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

August 7, 2020 

In this Week's Pellet Wire:

From the Director's Desk: Takeaways from VirtuallyPFI

Yesterday, we successfully wrapped up VirtuallyPFI, our socially distant, technologically enabled annual conference, and while it couldn’t provide any of us an opportunity to catch up with our industry friends and colleagues, I thought it provided a great platform to bring attendees up to speed on what is happening in the broader wood heat sector. With three of the four panels completed at Pellet Wire press time, I’d offer the following as some of my bigger takeaways:

  1. COVID-19 has everyone’s attention, but so far, it has not changed all that much. Every question bank I generated for the discussions inquired about the impact of COVID-19 for producers, retailers and the availability of wood fiber streams. During our producer panel, we learned that in the pandemic’s early days of outbreak (mid-March), producers were concerned about establishing themselves as an essential business, but that situation was resolved relatively quickly. Additionally, our producer panel reported that safety measures had been developed and deployed to keep plant personnel as socially distant as possible, but no one reported significant downtime. Regarding fiber, no one reported real struggles in gaining access to fiber, but there was a feeling that, at some point, the challenges in the hardwood sector would tighten fiber availability for pellet producers.

  2. The data gathered and shared by the U.S. EIA about wood pellet production, sales and inventory are used widely by pellet producers and retailers alike. So long as I oversee assembling the PFI Annual Conference, the EIA can expect an invitation to join our agenda. Ours is an industry influenced by so many factors that cannot be predicted. No one knows what winter will look like in northeastern Pennsylvania this year, nor what the price of heating oil will be in December, nor how many pellet appliances were sold in that market this summer. In the face of so many unknowns, the value of available data increases. On multiple occasions during my conversations with our producers, reference was made to the Monthly Densified Biomass Report and the trends that have emerged over five years of collecting important industry data.

  3. COVID-19 will make federal advocacy more difficult but is not an excuse to simply do nothing. I have come to count on Charlie Niebling as a catalyst for increased federal and state outreach always urging myself, the PFI and anyone else who will listen to do more. As easy as it might be to write 2020 off from an advocacy perspective (election year plus COVID-19), Charlie argued that simply doing nothing would be a mistake. Federal advocacy is as much an educational effort as anything else, and technology can and should be used as a platform by the PFI and its members to help policymakers understand the role we play in their state’s economy. I wrote down “figure out how to use Zoom for hill visits” as an action item during this panel.
  4. People are bullish on the 2020- ‘21 heating season. This one felt almost universal to me. Producers and industry observers alike feel like the table is set for a strong year in wood pellet production and sales. Producers talked about strong early buy activity, reports of good activity in new pellet appliance sales this summer and the possibility of increased pellet usage because of work-from-home and remote schooling provisions as working in our favor for a strong sales year. If the wood pellet-burning regions of this country have even an average winter, I suspect we might see record production. 

VirtuallyPFI was bittersweet for me. I’m happy with the quality of the content we amassed for our audience but saddened by the lost opportunity to connect with our members, our board and our important industry partners. I’m hopeful that VirtuallyPFI is a unique, never-to-be-repeated, can’t- believe-that-all-actually-happened event, and that we’ll all be able to gather safely in Louisville next summer.

Tim Portz 
Executive Director

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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. 

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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.

Industry News

EU wood pellet demand expected to increase in 2020 (Biomass Magazine) 

An annual report filed with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agriculture Information Network shows that the European Union’s wood pellet market has been relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic...
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New plan aims to build wood pellet mills in Northern Minnesota (KBJR6) 

According to the DNR, in the last 15 years, more than 150 of the state's lumber mills have closed.
Read Full Article

Alabama Pellets secures $10M incentive package to develop mill (Woodworking Network) 

The incentives include a $9.5 million investment credit and a $848,000 tax credit through Alabama’s Job Act Incentives program.
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Wood pellet center planned for St. Johnsbury (VTDigger) 

Bethel-based Maine Energy Systems — which sells loose wood pellets in bulk and pellet boilers and furnaces — received a $150,000 grant from the state Department of Public Service for the $510,000 project.
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Terrace Community Forest gets grant to turn logging waste into wood pellets (The Narwhal) 

After two years of stockpiling wood waste from logging, the Terrace Community Forest — a company owned by the northwest B.C. city of Terrace — has finally found a way to put the wood to use.
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A Big Thank You to Our VirtuallyPFI Sponsors

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Industry News

Good biomass: an inside look at producing sustainable wood pellets (Power Magazine) 

As the world combats a health pandemic, it is simultaneously fighting a drawn-out battle with climate change.

Read Full Article

ENplus survey: COVID-19 negatively impacted many European pellet prodicers (Canadian Biomass Magazine) 

The results found that 75 per cent of the certified producers and traders have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic...

Read Full Article

Mubadala invests over $150 million in world’s largest wood pellet producer (Gulf News) 

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala invested over $150 million as an anchor investor in the recapitalization of Enviva Holdings, the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pellets, the sovereign wealth fund said in a tweet on Sunday.

Read Full Article

ITA seeks nominations for renewable energy advisory committee (Biomass Magazine)

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration is seeking nominations for members of its Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee. Nominations are due July 31. 

Read Full Article

Pinnacle breaks wood pellet shipping world record (Canadian Biomass Magazine)

The world record for the quantity of wood pellets carried in a single vessel has been broken. Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. loaded 64,527 tonnes on board the MG Kronos, destined for the UK. 

Read Full Article

Enviva completes acquisition of Georgia Biomass (Biomass Magazine)

Enviva Partners LP, a leading global energy company specializing in sustainable wood bioenergy, on Aug. 3 announced the completion of its previously announced acquisition of a world-class, industrial scale wood pellet production plant...

Read Full Article

Pellet Fuels Institute

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