Recent reports from the US Energy Information Administration and the World Bioenergy Association show bioenergy production and wood pellet demand in Europe are rising sharply. As well, this week the USDA bioenergy program announced US$14.5 million in funding available through the 2014 Farm Bill. Also, an international bioenergy conference in Prince George, BC, last week provides some of the latest information on biomass fuel production and residual fibre supply in British Columbia.
In the US, applications are now being accepted through USDA’s Rural Development from companies that want to offset costs related to converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems. And the National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced US$2.5 million in grants to promote national energy security through development of bio-based fuels, biopower, and new bio-based products.
Wood Pellet Update
A new service called the Bioeconomy Tool Shed will also be available to aid those starting a bio-energy business. Web-based tools and information are available on the production and conversion of biomass into products and fuel.
The USDA is also seeking applications for NIFA’s Sun Grants program that encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector.
On June 12th the World Bioenergy Association released a report, titled “WBA Global Bioenergy Statistics 2014,” that determined renewables contributed 18.3 per cent of the global energy mix, with bioenergy alone contributing approximately 14.1 per cent.
Production and Demand
Globally, the report shows that that most bioenergy resources are used to produce heat. While 50 per cent of total global energy consumption from all sources goes to heat production, 92 per cent of bioenergy resources are used to generate heat. Alternatively, the report shows that while 20 per cent of gross energy consumption is electricity, only 3 per cent of bioenergy production goes to produce electricity. In addition, 30 per cent of gross energy production is used for transportation, while only 5 per cent of bioenergy is used in that sector.
On a global basis, solid biomass is used to generate 89 per cent of the bioenergy supply. Biofuels comprise 5 per cent of that, followed by wastes at 4 per cent and biogas at 2 per cent. Together those resources equaled 54.9 EJ globally in 2011, said the WBA.
Elsewhere, wood pellet exports from the US nearly doubled last year, from 1.6 million short tons (approximately 22 trillion Btu) in 2012 to 3.2 million short tons in 2013. More than 98 per cent of these exports were delivered to Europe, and 99 per cent originated from ports in the southeastern and lower Mid-Atlantic regions of the country.
European countries, particularly the United Kingdom, are using wood pellets to replace coal for electricity generation and space heating. A principal driver in market activity is the European Commission’s 2020 climate and energy package, binding legislation enacted in 2009 that implements the European Union’s 20-20-20 targets. The 20-20-20 targets have three individual goals for 2020: to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels, to increase the renewable portion of EU energy consumption by 20 per cent, and to improve EU energy efficiency by 20 per cent.
In 2013, the top five importing countries of US wood pellets exports were all European: the United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Italy.
However, Canadian wood pellet exports are lagging behind that of the US south, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada explained last week at the International Bioenergy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George, BC.
Canada and the US each exported just over 1 million tonnes of pellets in 2011, WPAC data shows. But by 2013 Canada had only exported approximately 1.7 million tonnes while US exports jumped to 2.8 million tonnes. Expectations are for another significant rise in US pellet exports this year. But those from Canada, which are 90 per cent supplied by BC, are growing at a much slower rate according to WPAC.
The ability for operators to secure long-term residual fibre agreements from the BC Ministry of Forests, whether independently or in conjunction with forest products companies, is critical for the burgeoning wood pellet industry in that province. During the most recent sitting of the BC Legislature was passed Bill 5, “Supplemental Forest Licence”, which is an amendment to the Forest Act. Madison’s will provide details on this new type of licence in an upcoming issue.