After years of 'surpluses', a shortage of woody biomass in the Netherlands is likely to occur within three years. Biomass is still being exported, but with the new bio-energy installations for greenhouse horticulture and district heating under construction, the demand for woody biomass will increase sharply. This will lead to price risks from 2020 onward. So do think about your timber contracts, is the advice of Kas als Energiebron and Blue Terra.

In a recent study, Probos concludes that within a few years the demand for woody biomass cannot be filled in on the basis of the current Dutch biomass potential and without major additional policy measures. Import from Belgium or Germany is possible, but it will be at a higher price.

Chips vs. shreds vs. pellets?
Although most bio-energy installations have been designed for the combustion of wood chips, also known as wood shavings, more and more attention is being paid to shreds. Scarcity appears to be a more urgent problem for woodchips than for wood shreds. Wood shreds have a different texture, and contain more sand and moisture. Not every wood boiler can handle this.

In addition to wood chips, a choice can be made for wood pellets. Wood pellets are more expensive to purchase, but the combustion plant is cheaper. A wood dust burner on wood pellets is compact and very well adjustable. Wood pellets are an international commodity, and are less susceptible to scarcity.

The supply of woody biomass in the Netherlands can be increased by reducing export, more efficient harvesting and planting of woody biomass such as willow. A lot of growth potential is in the low-grade (or second generation) biomass, such as green waste. Low-grade does not necessarily mean low caloric, but is difficult to handle due to its shape and therefore difficult to use.

In order to make the use of low-grade biomass possible, developments are needed from two sides. First of all, green processors can pre-treat their biomass so that it contains less moisture, salts and minerals. Chlorine can lead to extra corrosion, while more sodium and potassium result in extra deposits in the boiler and pipes. The wood boiler, on the other hand, must be suitable for low-grade biomass with higher ash contents and increased concentrations of salts and minerals. Gasification of low-grade biomass may be an option, this is being researched.

What can you do?
The advice is to anticipate price increases and to purchase a larger part of your biomass through long-term contracts. Fuel flexibility is essential for new installations. Please consult with your boiler supplier and wood supplier which fuels are available and can be used in the boiler.

Source: Kas als Energiebron / BlueTerra