The outlook for growth in the fuel pellet market is still positive, although it has been tempered some from earlier overly optimistic projections, attendees learned from several speakers at the Pellet Fuels Institute annual conference held July 29-30 in Asheville, N.C.
The U.S. domestic pellet market has tracked the natural gas market relatively closely, Seth Walker, an associate economist with RISI Inc., told attendees. When natural gas prices were trending higher a few years ago, interest in pellets grew, with pellet stove sales peaking at 140,000 per year in 2008. When the natural gas market nosedived the following year, pellet stove sales dropped by more than half, where the market has held. Given that correlation, natural gas price forecasts indicate a positive outlook for the pellet industry as well, Walker said. Natural gas prices appear to have bottomed out and are forecast to steadily rise. He estimated the U.S. currently has about 845,000 wood pellet stoves that create demand for about 2.33 million tons of product annually. He also projected that 50,000 to 60,000 stoves would be added annually in the next few years.
The global market for pellet fuel in 2012 is estimated at 22.4 million metric tons, said Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. Europe is almost self-sufficient in pellet production at about 12 million tons with North American production coming in at half that of Europe and Russia, the next largest.
In Europe, the United Kingdom is the No. 1 importer bringing in 855,000 metric tons from Canada last year and another 475,000 metric tons from the U.S. While Canadian pellets dominate the U.K. market, the U.S. is the biggest supplier to the Netherlands and Belgium. Denmark and Sweden receive the most pellets from Russia. He predicted that there will be a new surge for industrial pellets when several power conversions come online in 2015 including Drax and Eggborough in the U.K., EON Langerlo in Belgium and Delta in the Netherlands.
While the EU power market has gotten much attention, Murray pointed out that the heating market comprises 40 percent of the EU pellet market, with no subsidy required. “Pellets are 30 percent cheaper than heating oil,” he said. Currently, 90 percent of Canadian exports are being shipped from western ports and going through the Panama Canal, but an effort is underway to organize the smaller pellet producers in eastern Canada to pool resources and product to develop export facilities in the East.
Arnold Dale with Sweden-based Ekman & Co., said such cooperative efforts among smaller producers is also one way for them to handle the sustainability and ENplus standards requirement to move product into the EU. He explained that Ekman, with its main business in pulp trading, started working in the bioenergy space in 2008, supplying both industrial and retail markets. The sustainability requirements for the industrial markets has some questioning whether to focus more on the consumer side, he explained. “The consumer market in the EU has grown into a very stable market, it is no longer seasonal. People prefer to buy pellets in the summer months.”
The annual increase each year in the EU has hovered around 700,000 tons of pellets for the past few years, Dale said, but is projected to exceed 1 million tons in 2013, based on the sales of boilers and stoves. Italy is showing the most rapid growth currently, having added more than 1 million pellet stoves in recent years. Consumption is expected to exceed production in both Austria and Germany this year, which will add to import demand.
Amanda Lang, senior consultant with Forisk Consulting LLC, closed out the two-day conference with an analysis of projected demand from announced bioenergy projects in the U.S. No advanced biofuels were included as yet, she said, because none had met the company’s criteria for viability, as did only half of the proposed pellet facilities. The criteria included such factors as the use of known technology and project financing, among others. When potential demand is totaled, she said, “the forest products industry will continue to be the vast majority of the forestry market and bioenergy will comprise about 9 percent.”
According to recently released U.S. Census statistics, 63,566 more families used wood or pellets as a primary heating fuel in 2012 compared to 2011, which amounts to an increase of 2.6 percent, making wood again the fastest growing heating fuel in America.
From 2000 to 2010, wood and pellet home heating grew by 34 percent, faster than any of the other heating fuels, including solar and natural gas. Oil and propane use declined between 2000 and 2010, and the decline continued in 2012.
Today, 2.1 percent of Americans use wood or pellets as their primary heating fuel, up from 1.6 percent in 2000. An additional 7.7 percent of U.S. households use wood as a secondary heating fuel, according to the 2009 EIA Renewable Energy Consumption Survey.
Nearly 2.5 million households use wood as a primary heating fuel, making it, by far, the dominant residential source of renewable energy in the United States. In comparison, only about 500,000 of U.S. homes have solar panels and less than 50,000 use solar thermal heating. Solar thermal heating dropped by 2 percent in 2012 from 2011, according to the new Census numbers.
The states with the biggest growth in wood heat from 2011 to 2012 are Delaware (35.1 percent), Rhode Island (29.6 percent), Nebraska (24.6 percent), New Hampshire (18.5 percent) and New Jersey (17.7 percent). However, other states experienced declines. Among the important wood heating states of Washington, Oregon and California, the decline was very small, but there were more significant declines in Illinois (5.2 percent), Idaho (5 percent) and Colorado (4.8 percent). Over a 12-year period, the prevalence of wood heating has increased, often very significantly, in every state except Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Hawaii.
I generally do not consider myself as an old fashioned individual. Here at WoodMaster we believe we are open minded and constantly researching, developing and on the lookout for new and creative ways to use alternative, natural energy. But when it comes to the Farmers’ Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac I do tend to be old fashioned. I suppose it’s from being raised in the Midwest in a farming community. Of course a main topic was always the weather and how it will affect the crops and of course the Almanac’s were always brought into that conversation. Even today when you go to the local coffee shop you hear the conversation center around the forecast that the Almanac’s have predicted.
Whether you read or believe in the Almanac’s is totally your choice. Personally this is one old habit I am not going to break. I have come to trust what they say because it at least gives me an idea of what to expect and if I happen to be a little over prepared because of it that’s OK.
What are they saying for this coming winter? Well the Farmers’ Almanac is using words like “piercing cold” along with “bitterly cold” and “biting cold.” Take a look at their map of the U.S. and you will get the idea.
As for the Old Farmer’s Almanac according to Janice Stillman, editor “This winter is shaping up to be a rough one.” She goes on to say “Sweaters and snow shovels should be unpacked early and kept close by throughout the season.”
What I’m getting out of this is get ready for what may become a long cold winter and for those of you that like to play in the winter wonderlands’ you should have the snow cover to really enjoy yourselves. Here in the Midwest I’m sure we will be enjoying great skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing if this forecast is accurate.
It’s still early enough to take a look at how you are going to heat this winter and if you need help in what’s available and how you can become oil independent just give us a call and WoodMaster can assist you. WoodMaster furnaces keep winter's harshest chill away. Tell old man winter to visit your neighbor.
Caledonia State Park is the first Pennsylvania State Park to go green with a WoodMaster Flex Fuel heating system. WoodMaster is one of the leading manufacturers of indoor/outdoor wood boilers that meet EPA Phase II standards. They have teamed up with European technologies and are now manufacturing the Flex Fuel in Minnesota.
Craig Doyle, WoodMaster’s local distributor and owner of Doyle’s Woodstoves in Greencastle, PA, installed the Flex-Fuel-60 Series boiler and then invited WoodMaster’s technical representative from their Minnesota headquarters to come to Caledonia State Park to demonstrate this new boiler installation and to train Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) staff in its proper start-up, operation, and maintenance. The system will be used as the primary heat source for the Park’s maintenance facility and the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Museum located next door.
The goal of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is to use wood heat to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and for energy diversity. The Flex-Fuel-60 Series boiler is a downdraft gasification system capable of burning cordwood or wood pellets. Wood pellets offer low and stable pricing, compared to fossil fuels which tend to be more price volatile. An 8.5 ton pellet bin has been installed to automatically feed pellets to the boiler. The bulk delivery of wood pellets will come from locally produced sources. The option to burn cordwood gives the Park the flexibility to use hazardous trees removed along the Park’s roads and trails, thus providing visitor safety as well as conserving forest resources.
Downdraft gasification technology ensures that the wood fuel will be burned virtually smoke-free while displacing the pollutants produced from burning conventional fuel heating oil. During the combustion process, the heat produced will be captured in four 285 gallon insulated hot water storage tanks. That hot water will be circulated throughout the buildings for heat. Hot water thermal storage helps ensure that the wood boiler will not smoke like conventional outdoor wood stoves. Instead, burn wood fuels with a hot fire and capture as much heat energy in hot water storage tanks, avoiding the need to damper-down the combustion process for a smaller or “cooler” fire. When the buildings demand heat, thermal energy will be there in the hot water storage tanks.
The Central Pennsylvania Conservancy (CPC) was a great partner during the installation of this new heating system. As a “Friend of the Park”, Anna Yelk, Executive Director for the CPC, administered a $50,000 grant received from the USDA Forest Service for the purchase and installation of the WoodMaster Flex Fuel heating system. Paula DeVore, Park Manager for the DCNR Bureau of State Parks - Resource Management and Planning Division and Michael Palko, Biomass Energy Specialist for the DCNR, Bureau of Forestry, played key roles in working with the CPC and WoodMaster to coordinate this project. The CPC’s mission is to conserve natural resources and open spaces for the benefit of current and future generations through land acquisition, conservation easements, education and outreach in the Central Pennsylvania Region. Visit their website at www.centralpaconservancy.org.
WoodMaster's Flex Fuel 60 Series boiler fit all the requirements for the grant. It is qualified and is currently the cleanest product listed on the EPA Burn Wise site. It is reliable, dependable, and offers full automation and self-cleaning features. Burning wood produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and brings jobs and revenue back into our local economies.
Doyle’s Woodstoves LLC, owned and operated by Craig and Diana Doyle in Greencastle, PA, offers a full line of WoodMaster products such as indoor/outdoor wood boilers, whole house pellet furnaces, pellet grills, and small commercial boilers for greenhouses and poultry/hog farms. Contact Doyle’s Woodstoves LLC at email@example.com.
Joel Haskard with CERT's had a chance to chat with WoodMaster
co-founder and President Chuck Gagner about their biomass boilers and furnaces, and the industry here in Minnesota. Read on to hear what he had to say!
How do you see the health of the biomass industry here in Minnesota and nationally as well?
I feel over the past couple years the residential market took a dip due to the economy and low propane prices. This is making a good rebound now. A strong interest recently is the farm industry: poultry and turkey growers, greenhouses, etc. Wood pellets offer low and stable pricing, compared to fossil fuels which tend to be more volatile. In fact, pellet prices are pretty much the same as they were ten years ago when adjusting for inflation. A good way to understand the price benefits of pellet fuel is to compare it against other heating fuels. See for yourself here. Wood chips can range from $3-$5 per million Btu, being the most cost effective source of heat.
Many of the WoodMaster products seem to be based on European technology but are manufactured right here in Minnesota. What attracted you to these specific kinds of boilers?
Having worked with EPA for several years on a test method for our product and understanding the low emissions levels that were being discussed, we felt that the technology that Europe offers is very advanced and is a more sure way to meet the EPA projected emission levels. Another positive was that the product was time tested and proven for durability and reliability. These were the main reasons for teaming up with European technology and building the product right here in Minnesota.
How do they perform with the EPA guidelines?
The WoodMaster Flex Fuel Series is Phase II EPA qualified and is currently the cleanest product listed on the EPA’s Burnwise website. This clearly explains that the technology within the furnace is extremely advanced.
There was one specific unit that seemed to have real potential for poultry, turkey, and greenhouses. Could you tell us more?
The WoodMaster Commercial Series pellet and/or chip hot air furnace is a great fit for poultry and turkey farms and greenhouses. The size range is .5 million – 1 million Btu/hour. Using this hot air furnace would give the quickest return on investment. This is a much dryer heat than, for example, propane and has a very positive effect on the growing conditions.
Have any of these units been installed here in Minnesota?
Currently a small amount of units have been installed in Minnesota, larger amounts in other states. The results are extremely positive and we are anticipating a lot more units to be installed in the upcoming months.
Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with folks interested in biomass?
I would like to encourage people to look closely at the new biomass technology that is offered. Great features, primarily with pellet and chip boilers and furnaces, include being fully automatic, self-cleaning, reliable and dependable. Burning wood produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions while reducing U.S. dependency on foreign oil supplies and brings jobs and revenue back into our local economy.
Want to learn more? You can see photos below from a recent NW CERT tour of Northwest Manufacturing, makers of WoodMaster products. You can also click here to visit their website.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced that it is launching a $475,000 incentive program that will help residents install high-efficiency wood pellet boilers in their homes or small businesses.
The grants in this program will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Here are some qualifications:
-The installed boiler or furnace must be used in a year-round residence or small business where the building occupant pays into the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust.
-All applicants will need to provide MassCEC with a copy of an electric bill for the project site at the time of application so that MassCEC can verify eligibility.
-Property owners may submit an application for a property that they own, even if it is not their primary residence or place of business, however the project site must be occupied year round.
-Grants can be combined with any other local, state or federal incentive, and applicants are encouraged to do this where possible.
Grant amounts will be determined on the following basis, with further details available in the program manual, which can be found below.
Wood-Pellet boiler and furnace central heating units (bulk storage required)
Automated conveyance of fuel
Solar thermal hybrid system
Moderate Income Adder OR Moderate Home Value Adder
It’s possible to get back up to $15,000, though rebates will begin at $7,000 and the average is anticipated to be between $10,000 and $12,000. According to the MassCeC, new wood pellet boilers typically cost around $20,000, fully installed.
Massachusetts residents can learn more about the program, download the program guide and application by visiting the Clean Energy Center website.
Certified WoodMaster dealer, Kim Quirk with Energy Emporium, shares the following article relating to a recent Flex Fuel install.
Here in New England many home owners have their own source of wood they can use to heat their home. Or, they may decide that local wood or pellets can replace fossil fuels helping them achieve a level independence from foreign oil.
Working with a few of these customers, I have had the opportunity to put together combination wood and solar heating systems for both home heating and domestic hot water.
Burning wood or pellets in a highly efficient gasification boiler will provide more heat then a typical home can use each hour…especially in the spring and fall. So many of the new wood or pellet boilers recommend (or even require) a large water storage tank.
Solar hot water systems also require a water storage tank because the sun can only provide heat during the day. That heat needs to be saved until it is required.
Since both systems can benefit from a water storage tank, then it makes sense and can save money to design one storage system that can be heated by either energy source. The wood does most of the heating in the winter; and the sun for the summer. The heated water can provide house heating, which we only need in the winter, and domestic hot water, which we need year round.
The Energy Emporium recently installed a large, very well insulated, 2000 gallon water tank from American Solar Technics that is heated with both solar (Sunda evacuated tubes) and a gasification wood boiler (WoodMaster’s FlexFuel30).
Solar / Wood storage tank
Solar Thermal Collectors
In the pictures above, the storage tank is in the process of being completed. Once the liner is sealed, 3-4″ insulation is added on top and then a final layer of 2″ foam board will be added on all sides.
The Woodmaster Flexfuel is used with cord wood or pellets. It can decide to start or stop the burn (for pellets) based on temperatures it reads in the water storage tank. It can also block out some times (daytime, for instance) when it will not burn so the sun has the chance to do as much heating as possible.
The solar thermal collectors were built in two rows with northern row 3′ higher than the southern row to avoid shading. The angle is optimized for winter heat production. Each solar collector array has its own coil in the storage tank.
We added datalogging equipment on the solar loops and temperature sensors at 3 places in the tank as well as the boiler in and out. Over time we can report on the efficiencies of cord wood versus pellets and how much energy the sun is adding to this tank. The expectation is that in the spring, summer, and fall the solar collectors will provide most of the heating.
In the image below, the green line indicates the temperature of the storage tank. The red and blue are temperatures of the heat exchanger and the shaded red area indicates that heat is being transferred to the storage tank. Notice that, even in February, when we have a nice sunny day, the solar heating between about 9:30am and 3:30pm was able to boost the 2000 gallon tank temperature. At about 5pm the pellets kicked back in to boost the water temperature for the evening.
Solar Hot Water Data
Every winter, those who choose to heat with wood devote time into cutting up logs, and every spring they split the logs and stack them in rows to dry in the hot summer sun. Why do so many households choose to heat with wood? Because firewood is a homegrown energy resource that helps families stretch their household budgets, strengthen their local economies and continue a generations-long tradition.
The Pros of Wood Heat
During tough economic times more people turn to heating with wood. The U.S. Energy Information Administration date released in October 2012 projects that more than 2.6 million households will heat their home with wood this year, which is a 3 percent increase over last year.
Wood as a Renewable Energy Resource
These days, there is plenty of debate over what to do about climate changing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. But firewood literally grows on trees, and the ability of a woodlot to regenerate is the secret to its status as a renewable energy source. Wood is about half carbon by weight, but its use as a fuel is almost carbon dioxide-neutral, because trees absorb CO2 as they grow. When trees fall in the forest, the same amount of CO2 is emitted when they decompose as is released when they are burned for heat.
Benefits and Costs of Heating with Wood
"Net Energy" is the usuable amount of energy left after extracting, processing and transporting the energy commodity to market. Natural firewood has a very high net energy ratio compared with most other options because it needs little processing, much of which can be done with human labor. This is why firewoods price is stable. Price stability is not likely for fossil fuels, because the net energy goes way down and the retail prices goes way up as easily accessible deposits are depleted. Declining net energy is the biggest reason oil prices are so high now.
Considering the rising cost of conventional fuels, households can save a lot of money by heating with a wood burning outdoor stove. A household that heats with wood trades its own labor for big savings in home operating expenses. Depending on climate zones and other available fuel options, a household that produces its own firewood supply can save $2000 or more each year.
Buy Local Fuel
A woodlot owner who produces and sells firewood provides employment and income to the area. If a household buys its winter fuel supply from a neighbor, the transaction has a multiplying effect by keeping the money circulating within the community, increasing local incomes and creating jobs.
Most people recognize that wood is humanity's original heating fuel. Heating with wood today is dramatically better than it was in the past. The efficiency of the average wood burning outdoor stoves has roughly doubled to about 70%. The EPA-qualified indoor and wood burning outdoor stoves have even higher efficiencies, some into the 90% range.
Heating with wood burning outdoor stoves is about much more than home heating. Wood is the ultimate energy resource- and the most easily accessed and affordable of all renewable energies. People who purchase firewood create jobs close to home and strengten their local community. Those who utilize wood burning outdoor stoves know more about the cause-and-effect relationships of energy production and consumption than those who simply pay utility bills. And families that use wood burning outdoor stoves will find that the act of heating with wood is its own reward.
According to the Alliance for Green Heat, EIA Administrator Sieminski says wood pellets represent a "significant opportunity" for consumers to save money.
October 10, 2012 - The U.S. government released its annual assessment of prices and availability of heating fuels today and for the first time it included information on pellets and firewood. After gas and electricity, wood is the third most common heating fuel in America, but the annual Winter Fuels Outlook had never discussed it prior to the 2012-13 heating season.
The Winter Fuels Outlook is put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical and analytical agency within the Department of Energy. Reports published by the agency are the premier source of energy information in the country and are used to guide economic policy and educate the public.
During today's press conference, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski mentioned the "significant opportunity" for consumers to supplement their oil heat with wood pellets, as well as with electricity.
The inclusion of wood and pellets in the Winter Fuels Outlook came after over a year of discussions and meetings between the EIA and a coalition of wood and pellet groups. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) also raised the importance of pellets as an alternative to oil in New England with Administrator Sieminski.
According to the EIA, wood and pellets now produce more residential heat in the US than propane and nearly as much as oil. Wood produces 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) per year, propane 0.49 quads and oil 0.6.
EIA projects that average household expenditures for heating oil and natural gas will increase by 19 percent and 15 percent respectively over last heating season. The agency expects the country will experience colder temperatures compared to last year's mild winter, with oil and gas prices remaining virtually the same.
In terms of wood and pellets, the report said:
Wood consumption in homes has risen over the past 10 years, reversing a trend seen in the last two decades of the 20th century. In 2009, U.S. households consumed about 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) of wood. Household fuel oil consumption, by comparison, was only slightly higher at 0.6 quads. In homes across the United States, wood is most commonly used as a secondary source of heat and is second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel. Twenty percent of New England homes (1.1 million) used wood for space heating, water heating, or cooking in 2009 (EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2009). This is nearly twice the national rate. Almost half of all rural households used wood in this area of the country. In contrast, only 12 percent of urban New England households used the fuel.
According to data previously published by the EIA, the average American household heating with wood consumes two cords of wood per year. This number includes homes that use wood or pellets as a primary, secondary or occasional heat source. The EIA also documents that consumption in rural areas is more than twice that of urban areas. The EIA estimates that 91% of homes that heat with wood use firewood, 8% use wood scrap and 6% use pellets.
Wood use also trends strongly with income level, according to EIA survey data, with households making $20,000 or less using more than twice the amount of wood as households making $120,000 or more.
"The EIA's focus on wood and pellets is an important and timely step in the right direction," said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit consumer organization based in the DC area. "The next step is for states to start including the price of pellets in their monthly fuel price reports," Ackerly added.
According to ecoRI, oil has long been the primary heating source across much of the Northeast. However, the number of households seeking viable alternatives such as wood pellet heat to expensive oil has continued to rise since about 2008, when the price skyrocketed to more than $4 a gallon in some places.
Sales of pellet stoves and furnaces consequently have been increasing in the United States as more Americans seek affordable alternatives to costly home-heating oil. Attempting to find much-needed relief from record-high prices, consumers are willing to pay the upfront cost for pellet stoves.
In general, pellet stoves pay for themselves in about four years. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot charged $4.18 for a bag of 40 pounds this past winter in the Providence area. Pellets are usually delivered on a 1-ton pallet of 50 40-pound bags that costs between $200 and $300. On average, it takes 2 to 3 tons a year to heat a home, which translates to spending about $900 to heat a typical three-bedroom home with a pellet stove.
Wood pellet heat also offers price stability, as buying an entire year’s supply of pellets in bulk avoids the often-volatile cost of heating oil. For instance, a 250-gallon tank of oil at $3.50 a gallon would cost $875, but the price of oil constantly fluctuates.
Pellet fuel can substitute home-heating oil as an economically viable source of thermal energy for both residential and commercial applications. Pellet stoves first emerged in this country in the 1970s as a response to fuel price instability, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute, a trade group based in Arlington, Va. Pellets typically are made from wood waste produced at paper and saw mills and at furniture manufacturing plants.
Wood pellet heat offers consumers efficiency and environmental benefits over cordwood. Pellets burn more cleanly and more efficiently than wood, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute, because they effectively generate more heat while emitting less pollution.
The sharp rise of heating oil prices has fueled a consumer thirst for viable alternatives such as wood pellets. Pellets so far have replaced about 8 million barrels of oil annually, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute. Such energy displacement helps stimulate the American economy while enhancing national security and helping protect the environment.
Interested in wood pellet heat? Check out the Flex Fuel, Force20, and our newest money-saving product, the Ultra Series.
Contact Us for more information today!