With the growing extension of global economy, people’s demand for energy source is also on the rise. During the past, fossil fuel (coal and gasoline) are used as the main energy, causing the consequent impacts such as environment pollution, greenhouse effect and climate change. Then people started to realize the importance of transition of energy source. Luckily, biomass fuel, this natural and clean energy source came into our sight.
Wood Pellets Materials Resource
Pellets from biomass, especially wood pellets, can make a significant contribution to several countries’ energy policy tasks, such as CO2 reduction. Wood pellets, as the most common type of pellet fuel, are actually made from agricultural or forestry wastes such as straw, bagasse, grain stalks, peanut shell, sunflower seed shell, saw shavings and sawdust, etc. Among them, sawdust and the related industrial wastes—the byproduct from milling of lumber, manufacture of wood products and furniture and construction (in wood working factories, lumberyards and sawmills)— are the main materials. During the production of wood pellets, no chemicals or bonding agents are used. This means they are a kind of recycled products and are good for the environment. Also, since wood pellets are recycled and reused they are a kind of carbon neutral heating source unlike fossil fuels.
Application of Wood Pellets
Biomass pellets are used widely as a new green energy fuel, which is mainly used as a substitute for fossil fuel (i.e. coal, gasoline and natural gas). As for the wood pellets, in general, some of them are for domestic use as a source of energy for space heating, and part of them are for industrial use, mainly to produce electricity. The wood pellets for power and heat application are characterized by large bulk volumes and are traded globally, while the residential pellets are traded locally.
-Cats, Gerbils, Hamsters, Birds and other small animals: Spread the pellets approximately 2-3” deep across your litter box or bottom cage tray. Removed soiled areas daily, fill in more pellets as needed.
-Horses, cows, pigs and other large animals: Spread the pellets approximately 1-2” deep across the stall floor or animal housing area. The average 10×10 stall will require approximately 6 bags for initial coverage, and a bag per week for fill in.
Pellets are usually made from compressed sawdust that look (and probably taste) a lot like gerbil food. You put them into the pellet hopper built into the stove. An electrically powered auger transfers the pellets into a burner, which burns them to produce heat.
Electricity generated from pellets in converted coal plants is almost the same cost as electricity generated from natural gas, by far the cheapest way to make new, low-carbon power. Not only does this strategy provide new low-cost, low-carbon capacity, it also has a very positive impact on job creation.
Let’s talk about the industrial wood pellets which are burned in power plants for electricity generation as well as used in combined power and heating plants and even on smaller heating plants. In most cases, power and heating plants where the pellets are used have adopted wood pellets instead of coal used before. In general, pellets are not mixed with other biomass products. They may be used at the whole power plant or on boilers of some big power stations. Still, in some cases, power and heating plants are able to use some other fuel products, like gas; while some power plants completely rely on wood pellets as their source. The combined power and heating plants need much more pellets in cold weather, especially in winter.
Why Adopt Wood Pellets in Heating or Power Plants
The biomass materials without pelletizing have low thermal value and produce high greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide). However, the wood pellets may be a cure to this problem. The thermal value of wood pellets can be enhanced during heating; in the meantime, the pollutants will decrease significantly. Thus adopting wood pellets from fossil fuel is popular for industrial use. As far as we know, more and more industrial power plants are adopting wood pellets as their energy source.
There are some advantages of wood pellets, which are shown as below.
1. Environmental benefits
There are key environmental benefits associated with wood pellet boilers. The wood pellets can be fully burned so that there is no additional CO2. Besides, the wood pellets can be CO2 neutral. Also, wood pellets can usually processed locally, thus the emissions related to transportation are reduced. It is said that the main motivation for choosing wood pellet heating is that it is an environmentally friendly option.
2. Reduced heating costs
A key advantage of wood pellet heating is that it can reduce heating costs as pellets are usually cheaper than oil. That is because wood fuels have higher energy content than oil. Furthermore, the price of wood pellets is likely to remain relatively stable since wood pellets are not subject to the unstable global energy market.
Compared to natural gas, wood pellet heating may be a good choice as it does not depend on a fixed physical distribution network. They can be transported and stored easily because of their form ans size; they also have a higher energy density.
Typical Wood Pellet Markets
The production and trade of wood pellets as a renewable energy source have increased significantly since 2008. The world production capacity was unequally distributed amongst the largest producers, U.S., Canada and emerging producing countries, such as Australia, South Africa and South America (Chrystelle Verhoest and Yves Ryckmans). Especially in EU, many power producers have adopted or are in the process of using wood pellets to meet the target of 20% renewable energy use by 2020.
Consumption of pellets in EU has steadily increased in the past several years. And the Europe is the largest demander due to the policies to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and increase the use of renewable energy. In Europe, not all production of wood pellets is dedicated to industrial power and heating application. Among all the nations in Europe, Belgium, Nertherlands, UK and Denmark enjoy the largest industrial demand for wood pellets, since there are large scale power plants needing biomass for co-firing application. As for Sweden, Denmark and Germany, wood pellets are usually adopted by medium and large scaled combined heat and power plants.
Canada shows the largest potential as a wood pellets producer. There is not much share of wood pellets is used locally, which is similar to that in the U.S.. Its production continues to be exported to Europe.
The U.S. has become a major producer and exporter of wood pellets, primarily to the EU. The United States seems to further increase its export with continued construction of new pellet plants. However, energy policies especially in the EU could help it compete with the U.S. and wood pellet production growth in countries with vast forest lands and established forest industries could also help balance this market.
Korea and Japan
Korea and Japan are also seeking to increase the use of renewable energy and the major market objectives in these two nations will be reducing carbon emission through cofiring. However, in the spring of 2015, South Korea has imposed new wood pellet import restrictions which may affect the market.
It is reported that the rapid development of global wood pellet market is expected to continue, which would satisfy the greenhouse gas emissions policies. The major growth of wood pellets driven by pellet plant have been in North America and Europe. However, there would be much more producing and consuming regions emerging into the market. Hence, the wood pellets market would be continuing to expanded.
The production of electricity and heat by wood pellets require stable, consistent and sufficient incentives. That would be a prerequisite for the evolution on the large scale power and heat production.
The wood pellets market, in order to remain sustainable, does require to have a favorable environment, which means not only stable policies by government, but also a business based on common technical references and sustainability requirements.