April 2024

Inside this issue

FROM THE EDITORS
IN THE NEWS
  • Enviva Proceeds Into Chapter 11
  • Alabama Funds TIMBER Project
  • Biomass Power Assn. Has New Name
  • Drax Allies With Molpus
  • Biomass Innovations Asia Set May 13-15
  • AFC Mural joins Alabama Mural Trail
DRYER ISLAND
  • Baker-Rullman
  • Bid Group
  • Büttner Energie- Und Trocknungstechnik
  • Dryer One
  • Evergreen Engineering
  • Fagus Grecon
  • Hurst
  • Lundelltech
  • Mide-South Engineering
  • Mühlböck
  • PDI
  • Sick
  • Stela Drying Technology
  • TSI
  • USNR
ATTENDEES SHOW UP TO PROGETTO FUOCO

Verona, Italy H eld February 28 to March 2 at the Verona Exhibition Centre, the biannual Progetto Fuoco event is dedicated to the heating and energy production sector through the combustion of wood in Italy and beyond.

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From the Editors

Wow, It Was A Good Time

For not the first time, the biennial Wood Bioenergy Conference & Expo held at the Omni Hotel at Centennial Park in Atlanta was an industry reunion with lots of talks surrounding the future—and some whispers surrounding the present. It was hard to avoid the whispering around Enviva, who filed for bankruptcy\ reorganization during the conference. But never an industry to dwell on failures, those whispers were silenced by constant talk of new projects and new avenues for growth. As Nick Dottino with Graanul Invest said during our rockstar producer-focused lead off keynote session, the industry has been wrong more than it has been right.

The irony of that statement was not lost on the godfather of pellets, Harold Arnold, with whom Dottino shared the stage. Arnold first began pelleting southern yellow pine in 2008 (likely before Dottino had even heard the words “industrial wood pellet production”) and yet, both shared optimism for the future. Arnold in his quiet, pessimistic optimistic way that only he can pull off; Dottino referencing the variety of options being tested worldwide where woody-based biomass can be used; but not before a good gut check from last minute keynote addition Scott Dane.

Brought in from Washington DC, Dane serves as the leader of the nationwide logger movement in his capacity as American Loggers Council Executive Director. He’s their voice and he’s loud and proud. He likely turned some heads when he shared some hard truths about how expensive it is for the woods link in the supply chain. But nothing brought down the house quite like his declaration that biomass, is in fact, sexy.

Likely, we’re going to be printing some sort of merch as the kids say because that line is just pure gold.

As a vendor told us editors the night before the conference started, you definitely don’t want to be the first owner/operator of a pellet plant, and you probably don’t want to be the second owner/operator, but you might get away with being the third and there seems to be plenty of players looking to expand, step up and step in to our industry.

As always, we had a dang good time. Don’t believe us? Check out this view from the morning stage courtesy of Dottino. We’ll see everyone back in Atlanta in 2026. Can’t wait to make more memories, hear more innovations and, as always, hear about successful operations using wood to power our world.

From Left: Jessica Johnson, Managing Editor; Dan Shell, Senior Editor; Rich Donnell, Editor-in-Chief; David Abbott, Senior Associate Editor

 

Cover Story: Wood Bio Conference Sets The Pace

ATLANTA, Georgia – Great wood energy presentations and great food functions dominated the eighth Wood Bioenergy Conference & Expo held March 12-13 in the Grand Ballroom North of the Omni Atlanta Hotel at Centennial Park.

More than 200 people participated in the conference, which included presentations from 22 experts and showcased 50 technology and supply exhibits.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle

“I believe the depth and range of the presentations was the best we’ve ever had,” comments Rich Donnell, Co-Chairman of the event and Editor-in-Chief of Wood Bioenergy magazine, which served as co-host along with Georgia Research Institute. The theme of the conference going in was “Energy That Works,” but Donnell added that it could have been “On The Ground & InThe Air,” referencing speeches on timberlands and aviation fuel, with a healthy dose of wood pellets and heat energy in the mix.

“The speakers did a great job of putting their fingers on the pulse of where the wood bioenergy industry is today and where it will go from here,” Donnell added. Staying Focused Leading off the first morning keynoters session, Fram Renewable Fuels President Harold Arnold, as he always has, sprinkled in some reality: “Biomass has\ a future but it’s not all rosy.” Arnold is one of the pioneers of industrial wood pellets in the U.S., with Fram building its first pellet facility, Appling County Pellets, in 2007 in Baxley, Ga. Fram now operates three pellet facilities, including a recently modernized one, Hazlehurst Wood Pellets in Georgia.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle

Fram noted the benefits of wood pellets—sizing and drying wood fiber, changing the energy density, improving the transportability. And he also emphasized the factors that influence pellet consumption—weather, intermittent renewables, natural gas prices, worldwide energy crisis.

He said that upon Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and ensuing sanctions, which lessened Russia’s supply of gas to European countries, natural gas and pellets for heating prices skyrocketed, while industrial pellets production jumped, only to see a warm winter, reduced demand and a pellet price nosedive. Meanwhile inflation caused pelleting costs to rise 30%, parts increased 100% in some cases, lead times increased on critical parts.

It didn’t get any better in 2023, with reduced generation and lessened demand, costs still not deflating and prices tanking. Meanwhile transportation bottlenecks surfaced in the Panama Canal and Suez Canal/Red Sea. Addressing 2024, Arnold said most producers are suffering economically, spot prices continue to slide, supply and demand are out of balance with warehouses full. Nevertheless, Arnold said, the industry remains eternally, and amazingly, optimistic, with new projects and new expansions announced.

Citing information provided by renown consultant William Strauss of FutureMetrics, Arnold said industrial pellet fuel markets could be nearly 55 million metric tons per year come 2030. Arnold pointed to good and growing markets in Japan and Korea, and a potential market in Taiwan. Another slide from FutureMetrics showed a potential global pellet demand (industrial and heating) of 85 million metric tons in 2030 and a possible shortfall of 35 million metric tons after production capacity.

Arnold briefly touched on new markets, but noted those opportunities are yet to be realized. As for now, Arnold said, “Producers are in trouble. Change is onits way.”

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Wood Bioenergy is published and delivered 6 times per year tosubscribers worldwide. Readership includes corporate executives, mill ownership, mill management, logging contractors and equity venture interests. Wood Bioenergy is FREE to qualified readers.

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