom. Large commercial installations currently have very short payback periods in light of the price developments. It was noted in the conference the importance of the number of those little larger heating centrals for schools, hospitals, industries etc. They can very quick increase the local demand of pellets.
The most spectacular growth however is in the market for the power stations.
As Arnold Dale from Ekman & Co AB, Sweden, highlighted in his talk, UK alone changes the whole ball game for the international pellet trade.
The trigger for this boom has been the British “Renewables Obligation”. There are 17 large coal-fired power stations in UK, which could be partially or completely converted to wood pellets. Large plants owned by e.g. Drax, RWE and E.on are already using or preparing to use very large volumes of pellets around 1 million to for each unit. The support scheme named Rocbanding has got new figures and the focus is now, a very fast replacement of as much coal as possible. It is good economy for the utility to go for 100 percent replacement in the exisiting units. As told in UK we are very focused on goals and we have undersigned the European union 20/20/20 goal and UK will her part.
Heat sector
Wood pellets are also gaining ground throughout Europe in the heat generation sector with a continuous annual growth of 10–20 percent. As Dr. Christian Rakos, President of the European Pellet Council (EPC) reported, the numbers of newly installed pellet boilers in the EU have been rising significantly.
In his opening speach Christian Rakos said that the pellet business is young and risky but with a good competitive position not at least against oil, and the ongoing expansion will probably lead to the level of 100 million ton a year in not so long time.
He was very precise in saying that both the heat and power sector is important. The power sector opens up for very large volumes but is also sensitive for changes in policy in different countries.
The heat market on the other hand is growing step by step every day and this year it is forecast that 60,000 pellet boilers will be installed in Europe, with a third of them in Germany.
In the case of pellet stoves, the industry is expecting 300,000 new devices to be installed – 200,000 of them in Italy alone.
He also put out a word of causion with an example from Ireland where a fast increase of pellet boilers during some years now have ended up with a total dead market because of not god enough technology and not good enough competence in the local business.
This theme of skills in the business attracted a lot of attention in the conference. Often it is the installateurs that has the market contact and can create new sales as well as destroy the market for others. They are the real key persons and has to be educated and supported.

Facination ideas for pellet stove technology and market development
Marco Palazzetti from the leading Italian pellet stove manufacturer Palazzetti really got all presents attention when he looked into the future and presented his wiev of the use of modern IT in following and developing the appliances.
He also emphasised the important of numbers. To reach the ears of the political power people one has to present numbers, give accounting he said. And if we have statisitcs automatically collected form the on line connected pellet stoves we will be able to present the importance of the pellet stove for the energy balance during the year as well as in critical situations. The same systems exisits for electricity so we can do the same he said.
He also told not to think of the pellet stove as just an heating appliance. This is only one of three main functions he said, the other are home design and also a technological, ecological and social choice.

Sustainability: a central issue but no need for another invention of the wheel
All participants in the panel discussion were agreed that sustainability criteria are tremendously important for the industry. The Pellets Industry Forum dedicated an entire session to this topic, where participants discussed the current legislation and certification standards for areas ranging from timber cultivation to production and industrial logistics. In the course of the discussion, however, the limits of certification became clear.
As underlined by Harald Arnold from Fram Renewable Fuels LLC., USA, many small private forest owners in the US, for example, cannot afford the financial cost of obtaining a sustainability certificate for forest management on such small plots, even though they of course strive for high quality and sustainability standards.
His advice was that the geographic situation should be taken into account in these instances.
There is also no need to invent the weal once again. Forestry has long tradition and long perspective and there are systems and laws in many countries not at least in USA and in Europe telling exactly what can be done and what can not be done in managing the forests properly.

Torrefaction
Also torrefaction was discussed in Berlin by Uwe Becker of Kema Consulting GmbH, Bonn, and Stephan Sternowsky of Amandus Kahl GmbH & Co. KG, Reinbek, gave talks on technology, the state of development and challenges. Last year torrefaction was the buss word but this year it was a much more quiet topic.

Safety and efficiency in manufacturing and distribution
Further sessions dealt with the topics of increasing efficiency and storage safety. In the Pellets Production session on Wednesday, October 10, Dr. Magnus Stahl from Karlstad University, Sweden, illustrated how to reduce energy consumption when manufacturing wood pellets.
The latest version of the VDI guidelines for large pellet stores and the changes instigated by the new Austrian standard for wood pellet storage rooms (ÖNORM M 7137) were the subject of further presentations.

Pellets is like wine best used when mature
An intersting speach was held both in Berlin and in New Orleans by Niels Peter K. Nielsen from Denmark and the discussion that followed was the importance to know the pellet you store and handle. Fresh pellets are often much more reactive than old pellets and he presented tests showing curves of offgasing and temperature changes for different types of pellets at different ages.
In the following discussion in New Orleans this time Arnold Dale, told he learned by experience that the sensitive sort of wood is fresh pine. Pine should absolutely be stored for a minimum period two month before processed in the pellet mill. In this way a lot of trouble can be avoided.
Text: Lennart Ljungblom
Photos: The organizer
BI 62/3568/LLj3568_WEB_LLj_Diskussion_B08