Climate change is one of the most significant issues of our time.

We believe we can help.

Two of the leading causes of climate change are human activity, including the use of fossil fuels, and deforestation. Torrefied wood pellets are a renewable, baseload energy source that can help alleviate both of those causes.

Torrefied wood pellets can be co-fired with coal in any percentage in existing coal power plants. The plants can immediately reduce the amount of coal used and, therefore, the amount of carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere. Over 40% of the world’s electricity is generated by coal power plants. These plants represent a large capital investment and, in most instances, it does not make economic sense to retire them early in pursuit of cleaner energy. Using torrefied pellets in existing coal plants is one of the fastest and easiest ways to create renewable energy.

The other leading cause of climate change is deforestation, the conversion of forests to other land uses. Landowners need strong markets for forest products in order to maintain healthy forests that provide continuous carbon stocks. The wood pellet industry utilizes low value wood and by-products of wood manufacturing operations as raw materials. In many cases, alternative uses for this wood do not exist and the material would go to waste. The use of this wood therefore helps landowners increase their total revenue, providing them the resources to continue engaging in best practices for sustainable forest management.

The fight against global warming needs to include a variety of alternative energy sources. Torrefied wood is a low carbon, renewable energy source that can utilize existing facilities to meet baseload power needs. Torrefied pellets achieve significant greenhouse gas savings and can make a meaningful contribution to climate change mitigation.

Biomass Facts

Working forests in the United States are healthy and expanding.

  • The US has about 751 million acres of forest land, almost two-thirds of which are timber lands that can be legally harvested.1
  • Growth on U.S. timber land has increased 50% in the past 60 years.2
  • Biomass in U.S. forests today is 50 percent greater per acre than it was in 1953. In the Eastern U.S., biomass per acre has almost doubled since 1953.3
  • Net growth in U.S. forests offsets 13% of total US CO2 emissions every year.4

Wood pellets are an extremely small part of the U.S. wood products industry.

  • The U.S. forest industry produced 374 million tons of wood and paper products in 2006.5
  • The U.S exported 4.4 million tons of wood pellets in 2014.6
  • Pellet exports from the U.S. South represent 0.08% of forest inventory.7
  • Realistic demand and market share outlooks show that U.S. industrial exports of biomass pellets to Europe could eventually rise to 10.8 million metric tons. That would require annual feedstock representing 1.0% of pulpwood inventory and 0.3% of total forest inventory in the U.S. South.8
  • Increased biomass demand would expand southeastern forests by over 6 million acres and lead to 1.5% increase in forest carbon storage.9

Learn More

Questions and Answers

What kind of wood do you use?

Our plant is surrounded by healthy, privately owned plantations in Mississippi and Alabama. These plantations are working forests, some managed for generations, that maintain a continuous growth cycle of trees. Southern yellow pine is most prevalent in the area but we have successfully torrefied a variety of biomass feedstocks.

Our torrefied pellets are made using low-value wood that often goes to waste in the process of wood products manufacturing. Tops and branches are leftovers from sawtimber harvesting. Tree thinnings are discarded when making room for large, healthy trees to grow. And dry shavings and sawdust are the residual materials from sawmill operations.

We use these residual materials in our pellets, creating a valuable use for leftover material that may otherwise go to waste.

Does Solvay Biomass Energy participate in sustainability certifications?

Solvay Biomass Energy is committed to ensuring our products come from sustainable sources. We gladly participate in third-party certifications for responsible forestry and wood sourcing because maintaining the forests today helps ensure healthy forests for generations to come.

Please see our Sustainability Policy and Certifications for more details.

Are torrefied pellets considered carbon neutral?

The combustion of wood pellets is carbon neutral. The amount of carbon released when the biomass is burned is the amount that it absorbed as the tree grew, so there is no net increase in atmospheric carbon levels. This is the carbon neutral aspect of wood pellet usage. In addition, new and existing trees will reabsorb the carbon and the renewable cycle will continue through sustainable forest management.

“Energy produced from forest biomass returns to the atmosphere carbon that plants absorbed in the relatively recent past; it essentially results in no net release of carbon as long as overall forest inventories are stable or increasing (as is the case with US forests).”10

In contrast, when coal is combusted, new carbon content that was previously secured in the ground enters the atmosphere. Burning coal causes a net increase in atmospheric carbon levels.

What about transportation emissions?

Production and transportation of every fuel source involves greenhouse gas emissions. Our plant is located between the feedstock sources and the port to minimize those emissions and maximize the efficiency of logistics.

When evaluating the entire process, wood pellets are a renewable, low carbon solution. The U.K. Environment Agency determined that burning wood pellets provides a 74-90% savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning coal.11

A recent report co-authored by the Chair of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board on Biogenic Carbon Emissions, Madhu Khanna, confirmed this finding. The authors evaluated the GHG intensity of wood pellets exported from the U.S. to the U.K., including production and transportation emissions. The authors found “that the GHG intensity of pellet based electricity is 74% to 85% lower than that of coal-based electricity.”12

  1. Future of America’s Forests and Rangelands: Forest Service 2010 Resources Planning Act Assessment. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. (2012).
  2. Future of America’s Forests and Rangelands: Forest Service 2010 Resources Planning Act Assessment. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. (2012).
  3. Forest Resources of the United States, 2007. Smith, B., Miles, P., Perry, C., Pugh, S. (2009). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
  4. Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2013, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (p. ES-20) (April, 2015).
  5. USDA Forest Service. Pulp and paper production of 191 million tons listed as 51% of total production.
  6. U.S. Energy Information Administration
  7. Wood Supply Trends in the U.S. South, 1995-2015. Stewart, Pete. Forest2Market.
  8. Wood Supply Trends in the U.S. South, 1995-2015. Stewart, Pete. Forest2Market.
  9. Sustainability Guidelines and Forest Market Response: An Assessment of European Union Pellet Demand in the Southeastern United States. Christopher S. Galik and Robert C. Abt. Global Change Biology-Bioenergy, 2015.
  10.  Malmsheimer, R.W., J.L. Bowyer, J.S. Fried, E. Gee, R.L. Izlar, R.A. Miner, I.A. Munn, E. Oneil, and W.C. Stewart. 2011. Managing Forests because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy. Journal of Forestry 109(7S):S7–S50.
  11. U.K. Environment Agency (2009). Minimising greenhouse gas emissions from biomass energy generation. Bristol, U.K.
  12. Wang, W., Dwivedi, P., Abt, R., Khanna, M. 2015. Carbon savings with transatlantic trade in pellets: accounting for market-driven effects. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 10, Number 11.