North American pellet grew almost triple the growth rate of European production
During the last two years, global wood pellet production increased from about nine million tonnes to some 15-16 million tonnes, while apparent consumption expanded from about nine million to 13 million tonnes.
In 2010, estimated global wood pellet production exceeded estimated consumption by about two to three million tonnes, while global pellet production capacity exceeded consumption by around seven to eight million tonnes (including new production facilities under construction but not operating).
Excess production capacity has meant that, on a global average, pellet mills have operated at only about 62%-65% of capacity. Of course, mill closures and production curtailments have not been experienced equally by all producing countries. Central Europe (Germany and Austria) has been especially hard hit during the last few years.
In 2009, it was estimated that actual European pellet production equaled about 60% of production capacity - of which Germany was the hardest hit, operating at only 54% of capacity. Incredibly, even with all this excess pellet production capacity and recent pellet mill closures and curtailments, new production plants in Europe still emerged at about one-half of the global expansion rate, moving from about 8.3 million tonnes to 10.1 million tonnes of capacity between 2008 and 2010 (+10.8% per year).
North American production capacity grew from about 4.2 million tonnes in 2008 to about 6.7 million tonnes in 2010 (+30%/year) - almost triple the growth rate of European production capacity. Canadian capacity grew from 2.1 million tonnes in 2008 to about three million tonnes in 2010 (+21%/year), while U.S. capacity increased from about 1.75 million tonnes to ~3.7 million tonnes (+55%/year) in 2010.