North American exports of wood pellets and other biofuels will increase in coming years as several Asia countries shift to renewable fuels.
Both Japan and South Korea intend to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and increasingly rely on renewable energy in the future, according to the Wood Resource Quarterly.
The governments of both Japan and South Korea have announced definite plans to increase their usage of green and low-carbon energy alternatives.
South Korea is taking steps to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuels and instead invest in domestic renewable energy technology, including wind, solar, hydropower and biomass.
Its long-term plan is to increase the renewable energy share from less than 4 percent in 2011 to 6.1 percent in 2020, and then to 11.5 percent in 2030.
As part of this effort Seoul has initiated a program that has included building eight new pellet plants, as well as exploring opportunities to import large volumes of pellets in the future. The goal is to consume 5 million tons of pellets by 2020, a huge increase from the less than a few hundred thousand tons used in 2011.
South Korea has access to wood residues from its domestic sawmilling industry, which could be used for the manufacturing of pellets. The domestic supply is not enough, so South Korea will need to increase pellet imports in order to meet the ambitious 6.1 percent goal only eight years from now.
The government estimates that by 2020, 75 to 80 percent of pellets consumed in the country will need to be imported. Some of the major energy companies in South Korea have reportedly been exploring the opportunities to import pellets from Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the U.S.
Japan is expected to increase importation of energy chips and wood pellets, due in part to the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima last year.
Following the disaster, the Japanese government decided to close down all nuclear plants, at least temporarily. Even if a few plants eventually reopen, nuclear energy is not expected to be as important for energy production as it once was.
The Wood Resource Quarterly said Japan will increasingly rely on renewable energy sources in future, with biomass likely to be one important supply source. “Up until this year, Japan has imported only very limited volumes of wood pellet, primarily from Canada, but it is likely that import volumes of both pellets and energy chips will increase in the coming years,” the report said.