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

September 20, 2019 

In this Week's Pellet Wire:

Executive Director's Notes: My Time in Maine

By the time this edition of the Pellet Wire reaches your desk, I will have completed my second Chairman’s Tour, organized this year by current PFI chairman John Utter and other members of the Lignetics team. John and I decided that we’d begin our regional tour in Maine, an important and unique pellet market.

Not long after landing in Portland it became clear that the entire state was just on the verge of its annual fall color splendor. On the hillsides, the first blush of color was beginning to appear on the state’s abundant inventory of maple and birch, but the big show is still a week or two away. Coinciding neatly with the preamble to the leaf-peeping season is the run up to the wood pellet heating season and a careful observer can see plenty of signs of that as well. As we made our way through the rural communities that dot the state, we began to pick out tons of pellets set down in driveways, inside garages or next to outbuildings. Wood pellet burning Mainers are clearly laying in inventory remembering that they are just one month out from the anniversary of last year’s first significant snowfall. Retailers of all kinds are prominently displaying stacked pallets of pellets and everyone seems to be getting into the act. We passed more than one farmstead with handcrafted signs advertising “Premium Wood Pellets Sold Here.”

By design, our Chairman’s Tour takes us to both member and non-member production facilities, distributors, retailers and when possible appliance manufacturers. This year we were fortunate enough to be able to check all of those boxes. We started our tour at Maine Woods Pellet in Athens, Maine. Owned and operated by the Linkletters, a family with deep roots in Maine wood products manufacturing, the facility was impressive in its forward-looking vision. The Linkletters give their curiosity a long leash and recently installed a power generation component to their operation via an Organic Rankine Cycle turbogenerator. While power in Maine is currently quite cheap, the power generation facility will offer solid protection from the more expensive power that will inevitably return. Whenever I speak with non-members I always ask what the biggest challenge facing their business is as it helps me think about the value proposition of the PFI and if it aligns with their biggest challenges. Robert Linkletter offered without hesitation that labor is the biggest constraint facing their business. This certainly aligns with what I’ve heard from members and non-members alike. It’s clear that as the industry moves forward, this is something pellet producers will have to think about and overcome.

Tuesday morning found me at Lignetics of Maine, located in Strong at the site of a former toothpick factory. I was able to sit down and have a conversation with Dan Artis who hangs his hat in the Strong plant but oversees the production efforts at all of Lignetics production facilities in the East. We were at the plant in time to watch Dan and his team gather for their morning “war room” briefing where team members brief one another on important safety, production, shipping and maintenance metrics. The war room was held in a table-less, chair-less room adorned with just whiteboards where plant performance was meticulously logged and reported. I was impressed by how much information could be shared in just 15 minutes. The meeting adjourned and it was clear that everyone leaving the room knew just what their priorities were that day.

We left Strong and drove to nearby Jay, Maine to speak with the father/son duo that operates the Wood Pellet Warehouse. Steve and James Barker launched the business in 2009 offering bagged pellets delivered to their customer’s door. Their storage yard was a mix of pellet varieties from throughout the region including Canadian pellets. Steve was as bullish on his business and his opportunity as any retailer I’ve come across and he’s confident he can sell as many pellets as he can get his hands on this year. Without a doubt some of those single tons I saw sprinkled around the homes and farmsteads in the area were deliveries from Wood Pellet Warehouse.

After leaving Jay we traveled to Bethel, Maine to check in on Maine Energy Systems. I’ve been following the Maine Energy Systems stories for years and have interviewed and met Les Otten, B.J. Otten and Bill Strauss before but I’d never been to their facility. We got a full tour of their facility and the business they’ve built around whole-home heating with wood pellet boilers and bulk delivery is impressive.

We ended Tuesday evening in Augusta, Maine with a networking dinner with representatives from Lignetics of Maine, Maine Woods Pellet, Maine Energy Systems, Northeast Pellets, Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, and the Maine Pellet Fuels Association. We had a robust discussion about the challenges of growing this market and how to effectively work together to do so.

I’m penning this from my hotel room in Augusta with two full days remaining on an itinerary that will take me to one more production facility and four more retail locations.

A big thanks to John Utter and the Lignetics team for getting me out on the road to see this incredibly important region to our sector.

Tim Portz 
Executive Director

2019 Fall Board Meeting and Member Fly-In

On October 29th, the PFI Board of Directors will gather in Washington, D.C. for our fall board meeting and will spend the following day visiting our elected representatives to educate them about our industry and how we are impacted by federal policy. 

Join your fellow members and industry colleagues in this effort! 

Send us Photos! 

 Photos of the Week

James Barker, Steve Barker (Wood Pellet Warehouse), and John Utter (PFI) 

The Lignetics of Maine plant in Strong, Maine

The production team at Lignetics of Maine

Tim Portz (PFI), B.J. Otten (Maine Energy System), John Utter (Lignetics), and Bill Strauss (Maine Energy Systems).  

We’re building a collection of photos of our members, their pellets mills and product. Send them to Carrie Annand at [email protected]. This week’s featured photos are from Tim Portz's visit to Lignetics' Maine facility this week.

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Have News to Share on Pellet Wire?

We'd love to feature your company's news in a future Pellet Wire! We want to be the first to know your company's recent developments to share them with the wider pellet fuels industry.

Please get in touch with Carrie Annand via email at [email protected] with information on your company's growth, job openings, promotions, or other news. 

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Pellet Fuels Institute

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