Growth of Wood Pellet Industry Driven by Clean-Energy Demand in Europe

International demand for cleaner sources of energy has spawned a surging wood biomass industry in British Columbia, where 11 plants now produce wood pellets for a global market. The market growth has so far largely occurred in Europe, where use of pellets as a coal substitute has emerged as one solution for governments and companies looking to meet strict carbon emissions standards. In British Columbia alone, seven companies produced 1.2 million tons of wood pellets in 2010, most of which were shipped to Europe, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun. This year, that amount is expected to nearly double. And the Canadian industry predicts that the global market will expand further, particularly as Asian countries look for alternatives to burning coal. Another factor driving the wood pellet market has been the pine beetle epidemic that has decimated large swaths of pine forests across western Canada, creating an abundance of dead trees. In the U.S., however, some environmental groups are increasingly concerned about a growing number of wood biomass plants that produce air pollution and CO2 emissions.