After a one-year pause, the Pellets Industry Forum took place this year on October 14–15 in Berlin. Over 300 visitors and a very interesting program provided for a good atmosphere and numerous interesting discussions, despite the currently difficult situation in the sector. Good speeches, noteworthy discussions and the participants themselves, including most of the major players of the European pellets sector, contributed to the event’s success.
Fanny-Pomme Lange, the Policy Director of the European Biomass Association AEBIOM, offered an overview of the most important current decisions at the European level in her opening speech. Immediately prior to the Industry Forum, crucial decisions on the requirements of the Ecodesign Directive, which will have long-term effects on the sector, were made in Brussels. Moreover, important decisions were also reached in Brussels concerning the future importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy in the scope of European energy policy goals.
Ms. Lange underscored the significance of the energy economy issue at the European level by pointing out that Europe is currently spending about 545 billion Euros on energy imports every year, which corresponds to 4.2 % of the entire gross national product of the European Union.
The EU Directive on emissions from medium-sized combustion plants from 1-50 MW is likewise to be passed shortly, and the debate on more security of supply is a key topic in Brussels.
The boiler industry’s fight for practicable requirements in the scope of the Ecodesign Guidelines proceeded very successfully. Persistent and effective lobbying prevented extremely low emission requirements that would have led to a destabilization of the market and possibly even to a mandatory introduction of expensive filters. With the now-mandatory introduction of Class 5 emission limits of the European standard for heating boilers, EN-303-5, the boiler industry was able to push through its main demand.
The stove industry had to learn which effects the lack of interest in association work can have. The Italian manufacturers who dominate this scene have made little efforts to fund association work up to now. Consequently their interests were not properly represented with the result that stricter limits will apply for wood pellet stoves (20mg/m3 dust) than for central heating boilers (40 mg/m3 dust). This could lead to serious problems for the stove industry when the directive goes into effect in 2022.
Adam Brown, the representative of the International Energy Agency, gave interesting insight into the global situation of renewable energy use. The International Energy Agency is expecting a consistently high level of new installations in the coming years for the generation of renewable electricity. Around 120 GW of newly installed power plant capacity on the basis of renewable energies is envisaged annually. Photovoltaic and wind energy plants, with 40 GW of output respectively, play the most important role, ahead of hydroelectric energy. As far as biomass usage is concerned, a comparably low value of 5GW of installed output per year is anticipated, which will nonetheless lead to a 50 % increase in biomass-generated electricity by the year 2020.
Interesting is the fact that the International Energy Agency is emphasizing the importance of biomass on the heating market in an increasingly stronger fashion. In its analysis of possible scenarios for a significant reduction of CO2 emissions, the International Energy Agency comes to the conclusion that 25 % of the entire global demand for heating energy would have to be met by biomass in order to reach the desired C02 reduction. If no decisive policy for greenhouse gas reduction is developed, a rather slow growth in the deployment of biomass on the heating market is expected, not in the least because the traditional usage of biomass in the form of firewood is tendentially decreasing, which runs contrary to the expansion of the modern forms of biomass utilization.
Presentations of the major European associations provided a highly topical insight into the development of the market situation. Here are a few relevant figures shown:
German pellet production capacity (grey) actual production (orange) and domestic demand (green) presented by Martin Bentele (DEPV) :
The market development in Austria presented Christian Rakos (proPellets Austria):
Development of pellet demand in Italy: demand from stoves (dark blue) and boilers (light blue) presented by Annalisa Paniz from AIEL:
Pellet market size in Spain presented by Marcos Martin from AVEBIOM:
Growth of the pellet market for heating in the UK presented by Richard Smith from the UK pellet council:
The markets of Scandinavia were presented by Johan Granath from Ekman:
Woodpellet production and consumption in Poland was presented by Ludmilla Wach:
Production of straw pellets in Poland:
An outstanding result presented was the analysis of a just-completed market survey conducted at over 150 European stove manufacturers. This survey was presented by Marco Palazzetti and concluded that 470,000 wood pellet stoves were sold on the European market in 2012. Even if a distinct slowdown in growth is noticeable this year in most of the European wood pellet markets on account of the mild winter and the economic downturn, the potential for significant market growth still exists with such high numbers of stove sales.
Further highlights of the conference included the presentation of the Pellet HD technology, developed by Franz Blieninger, the former CEO and owner of the Firestixx Group. The new technology leads to a very uniform length distribution of the pellets. Through the substantial reduction of short broken pieces, there is also considerably less formation of fines in the logistics chain. The figure shows the distribution of pellet length for conventional and HD pellet production. For further information see hd-pellets.de
The distribution of pellet length using HD technology (blue) and conventional pellets (dashed line):
There were also relevant presentations on the topic of pellet logistics, both from the view of the distributers responsible for servicing the end customers, as well as from the perspective of a stevedore servicing the international wood pellet trade. Special attention was paid to the issue of safety and improvement of technology in the logistics and handling of pellets in order to reduce the deterioration of the product quality through the various transshipments.
Of particular interest was the discussion about the increasing interleaving of the industrial pellets market with the premium pellet market. Currently industrial pellet customers start to show preference for ENplus-certified pellets, as this increases their flexibility to sell the product on the heating market if demand is there. On the other hand, from a present-day perspective it is not to be feared that the market will be flooded by pellets from North America. All of the newly built plants in the USA and Canada have concluded long-term supply contracts with power plant operators, binding a major part of the produced goods over a period of 5-10 years. With the conversion of the third block of the Drax Power Station next year this power station alone will use more than 8 Million tons of pellets. Ambitious conversion plans for large heating plants have also been decided on in Denmark, which will likewise lead to a considerable increase in pellet demand. Another interesting fact is the an intensified usage of pellets in large urban district heating plants, as well as in commercial and industrial applications, is foreseen in Finland which will change from being a pellet exporter to becoming a pellet importer.
A separate session provided current insights into the most important technological trends in heating boilers. Right after the conference two closing events featuring important EU projects took place: The SafePellets Project presented the outcome of extensive research work on the topic of safety in the pellet industry; the AshMelT Project reported on the results of research work concerning the methods for determining the ash melting point of biomass fuels.
The organization of the Pellets Industry Forum announced a major change: As of next year, the Pellets Industry Forum will be conducted parallel to the major fair Intersolar in Munich. The goal of the trade fair organizer is to focus Intersolar even broader than before on the topic of renewable heating and thereby move wood pellets more and more into the spotlight, in addition to photovoltaics, solarthermics and heat pumps. The European Pellet Council intends to establish the Industry Forum as the key meeting point for the pellet heating sector and will work closely together with the promoters in order to ensure an attractive, content-rich program.
The next Pellets Industry Forum will take place June 11-12, 2015 in Munich.