Catch up with PFI in this issue of the Pellet Wire!
January 21, 2022

From the Director's Desk:

Changes to the PFI Index

We launched the PFI Index late last year in an effort to create a tool that could help producers and other interested parties understand where things stood from a heating degree day perspective at a glance. I asked for feedback and I’m sure glad I did. The table below illustrates a couple of key adjustments we’ll be making to the index going forward.

First, more than one producer pointed out that sharing this year’s relationship to a long-term average doesn’t have a lot of utility. Producers and retailers of wood pellets compare this year’s sales figures to last year’s. At the most producers might keep a five-year running average. I’ve left both columns in the example below to highlight the significant difference between the two comparisons. Sticking with the long-term average would likely have resulted in an index that showed a deficit against long-term averages for the entire heating season. That doesn’t feel incredibly informative. Moving to a year-to-year comparison yielded the Index’s first indication of more HDDs since its launch.

While winter in the Pacific Northwest and the mountainous West may not be rewriting the record books, it’s at least as good as last year and trending towards slightly better. If the format on the website allows it, we’ll run both numbers. If not, we’ll move to a comparison to the prior year. 

October EIA Data

Earlier this week the EIA published the October data for its Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report. The data suggests that the lackluster beginning of the heating season continued into October. Inventory levels in every region were at three, if not four, year highs, and producers modulated production as a result.

Production in the East was well off 2020 numbers (105,894 in 2021 vs. 118,178 in 2020). No region reported production within 10% of last year’s output. Overall production sagged to 164,683, the lowest pellet output in October since 2017. U.S. sales totals were a disappointing 223,197 tons, the lowest sales total in October in the report’s history.

 Anyone following the PFI Index could have anticipated these lackluster numbers as the Heating Degree Days (HDD) just haven’t been there. Until just these last couple of weeks, no location within the pellet-burning regions of the United States has come anywhere close to last year’s HDD totals. This week’s PFI Index suggests that in the Pacific Northwest and mountainous west HDDs have finally caught up to last year’s numbers. I’ll be interested to see if the similarity in HDDs in the region yields similar sales numbers to last year’s totals. I’ll put that on the “watch list.” 

The PFI Index

Heating Degree Days (norm vs previous year)


 Location From Norm  Jan. 2021
Portland, ME down 15% no change
Grand Rapids, MI down 17% down 5%
Lebanon, NH down 47% up 2%
Lewiston, MT down 14% up 2%
Buffalo, NY down 22% down 6%
Harrisburg, PA down 21% down 1%
Rapid City, SD down 14% down 2%
Spokane, WA down 12% up 6%
Baker, OR down 4% up 16%
Wausau, WI down 19% down 12%
Little Rock, AR down 25% down 24%
Youngstown, OH down 20% down 2%

Pencil In Milwaukee

Early next week, the efforts to build the platform of support, participation, and content for the 2022 PFI Annual Conference will begin in earnest. We’ve finalized our sponsorship prospectus and will be distributing it to our longtime supporters next week. Conference marketing often deals in hyperbole, and I’m reluctant to fall into that trap.

Fortunately, the simple facts are in my favor when speaking about the PFI Annual Conference. Last year, more than 65% of attendees were from the installed heating fuel capacity industry, and the numbers for the BBQ fuel industry were even more impressive. If your ambition is to grow your business within the wood pellet category, participation in the PFI Annual Conference is a must. Expect details in the next edition of the Pellet Wire about the options for participation and sponsorship.

  —Tim Portz
  Executive Director

  Photo of the Week:

Send Us Photos! Help us build a collection of photos of our members, their pellet mills, and product! Send images to Tim Portz at [email protected].

More of this please: This photograph of PFI Member Darren Winchester (Indeck Wood Pellets) taken in January of 2018 captures the frigid nature of deep winter in central Wisconsin. Heating Degree Days (HDDs) all across Wisconsin are down slightly from last year (5% down in nearby Eau Claire), but an artic air mass has moved into the region and the forecast for the next week resembles the kind of weather pellet producers need to make their year.  

Photo: Tim Portz

Industry News

Heating Degree Days Data

Heating degree day data January 1, 2022 data collection summary. (Worthy of a bookmark.)
View Data

EIA Monthly Densified Biomass Report (with October data)

As of October 2021, the monthly data collection included 80 operating manufacturers of densified biomass fuel.
Read Article

EIA: Densified Biomass Fuel Sales Reach 930,000 Tons in September

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released data showing U.S. manufacturers produced approximately 750,000 tons of densified biomass fuel in September, with sales reaching 930,000 tons.
Read Article

EIA Issues 2022, 2023 Bioenergy Forecasts

The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that renewable electricity generation will continue to grow in 2022 and 2023, according to projections made in the agency’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, released Jan. 11.
Read Article

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