Wood pellets are the most advanced way of using biomass; they are generally made from dried and refined wood shavings, which are then compressed.
Pellets are more widely used in countries where electricity generation is based on biomass, such as Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Countries like Germany, Italy, Austria, the United States, and Canada use pellets for residential heating. In both cases, incentive mechanisms have been essential for the growth and direction of this demands (ABIB, 2013).
The global pellet market is expected to reach US$ 9 billion in 2020 (Pellet Supply Chain Summit International Conference, 2013), with Europe as the largest consumer market. The European Union projects that approximately 20% of all energy produced in the bloc will come from renewable resources by 2020 (ABRAF, 2013).
Brazil has major potential to use forest biomass in pellet production to meet domestic as well as international demand, although production is still modest. Europe currently has 52% of the world’s industrial facilities, and 41% are located in the US (European Pellet Center, 2013).
Some projects are already in place in Brazil, some experimental and others targeting commercial-scale production on order to consolidate this new area of products in Brazil.
Pellets are considered the cleanest solid fuel and release less smoke than regular firewood, since they have low a moisture content and emit less gases such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds during the combustion process. This is possible thanks to the highly efficient combustion boilers which have recently been developed, as well as industrial treatments during the process of compacting and producing the pellets, which makes the material even drier.
The small size of pellets makes it possible to identify and “dose” the amount to be burned for energy production. One ton of pellets produces the same energy as one and a half tons of wood, and wood pellets take up less space for storage and transport.
Pellets reduce energy dependence on fossil fuels such as gas and oil.
This fuel comes from renewable resources like planted trees, which are perennial and versatile when well-managed.