Biomass imports require a European Hub


It is important that the biomass market develops economies of scale with shipping and logistics if it is to see the same growth that the coal market has seen, according to the Port of Rotterdam.

Wood pellet imports should be concentrated into hub ports in large vessels and then distributed further into Europe, according to the Port.

Hugo du Mez, Port of Rotterdam dry bulk business developer, said,

“Currently in northwest Europe, it is still more profitable to burn coal over biomass in co-firing plants. We need to reduce the cost of pellets to make them more profitable, and the only way to do this is by creating smart solutions regarding logistics.”

By 2015, 80,000 ton Panamax vessels will transport wood pellets into northwest Europe from the US, Canada and possibly other production areas such as Brazil, according to du Mez.

Du Mez added,

“We can make comparisons to the coal market – on an annual basis we see around 125 million tonnes of thermal coal delivered into Europe in large Capesize vessels. A few large ports have become coal hubs, with large strategic stocks and therefore security of supply. We believe this will also happen in the biomass market.”

The Port of Rotterdam handled 435 million tonnes in 2011, of which around 1 million tonnes were wood pellets. The port has 500,000m³ of covered storage and is investing in increasing this capacity.

In addition, it will have two co-fired power plants operational by next year with Germany’s Eon and Belgium’s Electrabel constructing on site.

It is reserving a plot at its new Massvlakte 2 terminal to create a “bioport”, which will include biomass, biofuel and biochemical operations.

Du Mez said,

Rotterdam is an ideal port to act as a biomass hub. It has a central location for further biomass distribution, and it is also a biomass power producer. When demand increases and larger vessels are deployed for wood pellet shipping, the use of a hub port will create these economies of scale.”

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