Lignetics: Manufacturer of Premium Wood Pellets, Pres-to-Logs® Fire Logs, and Fire Starters

Welcome to Lignetics' blog where we will be posting current information about the wood pellet, fire log, and fire starter industry. We welcome your comments and additions as we develop what we hope will be an up-to-date information center on all developments concerning wood pellets and fire logs.
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By John Ackerly | November 01, 2014

From Biomass Magazine

As winter approaches, the groundwork is being laid for a perfect storm of unprecedented firewood shortages in the Northeast and Great Lake states.

As winter approaches, the groundwork is being laid for a perfect storm of unprecedented firewood shortages in the Northeast and Great Lake states.  This may result in the impression that biomass is taxing our forests too heavily, when it’s almost entirely due to other factors.


Like last year’s pellet “shortage,” this year’s shortages are mostly a supply chain issue.  Industry has been waiting for the consumers, and now that they're here, is playing catch-up. As far south as Maryland, people couldn’t even find pellets in late September.


So far, coverage of the firewood shortage has been good, and scores of articles typically cite the causes as: last year’s cold winter, a wet spring and summer kept loggers out of the woods, a declining number of loggers, competition with other biomass users, new restrictions from transporting wood over state lines to combat invasive species, and more people heating with wood and and pellets.


There is one thing none of the articles mention: the shortage is likely to result in far more smoke because more people will be using unseasoned wood. The shortage began as a shortage of seasoned wood.  Now it’s a shortage of any wood.


Also, coverage rarely mentions that about half of American homes that heat with cordwood—5 million—obtain their own wood and will not be affected by this shortage.


The real seasoned wood heaters have a two-year supply of wood in storage, because even wood purchased in the spring is not necessarily ready in the late fall.  It’s many of the people new to heating with wood who are the least prepared this winter and don’t have enough seasoned wood.


If we have another cold winter like last year, this shortage will be far worse than it’s already shaping up to be. And if there is also another pellet shortage, it may shake the confidence of potential wood and pellet stove customers and lead to more concern over how the U.S. can sell millions of tons of pellets to heat European homes instead of serving the American market.  Generous European subsidies, particularly in the U.K., make pellets an economical choice to make electricity at only 30 percent efficiency, instead of using this resource at 70 to 80 percent efficiency for heat.


The market is definitely giving signals that higher demand for both pellets and cordwood is not just short-term. More pellet mills are being built, and hopefully, more customers will learn to order early in the year. Pellet mills are making sure to first take care of their bulk customers: residential, commercial and institutional.  What’s left over gets bagged.


The cordwood industry is, for better or worse, incredibly decentralized and unregulated.  Each state has hundreds of retailers who source wood from a variety of ways, some buying it and others cutting it themselves.  This shortage could help expand operations that kiln-dry wood and sell by the cord, not just in small, shrink-wrapped bundles. Operations with robust kilns that can get green wood one week and deliver it seasoned the next week command $400 and higher, instead of the normal $225 to $275 per cord.  Regardless, this winter, normal prices will move moving upwards of $300 for any cord of wood.
 Unlike most cordwood, kiln-dried wood can cross state lines or be transported further than 50 miles, as long as it’s dried to federal specifications that assure all bugs are killed.  Kiln drying operations are much more common in Europe. Expansion in the U.S. would be a great way to ensure more of our firewood supply is properly split and seasoned, resulting in higher efficiency and lower emissions.


While Maryland is already experiencing a pellet shortage, there is no firewood shortage here, or in many major suburban areas outside of the northern Snow Belt. In fact, there is still a slew of free, precut firewood from tree cutting companies, some that will deliver it for free. One company just posted a big, permanent sign advertising “free firewood” on a major thoroughfare, and several local tree trimmers drop cords of unsplit, 18-inch pieces there every month.  I often drive by and am tempted to grab it, but my wife reminds me that we already have two years of seasoned wood out back.

Read the original here.

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By Bill Bell | November 02, 2014 from Biomass Magazine

All looks good for Maine’s pellet industry. Spurred by $5,000-per-unit consumer rebates from the state’s Efficiency Maine energy agency, pellet boiler firms are installing at a combined rate of one unit per day.
“Girl, we couldn’t get much higher…”  (Light My Fire, The Doors, 1967.)


All looks good for Maine’s pellet industry. Spurred by $5,000-per-unit consumer rebates from the state’s Efficiency Maine energy agency, pellet boiler firms are installing at a combined rate of one unit per day. These firms’ annual sales targets are being met or exceeded; in one instance, amounting to a doubling of sales over an already robust 2013. The Pine Tree State’s four pellet manufacturers are running all-out and are having to turn down requests. Consumers visiting industry booths at the state’s large fall fairs are much more informed about pellet heat than in previous years. Clearly, the corner is being turned. And yet…


“We need to maintain stability in the boiler rebate program,” says Jacob Roberson, partner in Portland-based Interphase Energy, which imports and distributes Kedel boilers from Denmark. “We’re nowhere near critical mass.”


“As we displace existing technologies, we’re going to get more and more pushback from our competitors,” warns Les Otten, founding partner of Maine Energy Systems, which, in the ski town of Bethel, assembles and distributes Austria’s OkoFEN boilers from New England to Alaska.

 
The Efficiency Maine boiler rebate program is scheduled to stay on track, at least through the budget year ending June 2015. This program is an outstanding example of what a state agency can do when it decides not to act like a state agency. Under Executive Director Mike Stoddard, the overriding priority has clearly been to get insulation, weather sealing, and better heating and lighting equipment into Maine homes and business firms, and the agency has operated like an aggressive retailer rather than a bureaucracy. Partnerships with private sector contractors have been emphasized, and the agency has aggressively branded itself with Maine’s public.


Boiler firms also serving the New Hampshire market note that, despite a rebate program slightly higher than Maine’s ($6,000 per unit as opposed to $5,000), “the equipment isn’t exactly flying off the shelves over here.” The variable? The New Hampshire program is conducted through a finely tuned regulatory agency, the state’s Public Utility Commission, which lacks the promotion capacity and pizzazz exhibited by Efficiency Maine.


But what about the “pushback” of which Otten warns? He names three areas that competitors to pellet heat are likely to cite, one being alleged depletion of Maine’s forest resource. While Maine is the most forested state in the U.S., this is not readily apparent to mall shoppers in the southern part of the state. Maine’s industry may need to publicize the fact that virtually all of the wood going into pellets is from certified sustainably managed woodlands, where trees are actually growing faster than they are harvested.


The second potential objection to the expansion of pellet heat, alleged air pollution, is equally bogus. Maine’s industry will be exploring a partnership with American Lung Association of Maine, whereby homeowners are encouraged to swap out aging cordwood stoves—the real cause of woodburning air pollution—for EPA-approved wood and pellet stoves. This should help to get across the point about the high-intensity burn, low-particulate matter characteristic of pellet heat.

The third issue, “Will there be a ready supply of pellets?” poses a challenge.  There is adequate capacity among Maine’s four pellet manufacturers. Lacking, however, is foresight among pellet retailers, particularly the Big Box stores, whose conservatism in placing orders in 2013 led to empty pallets when the Maine winter turned out to be as long and cold as, well, Maine winters used to be. While the chains have reportedly upped their orders this year, small retailers who only just recently have decided to add bagged pellets to their merchandise are being put on waitlists or simply turned away.


Bulk delivery customers will all be served, and the supply side of market will find ways to respond to increased demand for bagged product. The pellet mill in Corinth will be coming back on line after undergoing—via new ownership—some significant equipment upgrades, and the mill in Athens will be expanding production as part of a huge project to generate its own electricity.


The future remains bright, so bright that we’re still wearing shades.

Read the original here.

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By Capital Regional Development Council | October 30, 2014

Capital Regional Development Council is pleased to announce they have been awarded a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to support the development of a wood-fired district heating system in Claremont, New Hampshire.  The Forest Service program is designed to support the use of wood energy which will promote sound forest management, expand regional economics and create new rural jobs.
The Claremont wood energy district heating project being developed by New Hampshire-based energy development company, HotZero, will connect downtown buildings with an efficient hot water heating system using biomass wood as its fuel source.  It is expected that participating building owners will realize significant savings in heating costs without the need to use scarce capital and building space to install separate biomass systems.
CRDC Loan Officer Elizabeth Sweeney said, “This grant award is an important economic development resource for the Claremont area.  Finding ways to take control of energy costs, while using nearby resources offers some of the tools we need in communities like Claremont.”  Sweeney added, “While many parts of the northeast are seeing energy cost reductions related to low natural gas prices, communities like Claremont that do not have access to natural gas run the risk of being left behind.  Projects like this hot water district heating system helps level the playing field.  The fact that the fuel procurement will mean more jobs in the local forest products industry strengthens the economics of the project.”
The grant dollars will be used to complete engineering for the project.  It is expected that the first phases of the district heating system will be operational in late 2015.  Initially, the project will focus on the Opera Square section of downtown, but is designed to scale-up over time to connect other sections of the city.
HotZero Founding Director Dick Henry said, “We are looking forward to working with CRDC to make this innovative project a reality for the City of Claremont. This nationwide grant was very competitive.  So, we feel the validation this project has received from the U.S. Forest Service is an important step forward – not only for this project, but for the future of wood-powered hot water district heating systems in the region.”

From Pellet Fuels Institute

This document is intended to help all involved in the wood pellet industry communicate about supply issues that can sometimes occur during times of great demand. Below are several major factors with supporting points, but the three main points to emphasize include:
    1.    Consumers should keep buying pellets – but slow and steady is key. Urge consumers NOT to “stock up” for the entire winter; simply buying enough for a week or a month will help producers and retailers ensure a steady supply.
    2.    The pellet industry is doing everything it can to keep up with the high demand. We are working together to ensure that regions with high product volumes are able to help supply regions with lower volumes.
    3.    Use Pellet Fuels Institute as a resource for news on this subject, and to check for fuel availability.
Weather conditions have an enormous impact on the demand for pellets.
    •    It might sound obvious, but a longer- or colder-than-normal winter can dramatically drive up demand for pellet fuels--just like other heating fuels--beyond production capacity for some producers.
    •    Winter 2013-2014 was an especially long and cold winter, with many areas of the Northeast still experiencing freezing conditions well into April or even May.
    •    In early forecasts, winter 2014-2015 was projected to be similarly cold (although some forecasts have been adjusted recently to reflect warmer trends).
    •    However, there are signs that this winter will not be as severe as last winter. As of October 7, 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) adjusted its Winter Fuels Outlook to reflect the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) revised winter prediction with warmer temperatures than previously expected. The report also indicates that consumers will utilize and spend less on natural gas and electricity in the coming heating season. 
The pellet fuels industry varies significantly from region to region, but works together to meet overall demand.
    •    Just like the weather varies from region to region, so does the pellet industry. Part of this is due to the types of feedstock that are available in different parts of North America – hardwood vs. softwood lumber.
    •    Under normal conditions, consumers purchase pellets that are sourced locally in most cases.
    •    In some areas of the Midwest, an unseasonably wet spring delayed access to wood fiber in the 
forest products supply chain, causing planned sources of cost effective fiber for making pellets 
more challenging to obtain than projected 3-6 months prior.
    •    Weather conditions in different parts of the continent can have an impact, as one area has a 
larger demand and another area has a larger supply on hand. Right now, there is high demand in the Northeast and high supply in the West. Some retailers and producers are working together to ship excess fuels to places that are at risk of running low. These partnerships will continue for the entire season.
    •    Many pellet producers are small to mid-size, local businesses that are adjusting to keep up with quick demand changes. It takes time to build out the infrastructure and train employees
to ramp up production, as well as access fiber supplies needed, which many times require long term commitments. These businesses must use caution while growing, because a season or two that are warmer than normal can have an adverse effect when end-users no longer commit to similar pellet volumes.
More Americans than ever before are turning to pellet fuels as a primary or supplementary method of heating their homes and businesses.
    •    At last count, well over one million homes across the country had installed pellet-fueled heating appliances, and roughly 2.5 million homes heated primarily with wood.
    •    Wood heating is projected to grow the fastest for the 2014-15 winter compared to other heating fuels; more than electricity, natural gas, and propane. As the industry grows, it will become better able to respond to these types of conditions. 
Pellet fuels remain a cost effective way to heat homes, particularly in the areas that are primarily electric, fuel oil and propane.
    •    The cost of pellets for home heating is considerably less expensive than heating with electricity, and comparable to slightly less expensive than heating with fuel oil or other fossil fuels. This helps explain the seemingly sudden popularity of pellets for home heating.
    •    According to the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning, wood pellet prices for 2014 are comparable to those of natural gas and cordwood. These three fuels cost less than half the price of kerosene and propane, and about a third the price of electricity. 
Here’s how consumers can help:
    •    Continue purchasing pellets!
    •    But it’s important not to panic. If too many people “stock up” with unnaturally large amounts, 
retailers and producers will have a hard time keeping up with the demand.
    •    Slow and steady is the way to go. Purchase pellets only for the next month or week. This will 
help ensure that there’s enough to go around, and that producers are able to keep up with the demand. In the event that this winter is warmer than has been projected, this will prevent an “overstock” of pellets sitting in a garage or tank waiting to be used.
    •    Look for highly efficient pellet appliances, which will allow the fuel to last longer.
    •    If you absolutely must “stock up” on pellets, the best time to do that is between April and July. 
Here’s how retailers can help:
    •    Make sure you are in communication with your producers about the volumes of demand you are experiencing well in advance of need.
    •    If possible, reach out to your producer contacts in other regions to see if there is excess supply you can order.
    •    Above all, make sure consumers are aware that the pellet industry is doing its best to address the situation. Emphasize that there will be enough to go around and to continue with the slow and steady purchase of pellets. 
Use the Pellet Fuels Institute as a resource for information relating to pellet fuels availability.
    •    We are in touch with pellet producers and retailers daily and can answer questions, or help direct inquiries to the right person. We will also periodically update the media on fuels availability, and post recent statements to the press section of our website.
    •    Check our website’s fuel availability page to see which pellet producers have excess product available for purchase.

 

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