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

April 17, 2020 

In this Week's Pellet Wire:

Executive Director's Notes: By the Numbers—Our Start in 2020

This week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration published its Monthly Densified Biomass Fuels report, sharing the first production, sales and inventory data from 2020. I took great delight in digging into something work-related not connected to the coronavirus pandemic. Perusing the data felt necessary and refreshing, and a relief from the burden of worry plaguing all of us. 

So what did we learn from the January data? I opened the report expecting to see evidence of the “winter that wasn’t” in the Northeast, arguably the heating pellet industry’s most important market. In conversations with members, it sounded as though demand really began to lag sometime in the late January/early February time frame. For now, the data points to a 2020 January that more or less looks like 2019. Overall, sales are almost dead even when comparing the two years—211,452 in 2019 compared to 211,529 in 2020. Producers kept their production at full throttle, bettering last year’s January production by nearly 30,000 tons (154,778 in 2019 compared to 184,451 in 2020). The industry’s inventory position as of January closed looks just like it did at the end of January last year (54,000 vs. 50,112 this year). 

Candidly, the January 2020 data surprised me. Based on the conversations I had during that stretch, I expected to see sales lag a bit. Instead, they were simply flat when compared to last year’s number. I suspect some of that softening will show up more clearly in the February numbers. Last February, the industry sold 170,000 tons of wood pellets against a monthly production of 140,000 tons. Standing inventories bottomed out right around 45,000 tons, raising eyebrows when these numbers were shared at last year’s annual conference. 

For fun, I’ll offer this prediction. When published a month from now, the February 2020 data will show that producers stayed in the throttle on production, and I’ll offer that the industry maintains the 30,000-plus ton pace (when compared to 2019), yielding February production of roughly 170,000 tons. We’ll see that lackluster winter show up in the sales numbers, and 150,000 tons sold wouldn’t surprise me. That’s 19,000 tons less than last year. The difference will show up in beefed up inventory levels, and I’ll bet February 2020’s inventory number will look more like March’s from last year, coming in around 70,000 tons.

PFI Standards Committee—An Invitation

Earlier this week, the PFI Standards committee met, and in broad strokes, we outlined a number of issues that require our attention and work. After a lengthy pause, there is work to be done under the banner of our standards program, and we welcome your participation. We talked about the BBQ pellet market, the recent clarification by the EPA on wood pallet fiber, and the need for a refreshed quality mark for program participants to use—one that more efficiently communicates the value of the program to consumers. Working groups will be established in the coming weeks to advance the conversation in each of these categories.

If you would like to be a part of the discussion in any of these areas and are willing to join the committee and participate in a working group please contact me directly at [email protected].

A Note on Our Annual Conference

It will come as no surprise to anyone that we are working through a range of options regarding the 2020 PFI Annual Conference. I have scheduled a board conference call for next week to officially consider and vote on a handful of options. Like all associations, the PFI relies on its annual conference to gather its members, discuss industry issues of the day and generate important revenue for the organization. We are working with our hotel partner in Milwaukee and our management firm to determine our best path forward to achieve as many of those outcomes as we can. 

Tim Portz 
Executive Director

Photo of the Week: Bleeding Green

Tim Portz and Kenny Lisle, PFI board vice-chairman (Lignetics), spread the wood heat word downtown Nashville, following the International Biomass Conference & Expo. 

Photo Caption: Tim Portz and Kenny Lisle, PFI board vice-chairman (Lignetics), spread the wood heat word downtown Nashville, following the International Biomass Conference & Expo.

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

Follow PFI on Twitter, Friend Us on Facebook, and Connect with Us on LinkedIn 

We'd like to connect and interact with PFI members and anyone else involved in pellet fuels production! 

Here's how you can help us build our online community:

  1. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!
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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! Let us be the first to know about your company's recent developments, and we will share them with the broader pellet fuels industry.

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

Join a PFI Committee

We welcome and encourage all interested PFI members to get involved in our committees. There are many opportunities to help steer the association. No matter where your expertise and interests lie, we have a committee that will suit you. Help us plan our next conference, shape our policy agenda, lead communications outreach, or grow the PFI Standards Program. Visit PFI's Committee Page for more information.  

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Industry News

U.S. wood pellet exports top 546,435 tons in February (Biomass Magazine):

The U.S exported 546,435.2 metric tons of wood pellets in February, up from both 500,904 tons in January and 501,563.9 tons in February 2019...

Read Full Article

Traeger's redesigned grill app offers cooking videos and customization (engadget):

Traeger’s WiFi-enabled smart grills already benefit from a robust app packed with recipes for meat, seafood, side dishes and more. 

Read Full Article

USDA unveils tool to help rural communities address COVID-19 (Biomass Magazine):

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on April 13 unveiled a one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities, organizations and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read Full Article

Sinclar Group halts production at 3 sawmills due to market conditions (Canadian Forest Industries):

Global market conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted Prince George, B.C.-based Sinclar Group to shut down lumber production at its three sawmills for the next three weeks.

Read Full Article

Oklahoma Joe’s Pellet Grill Debut Delivers Scorching Hot Experience (Forbes):

As a rising number of backyard barbecue enthusiasts embrace the wood pellet grill revolution, manufacturers are scrambling to keep pace with demand while innovating and updating grills at a furious pace.

Read Full Article

Enviva inflates first of two wood pellet storage domes (WLOX): 

Enviva - the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pellets - inflated the first dome on Tuesday at the Pascagoula deep-water marine terminal.

Read Full Article

Sawmill downturn disrupts winter biomass talks (Argus Media):

A decline in timber demand, as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, could prompt a decline in sawmill activity in the Baltics, North America and central Europe.

Read Full Article

Pellet Fuels Institute

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