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History of wood pellet

Pellet production in Europe and North America was started when the oil crisis happened in 1973 and 1979. Wood pellet attracted people's attention on that time as it had high quality and could be an alternative for oil. But as soon as the price of oil recovered, the price of wood pellet rose relatively and at the result of that, users of wood pellet were decreased. Since then, wood pellet had not been produced so much.

But wood pellet production has been prosperous again since 90's. Because some countries encouraged to use wood pellet through their policy (green tax, supporting introduction of equipments and public education, etc) as countermeasures against global warming, energy security and rise of oil price, and it has proved good effect.

For example, the system of wood pellet displaced the one of electric heating and kerosene. Even in case a government doesn't encourage, wood pellet's market is rapidly growing by its green image and advantage in price, and it can clearly be seen in the world trading of wood pellet fuel. At present, wood pellet fuel is in fierce price competition with kerosene and natural gas in many countries. But the demand is steadily increasing because of its advantages such as environment concern, high quality and easiness to use.

As for Japan, introduction of wood pellet was started after the oil crisis as well as Europe and North America. Wood pellet production was industrialized in 1982, and the production had been increasing constantly. There were 30 plants and total wood pellet production amounted to 27,722 tons at the peak. But when oil price went down, wood pellet lost its advantage in price, and as a result of that, it couldn't come to stay widely in general. Pellet burner was technically immature and that seemed as one of the reasons of that wood pellet did not popularize its roots in Japan.

At present, 3 plants (Kuzumaki Wood Works in Iwate prefecture, Tsutsui Corp., in Tokushima prefecture and Suzaki Fuel Inc. in Kochi prefecture) produce wood pellets, with annual production 2,300 tons in total.

Table. Comparison of energy price by countries
Country's name Kerosene Natural gas Electric power Wood pellet
yen/kWh *1
Austria *2 3.1 3.2 14.5 3
Belgium 2.3 3.1 19.5  
Denmark 6 5 17.5 2.3
Finland 3.1 1.3 9.5 2.2
France 3.4 3.9 15.2 3
Germany *2 2.3 3.3 18 2.8
UK 2.3 2.5 12.5 2.1
Greece 4.1   8  
Ireland 2.8 3.3 11.5 2.1
Italy 7.5 5.5 7.5 5.6
Luxembourg 2.4 2.2 15.1  
Netherlands 3.7 2.7 12.8 2
Norway 4.1   4.2 2
Portugal   13.8 4.1  
Spain 3 4 14.9 4.1
Sweden 4.6   8.4 2.1
Japan *3) *4) *5) *6) 4 8.1`9.6 16.41`21.78 3.3`4.8
  • *1) Assumed ‚PEuro100 yen
  • *2) Price of kerosene is rising in Austria and Germany
  • *3)Kerosene price in Japan is from national average of over-the-counter price
    (The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan,September 1999)
        Price: 742 yen / 18 liter, Amount of generation of heating: 8,900kcal / liter
  • *4) Natural gas in Japan is city gas
    (TOKYO GAS Co., Ltd., 11,000kcal / m3, Contract:General, December 1999)
        Price: 0~20m3 = 122.25 yen / m3, 20~80m3 = 103.03 yen / m3
  • *5) Electric Power in Japan
    (Tokyo Electric Power Company, Contract: Residential lighting (B) services, October 2000)
        Price: 0~120kWh = 16.41 yen / kWh, 120~300kWh = 21.78 yen / kWh
  • *6) Price of wood pellet in Japan is 18~26 yen / kg
    (Hearing from Kuzumaki Wood Works, Tsutsui Corp. and Suzaki Fuel Inc.)
        Amount of generation of heating: 4,700kcal
Source: (revised) Woodpellets in Europe, 2000
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