Prices for woody biomass in the US, whether sawmill by-products, forest residues or urban wood waste, have been sliding for most of the past three years, but were still higher late in 2011 in most regions than they were five years ago, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review.
In the 2Q/12, woody biomass prices were down between 2-10 percent in the key
biomass-consuming regions, the US South, Northeast and in the West as compared to the
1Q/12. In the US Northwest and California there continues to be a substantial price
discrepancy between mill biomass and forest biomass, but this price difference is
minimal in the US South.
During 2011, natural gas prices fell about 45 percent in the US and the lower prices have
reduced the urgency for investing in woody biomass projects in the country. However,
despite the plunging natural gas prices, plans for more facilities utilizing woody biomass
continued during 2011 and 2012 in both Canada and the US, with some projects nearing
completion and others in start-up mode.
Wood fiber demand for all planned biomass projects in the US dropped in the first half of
2012 as compared to early 2011. Most of the decrease in wood usage the past year has
been that wood used in the generation of electricity for the domestic market in the US,
while the pellet industry has continuously expanded capacity to serve the growing
demand in Europe.
The US had about 450 announced and operating woody bioenergy projects in the spring
of 2012, including wood pellets, liquid fuel, electricity-generation and combined heat and
power (CHP). The projected wood fiber use for all planned biomass projects is estimated
to reach just over 30 million dry tons of fiber annually by 2020, according to Forisk.
Commercial and residential energy consumers’ interest in switching to more expensive
green energy is likely to continue to be lukewarm as long as demand for energy is low
and natural gas prices are their lowest levels in over ten years.