Argentina: production and export of wood pellets

28.03.2011 By: Argentina Forestal / Renewable Energy Magazine/ Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Industrial

The production of wood pellets as well as wood briquettes is an evolving industry in Argentina. After compressing, drying and granulating forest waste and by-products of sawmills and secondary processing of wood like wood manufacturing, these products remain. They are defined as a solid biofuel –wood energy. About 2 kilogram of wood pellet contains more than 1 m3 of petrol/diesel. Wood energy as a biofuel seems to be booming. In fact, it is estimated that the worldwide production of wood pellets will grow from 12 to 50 million tons in 2020.

According to experts, the future wood pellet market will have two types of consumers, known as the consumers of industrial use (the U.S., Japan and China) and the ones of domestic use (Europe). Worldwide currently 40% of the biomass is used for industry and 60% for domestic use.

At this moment Argentina’s annual production is still around 50.000 tons of wood pellets, of which most is being exported. The sawmill industry in Argentina can offer enormous possibilities for the country, at the condition that some waste management is being developed. This sector produces about 2,8 million tons of waste per year (60% of the raw materials included). Of this amount about 50% can still be used in pulp, plates, etcetera. Until now unfortunately the other 50% is completely wasted.

This biofuel is slowly gaining property worldwide, because not only can it be stored and transported easily without the use of special techniques, but its consumption causes less CO2 emissions too compared to fossil fuels. Besides that the production costs of let’s say a boiler consuming wood pellets can be two or three times less compared to one using diesel and LPG. For Argentina a revaluation of the wood and forest industry’s biomass waste and a reduction of the negative impact on the environment by correctly managing waste, can give the economy a boost: creation of employment by exploiting this sector.

In Europe the growing demand for wood pellets as an alternative for regular fossil fuels comes from the Northern countries, where pellet burning systems replacing fuel burners are already developed on a smaller scale. These systems are also widely used in apartments and buildings, such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, hospitals, public offices and schools. Since 2004 Europe has increasingly imported more than 1.000.000 tons of solid fuels.

INTI Wood and Furniture Centre, with support from the Federal Investment Council and sponsored by the Province of Buenos Aires, is conducting a study called quantitative and qualitative characterization of wood waste in seven municipalities of Buenos Aires. This research contains about 700 companies in the wood and furniture sector. Until now just a few Argentinean exporters are active on the European market, despite of the enormous potential. The wood pellet consumption in Europe is rapidly increasing and the production does not satisfy consumer demand.