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Markets - Wood/Biomass 10 May 2014

The Wood Recyclers’ Association market report for 2013 shows that the UK output of WRA members, at 2,003,000 tonnes, was 2% higher than in 2012 and broke the 2m tonne barrier for the first time. Output of non-WRA members fell back slightly, as more re-processors joined the association.  The total UK output for all re-processors, at 2,292,000 tonnes, showed a 1.4% rise.

However, exports fell back by 42,000 tonnes, or 9%, to 617,000 tonnes.  Almost all of the reduction was in biomass fuel, where there were a number of outages at European plants, although the increasing demands of UK installations were also a factor. Panel-board exports were only a fraction down on the 2012 figure.

Overall, the volumes of wood chip that UK re-processors provided to UK and export markets, at 2,909,000 tonnes, was very close to the 2012 figure. Of this, it is estimated that the WRA members’ share was over 85%.

The main feature of the UK figures is that the sharp switch from panel-board to biomass, reported a year ago, accelerated in 2013. In particular, the amount of packaging wood sent to the board mills fell, much of it being diverted to “clean” biomass. In addition, stocks built up at large biomass plants under construction or in the work-up phase. 

Panel-board remains the largest UK market for wood chip, but its lead over biomass is at a historic low.

Among the high value markets, there was a switch from equine towards poultry bedding,  thanks mainly to the extremely mild early winter. Generally, tonnages showed small but steady increases.

Andy Hill, the WRA chairman, said: “These figures are pretty much as expected, with the switch from UK panel-board to biomass, and the reduction in exports, perhaps the outstanding features. The contribution of WRA members to the UK wood recycling industry has continued to grow strongly.  I expect that, as the economy continues to recover, we shall see very positive results across all markets in a year from now.”

Peter Butt, executive director, WRA

Recent developments in biomass

Last month, the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced support for two coal to biomass conversions and a dedicated biomass plant with combined heat and power. The schemes were included in the first eight projects to be unveiled under the Government’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) regime. They are at Selby, North Yorkshire; Ashington, Northumberland; and Middlesbrough (MRW.co.uk/8661728.article).

Energy and climate change secretary Edward Davey said: “These are the first investments from our reforms to build the world’s first low carbon electricity market - reforms which will see competition and markets attract tens of billions of pounds of vital energy investment whilst reducing the costs of clean energy to consumer.”

Meanwhile, Navitas Environmental confirmed it would be starting construction of a £60m biomass facility in St Albans early next year, following the granting of apermit by the Environment Agency.

The new facility will process 86,000 tonnes of dry waste wood per year. More than 150 people will be employed during the construction and 30 new jobs would be created when it is operating with a further 30 jobs created in the local supply chain.

Andy Beck, director of Navitas Environmental, said: “The biomass development will be a welcome improvement to the current site and will provide a long term sustainable outlet for waste wood, primarily from Hertfordshire. The wood comes from other development and refurbishment projects and there is a considerable lack of recovery and recycling outlets in the UK. We intend to make this an example of best practice and make Hertfordshire a leading example for other councils in the UK”.

The biomass facility is being developed in conjunction with UK company Eco2, a developer of renewable energy projects across Europe.

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