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New EIA Survey Collects Data on Production and Sales of Wood Pellets

New EIA Survey Collects Data on Production and Sales of Wood Pellets thumbnail
graph of densified biomass fuel sales, production, and feedstocks, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Densified Biomass Fuel Report. Note: Data for February through June are preliminary.


During the first half of 2016, U.S. manufacturers produced approximately 3.3 million tons of wood pellets and sold 3.1 million tons, mostly to foreign markets, according to data from EIA’s newly released Densified Biomass Fuel Report.

Wood pellet fuel, also known as densified biomass fuel, is used for electric power generation and for domestic heating needs. About 85% of raw materials for biomass pellets come from wood waste streams such as logging residues, sawmill residues, and wood product manufacturing residue. Roundwood timber—generally logs harvested for industrial use—account for about 15% of raw materials.

EIA’s new survey collects data from manufacturers of densified biomass fuels, primarily wood pellets. The new survey began collection in January 2016 with data from about 120 planned and operational densified biomass manufacturing facilities in the United States. These facilities have the capacity to produce a total of 11.4 million tons of densified biomass annually.

Utility-grade wood pellets used by electric utilities account for more than 75% of total wood pellet production. The remainder is mostly premium-grade pellets used for heating in the residential and commercial sectors. Utility-grade pellets generally have higher ash content than premium pellets. Premium pellets with lower ash content and higher heating values are better suited to heating applications where use of pellets with high ash content might have adverse impacts on wood pellet stoves and air quality.

During the first half of 2016, about 82% of pellet sales were utility pellets in the export market, of which more than 85% were sold to the United Kingdom’s Drax power plant.

The remaining 18% of pellet sales were sold in the United States. Domestic sales of heating pellets are driven by winter heating demand and wood’s price competitiveness with fossil fuels. During winter 2015-16, prices for heating oil, propane, and natural gas were relatively low, reducing wood’s price competitiveness. State policies also play a role in wood pellet sales. Some northeastern states have promoted switching from heating oil to biomass to improve local economies and to address growing concerns related to greenhouse gas emissions.

map of manufacturing facilities with capacity and status, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Densified Biomass Fuel Report


From January through June 2016, the South produced and sold virtually all of the utility-grade wood pellets. During the same period, the East produced most of the heating pellets, 61%, but sold only 43%. The South produced 17% and sold 33% while the West produced 22% and sold 24% of the heating pellets.

Principal contributors: Channele Wirman, Connor Murphy

Republished December 14, 2016, 10:30 a.m. to correct units on graph.



11 Comments on "New EIA Survey Collects Data on Production and Sales of Wood Pellets"

  1. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 15th Dec 2016 3:48 pm 

    Wood pellets, for pellet stoves, make the very best cat litter. The pellets turn to sawdust when in contact with liquids. Everything is 100% flushable indoors. And it’s the very cheapest. It’s a mystery why so many cat owners buy something else.

  2. dave thompson on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 12:32 am 

    I looked into buying and installing a wood pellet stove/heater. I decided against because I live in an urban area where there is no local wood pellet source close by. It was cheaper to buy a regular wood stove and use free scavenged wood from pallets and buy buying from local fire wood dealers.

  3. Go Speed Racer on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 4:20 am 

    Then watchable can do is use a samarium cobalt, or neodymium, magnet to run thru the ashes. Get all the nails back. Put the nails into a gallon steel paint can. Hammer a lid on when it’s full.

    Then take to scrap metal dealer, along with all your other metals, copper brass stainless and aluminum.

    It can all be recycled, even the nails.

  4. Davy on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 5:46 am 

    I heat with wood. It is not cheap and in its current arrangement not green. It is not cheap because it is very labor intensive. Fossil fuels are cheaper in this regards of the status quo. My labor is worth more on the market then in the field. I still use gas in the chainsaw and some diesel to transport it to the cabin. That said is it an important local energy source that improves my sustainability and resilience. I only cut down dead or dying trees. I am improving my woods not clear cutting them for a wood pellet industry.

    I am taping on my laptop now in the glow of my wood stove. It is a cold and windy morning but nice and warm here. The flames are dancing around and this makes my morning beautiful. The only other light is a small LED going and the laptop screen. This is a reason to have wood. When I go out and cut and split wood I get a good workout and spend time in the woods. Wood heating is a connection for me to nature. It has primal roots of our beginnings. Wood fires gave us life. Fossil fuels represent all I despise in the world. Wood is a small way I can leave this dirty and destructive world and feel environmentally good.

    One good source of wood pellets if it can be shown to be technically feasible is all the forests being killed by invasive species and climate change. I do not know if dead wood makes good pellets. If dead wood does make pellets then let’s clear cut dead forest out west before they burn. Let’s use this as a resource at least. It is a sad testimony of modern man but it may be the right thing to do.

  5. R1verat on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 9:36 am 

    Amen Davy. Nothing like a quiet morn, listening to the sounds of a woodstove.

    Despite the labor required, I too enjoy the time spent gathering wood & being reminded that all things are connected. Most folks that have experienced this know what I mean.

  6. Davy on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 9:48 am 

    Yea, rivrat, Warming my ass as we speak

    glad you have been checking in lately

  7. GregT on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 11:41 am 

    -10°C outside here this morning. A toasty 20°C in the house. A mix of fir, alder, and maple, slowly crackling away in the stove.

    Time to take the dog out, and to bring in another load of wood. Life is good.

  8. Cloggie on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 12:14 pm 

    +6°C outside, nice weather to further dig out the last tree roots from my back-yard-turned-vegetable-garden, so I can set up the 3 x 5 m green house, that irritatingly is still lying around as a building kit in the hallway and as such increase food production by extending the growth season as per next year. Temp in the living room is 21°C, thanks to the natural gas fueled central heating, in my lifetime likely replaced by geothermal hot water, forced because at some point the national gas company NAM will no longer supply gas.

    The Christmas tree, in leftist multicult Amsterdam also known as winter tree, just not to hurt the feelings of certain group of invaders, is in place. And on the table a plate with traditional Dutch “oliebollen“…

    …bought from one of the many stands erected in every town and village in the Netherlands:

    Spending time working through the manual of my “new” car that replaced my old Audi A2 I lost this summer in Croatia. Being fed up I bought the car at the top (#2) of the list of a UK insurer reliability index:

    Efficiency 1 liter on 20 km or 56 mpg (confirmed).

    I bought the relatively new car to visit customers again in January and make 15k for the next tax return in May and of course to contribute to global greening. Once an idealist always an

    The most feared envelop (blue) in the Netherlands:

  9. Go Speed Racer on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 12:43 pm 

    That’s amazing. Everybody on this chat board has a woodstove, and it’s lit. Great minds think alike? But not everybody has a cat, purring and hanging out on the rug in front of the woodstove. My cat really likes the woodstove, when it’s lit.

  10. GregT on Fri, 16th Dec 2016 5:21 pm 

    “Being fed up I bought the car at the top (#2) of the list of a UK insurer reliability index:”

    That’s an awfully funny looking ‘car’ Cloggie. It looks like it’s been squished.

  11. Cloggie on Sat, 17th Dec 2016 4:39 am 

    Indeed. Just drew the conclusion from the fact that in Holland and probably in the rest of the West as well, the average occupation rate of a car is merely 1.25
    So why keep driving 5 seats through Gods greening world, when only 1.25 are required. Hence this minimalist car:
    (Funny UK car program “Top Gear”)

    It only needs to transport my brain, the only part of me my customers are interested

    It’s a so-called city car with merely 400 km range on a 20 liter tank, so if I travel from Holland to say Gibraltar I have to fill her up 5 times.

    Always driven European but this time for the first time in my life I’ve given in to the “race traitor” in me and went Japanese, thanks to the UK insurer list above, the Top Gear video and advice of the engineer who as a hobby maintained my Audi. Japanese (Asian) cars are simply the most reliable in the world. And I was completely fed up with the endless string of reparations with the Audi, which I had bought from the Dutch ebay and turned out to have a heavily manipulated odometer (128k km, but 360k km in reality). I tracked down the (Dutch) owner, sued him successfully (got back the full amount); turned out he had bought the car from an Albanian crook, who had bought the car for a dime from a decent German engineering bureau, that had written off the car. The Dutch owner probably found out about the scam in exactly the same way I found out, by being told by the Audi dealer (Audi has an international system of tracking odometer km’s with every service), but couldn’t track the Albanian, so he decided to push the hot potato to the first fool he could find. That fool was me. Although I got all the money back (7300 euro) I have at least spent 14,000 net with almost every part (incl gear box and motor) replaced, lawyer costs, spending a week in Grenoble in a hotel to wait for somebody to drag the car back to Holland, 2 ruined summer holidays, etc., etc.

    Still regret the loss of the Audi, I would have bought it again if I knew for sure that the odometer wasn’t manipulated:

    It was the most fuel efficient car ever built for the “mass market”, 1 liter on 30 km or 85 mpg. But it never took off as it came too early (2002, Europe only, too expensive). Aluminium rather than steel, 600 kg.

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