Catch up with PFI in this issue of the Pellet Wire!

April 21, 2023

From the Director's Desk: A Look at January Data, Conversations for Austin

A Look at January Data

For three years I’ve counted on the EIA updating the data on the Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report on Wednesdays in the middle of the month. Starting this month and moving forward, new data will be published on the first business day of the month. This shortens the “look back” by a couple of weeks, and I’ll certainly cheer for that.

Let’s have a look at the January numbers (average):

Sales: 154,507 (171,543)
Production: 175,084* (144,408)
Inventory: 103,827 (169,626 in January 2022)

First, some explanation on the asterisk next to the production number. Those of you who are familiar with the report know that almost all of the data points are broken out by region. The production data for the West region for this reporting period (January 2023) was 60,420 tons, a notable departure from the 35,000 – 40,000 ton range the region has been reporting since mid-2019. Also raising questions about the veracity of the number is the lackluster sales in the region in January. At 34,546 tons, the lowest sales volume in the region in the history of the report, producers weren’t excited about more production by a rush of inbound purchase orders. I’ve raised an inquiry with our friends at the EIA and if necessary, they will correct the number with the February data release next month. Let’s keep an eye on that region’s data next month. 

Conversations for Austin

We are just six weeks out from the Pellet Fuels Institute Annual Conference. I hope you have made or will shortly make plans to attend. As a reminder, the conference is scheduled for June 6-8 in Austin, Texas. There’s BBQ there, and good music, and for those three days in June, plenty of discussions about the domestic wood pellet market. Here are the three conversations I’m most looking forward to:

  1. Whatever happened to the massive demand expected for U.S. heating pellets from Europe this past heating season? Overseas demand was the biggest story on stage and in the hallways at last year’s annual conference. One year ago, producers were running the traps on how much of their annual production they could cut loose and sell to buyers hungry for volumes to fill the void created by the Russian pellet volumes that weren’t available because of sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine. Things got off to a promising start with many PFI members taking orders in the late summer and early fall and then, what happened? Orders slowed to a trickle. The after-action review on what happened with this here today, gone tomorrow opportunity will be interesting, to say the least. Folks capable of offering commentary on this subject are all over the agenda, but I would point specifically to Gilles Gauthier from Hawkins Wright and Holger Welling from CM Biomass as featured presenters regarding this market phenomenon.
  2. Where does the push for electrification of all things leave wood pellet heating? I’m really excited about this discussion. I’ve offered plenty of commentary on this matter in the Pellet Wire over the past 18 months, but this issue is absolutely coming to a head. This week I testified before the International Energy Code Council as they consider language that may exclude wood pellets from a list of technologies that can qualify as ‘renewable’. If you are having trouble seeing the connecting, I urge you to take in the 10:40 am session on Thursday morning for the “Electrification Nation” panel. As our policymakers and think tanks work to decarbonize our economy, it is critical that the PFI and wood pellet industry defend the carbon benefits of wood pellet manufacturing and use. While outright bans on wood pellets for home heating isn’t on the radar, industry proponents (this one included) are suspicious of growing anti-combustion sentiments and what it foretells for the long-term right to do business as producers of solid heating fuel.  
  3. How are our retail partners faring and what can they tell us about consumer sentiments toward our products? This panel is finally taking shape and I encourage you to keep an eye on the agenda as we add retailers to this important panel. Retailers are at the tip of the spear of new wood pellet user acquisition. Retailers welcome folks needing space heating solutions into their locations and hear every day the decision-making rubric consumers are using to evaluate their options. Retailer insights about why people select wood pellet heating, or why they select away from it are solid gold information for producers to hear and reflect on. Just after lunch we’ll put three retailers on stage and talk specifically with them about consumer attitudes regarding our favorite heating and cooking product. 

—Tim Portz
 Executive Director


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PFI 2022 Annual Conference



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Photo of the Week:

Annual Heating Degree Days

Heating Degree Days, Visualized: File under “Found While Looking for Something Else”. If you’ve enjoyed the PFI Heating Degree Day Index, you’ll appreciate this contour map. The contour lines are set at 500 Heating Degree Day increments and make it possible to very quickly identify where in the country prime heating markets can be found. I’m a fan of maps of all kinds and I suspect this one will appeal to wood pellet manufacturers. Northern Maine, you think you’ve got cold winters? Northern Alaska has TWICE the number of Heating Degree Days. 

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Send Us Your Photos! Help us build a collection of photos of our members, their pellet mills, and products! Send images to Tim Portz at tim@pelletheat.

Industry News

EIA Monthly Densified Biomass Report (now with January data)

As of January 2023, the monthly data collection included 79 operating manufacturers of densified biomass fuel. These manufacturers had a total production capacity of 13.05 million tons per year and collectively had an equivalent of 2,544 full-time employees.

View Data

Heating Degree Day Data

Heating Degree Day Data Weekly Summary
Climate Prediction Center-NCEP-NWS-NOAA
Accumulations are from July  1, 2022 to April 15, 2023

View Data

Climate Prediction Center 8-14 Day Temperature and Precipitation Outlook

8 to 14 Day Outlooks
Valid: April 27 to May 3, 2023
Updated: 19 April 2023

Read Report 

Next Renewables Fuels acquires assets of Red Rock Biofuels

Lakeview RNG, a wholly owned subsidiary of NEXT Renewable Fuels, has acquired assets associated with the Red Rock Biofuels development in Lake County, OR effective Friday, April 14, 2023. Lakeview RNG is commencing a redevelopment plan focused on completing construction of certain aspects of the site while replacing or enhancing others.

Read Article

All Options on the Table

Attendance at the 2023 International Biomass Conference and Expo, held Feb. 28-March 2 in Atlanta, Georgia, was a solid indicator of just how critical the role of bioenergy is to the current push for global decarbonization. 

Read Article

Heat pumps have become a buzzword. So, how exactly do they work?

Last year, heat pumps outsold gas furnaces in the U.S. for the first time. As a tool in a strategy to electrify everything in our homes—from cars to stoves to hot water heaters—they’re a key part of fighting climate change. 

Read Article

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Have News to Share in the Pellet Wire?

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