European countries gear up to meet renewable energy goals of 20 percent by 2020, demand for wood pellets is expected to rise.
By 2020, this number could be somewhere between 115 and 335 million tons per year, according to an article in Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining.
Both of these estimates eclipse the 11 million tons of pellets consumed by the EU in 2010. The greatest demand for imported biomass will be from Europe, Korea and Japan.
In Europe the “RE 20/20/20" energy policy carries legally binding renewable energy targets for each member country for 2020.
Plans submitted by member countries in 2010 to achieve targets will increase biomass use for production of electricity, heat, and transportation fuels by ~400 MT (million tonnes), mostly from woody material.
Pellet consumption of 11 MT in 2010 is projected to reach 16-18 MT by 2013-15 and 50-80 MT by 2020.
While Europe has potential for self-supply by increased harvesting of her forests and from energy plantations, import of biomass is more feasible and less costly.
The biomass shortfall is estimated at 60 MT. Key importing countries will be UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain.
According to the European Biomass Association, it is expected that Europe will reach a consumption of 80 million tons pellets per year by 2020.
These players must not be underestimated, however, especially countries such as Brazil.
With the availability of raw material, and well established wood and paper industry, it will be a matter of time for Brazil to become a key player in the wood pellets market.
The UK will become a very major importer of biomass: 206 million GJ/y equates to about 12 million t/y of pellets or 20 million t/y of green woodchips, equivalent to the wood requirements of at least four worldscale pulp mills.
Satisfying this demand will be a major opportunity, and a challenge, for the entire feedstock supply chain, from forest and plantation owners, to pellet producers, traders, shipping companies and port operators globally. China's new 5-year plan focuses on renewable energy.
Domestic demand will increase substantially but it supports self-sufficiency and biomass trade is not yet envisioned.
Korea has an ambitious target for renewable energy and a large scale import program (15 MT of pellets for co-firing).
In post-tsunami Japan, massive domestic and import biomass programs are contemplated that would increase demand for imported biomass to the same magnitude as Korea