Wood pellets are the most recent and most innovative type of wood fuel, and they have undergone a rapid development since 1997. Pellets are made from by-products of forestry management and the timber industry. During wood pelletizing process, pure, untreated wood is pressed into pellets without the addition of synthetic binding agents.
The Development of Wood Pellets in Austria
The use of forest biomass for heat generation has a long tradition in Austria. As a natural raw material, wood has been used to produce local and district heat since the early 1980s. With forest coverage of 46%, Austria is one of the most densely forested countries in Europe. The increasing level of energy consumption, the finiteness and ever-increasing prices of fossil fuels, the uncertainties of current supply and the limited ability of the environment to absorb emissions lead to the wood pellets emerging as the times require.
In 1994, the Umdasch Company began to import wood pellets from the United States in order to test the market. The response was positive, so the company began pellet production in 1995, and the first Austrian pellet boiler was produced in 1996. Since then the usage of wood pellets primarily for residential heating had experienced a rapid growth. This success was based on the long tradition to use wood for space-heating and the familiarity with this biomass fuel.
Austria has the world’s sixth largest wood pellet production capacity. In 2006, pellet production exceeded 600,000 tonnes, with domestic demand approximately 400,000 tonnes, and 200,000 tonnes are exported. In 2010, domestic pellet factories attained a production capacity of 1.2 million tons. In comparison, in 2010, the production capacity was double in the amount, which underlined the huge growth of the Austrian wood pellet market. Previously, only sawdust was used to produce pellets. However, nowadays all kinds of wood residues are also being processed into pellets.
Reasons for Popularity of Wood Pellets in Austria
First, Austria is one of EU members. EU has high standard for environment protection. Conventional fossil fuels produce much smoke and ash during combustion, which can do harm to the environment. Wood pellets are very good fuel and produce less smoke and ash when burning.
Second, after being pretreated, corn stalk, cotton stalk, groundnut shell, soybean husk, bagasse and other agricultural waste can be raw materials for wood pellets. Trees can also be used as raw material. These materials are easily available.
Process being environment friendly is the third reason. The process of producing pellets in pellet mills is just a mechanical movement. Raw materials go into the pellet mill. Wood pellets are formed by pressing raw materials through small holes in the die. No harmful byproduct produced. This confirms to the concept of building a green world.