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Heat-generating wood chips
Fuel pellets - pellets are an environmentally friendly and cheap alternative to coal. And in the Far East, it would seem, there are all conditions in order to establish mass production and transfer small boiler houses to this type of fuel. However, so far the pellets are "slipping" both in terms of production and sales.
Wood pellet production is one of the fastest growing segments of the wood processing industry in the Far East. At the same time, the overwhelming part of pellet products is exported to Asian countries, while sales within the region are timidly attempted. EastRussia understood the prospects for the domestic market.
Waste - into the furnace
Last year, enterprises of the Khabarovsk Territory produced 158,2 thousand tons of wood pellets - one and a half times more than in 2019. There is a positive trend in this as well. In the first quarter, the production of fuel pellets amounted to 53,3 thousand tons, which is 87% higher than last year's result. This significantly exceeds the national dynamics: according to Rosstat, the volume of pellet production in the country in January-March increased by 16,5% - up to 516 thousand tons.
Khabarovsk Krai is the most advanced region of the Far Eastern Federal District in the field of wood waste processing. Large pellet production facilities are concentrated here. This direction in the forest industry began to develop in the region since about 2013, when the Arkaim JV LLC plant was commissioned in Vanino, capable of producing up to 230 thousand tons of fuel pellets annually (at present, these facilities are under the management of New Forest Pro "). A few years later, in the village of Berezovy, Asia Les LLC, as part of its wood processing cluster, launched a line for the production of 84 thousand tons of pellets per year, and in 2020 RFP Group built an enterprise for 100 thousand tons in Amursk (operator - Amurskaya Timber Industry company").
The formation of pellet production coincided with a boom in biofuel consumption in the market of neighboring countries of the Asia-Pacific region. Fuel pellets are in demand in South Korea and Japan, where the state actively supports bioenergy (especially after the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in 2011). “Far Eastern timber merchants felt the demand in this market segment, calculated the economy and realized that this business was profitable,” notes the acting director. Anatoly Syuzyumov, head of the timber industry complex of the Ministry of Industry of the Khabarovsk Territory.
In recent years, small and medium-sized businesses have shown interest in pellet production; relatively small capacities have begun to appear in the region. Thus, the "Eastern Trading Company" introduced a line for 15 thousand tons of pellets in Sovgavan at the end of 2019. The company "Rustrans DV", which has a small capacity in Khabarovsk, through a soft loan with the support of the Khabarovsk Territory Industry Development Fund, plans to build an enterprise for the production of fuel pellets in the village of Khor for about 12 thousand tons annually. The raw material for the new production will be waste from the local wood-processing plant Rimbunan Hijau LLC.
“The idea of creating pellet capacities is interesting because, firstly, marginal products are obtained at practically zero cost of raw materials for its production. Here sawdust, wood chips are used, which are obtained in the course of the enterprise's current activities during sawmilling, and the production of fuel pellets acts as an adjacent one, says Anatoly Syuzyumov. - Secondly, the problem of utilization of sawmill wastes is being solved, and it is quite serious. Instead of taking them somewhere for storage, storing them, where again there is a risk of fire, all this can be transformed into a finished product that is in demand on foreign markets. "
Indeed, almost all pellet products manufactured in the Khabarovsk Territory go abroad. At the same time, the geography of export contracts is expanding, exporters of the region have experience in deliveries to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam.
According to the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), the volume of imports of wood pellets to Japan in 2020 exceeded 2 million tons, which is 25,6% more than in 2019. Vietnam increased supplies by 31,8% to 1,1 million tons, Malaysia - by 206,3% to 159,7 thousand tons.
Boiler room offer
There are many difficulties in the domestic market for organizing sales, primarily due to the lack of sufficient demand. Although the producers of the region are trying to diversify their business. For example, LLC Lesprom DV has been producing cat litter under the brand name Taezhny Amur Cat since 2019.
As you know, the calorific value of wood pellets is comparable to coal, and unlike the latter, it is a more environmentally friendly product, therefore, the use of pellets at municipal energy facilities seems promising. But in the same Khabarovsk Territory, there are still isolated examples of the use of biofuels. At one time, there was an experience of providing a boiler house with chips in the village of Izvestkovy (Amur District). Raw materials were given free of charge by the Amur Timber Company before the construction of the pellet plant. With the opening of this line, this practice ceased.
In the settlement of Lidoga, at the expense of attracting private funds for the local boiler house, two boilers operating on wood chips were purchased, which is taken from the enterprise "Lidoga-Trading". Now the equipment is being commissioned. In addition, in two settlements of the Komsomolsk region, options for using fuel pellets for heat supply are being considered.
As noted in the regional Ministry of Industry, pellet production is promising, both from the point of view of the further development of wood processing, including in the light of the protective measures taken by the state for the export of unprocessed timber, and taking into account compliance with the requirements of environmental legislation - it will be economically easier for enterprises to invest in technological equipment and recycle waste, having a demand for such a product.
Nevertheless, there is still no mass use of fuel pellets in the region, the Eastern Trading Company (VTK) confirms. “Our pellet production is located in Sovgavan, where there is a port. We save on expensive rail logistics and the export price is attractive. But if domestic consumption was developed, probably many manufacturers would sell their products here, ”the company says.
As part of the creation of a sawmill in the village of Birakan, VTK proposed to the authorities of the Jewish Autonomous Region to find a use for pellets, which could be produced there from waste. “The government of the JAO is considering the transition of municipalities to burning an alternative type of fuel, including pellets. They are considering possible cooperation, ”the VTK said.
“Now the possibility of using either wood pellets or peat pellets is being studied,” in turn, the Department of Housing and Communal Services and Energy of the Jewish Autonomous Region was informed. “But before making any strategic decisions, the project economics is being miscalculated.”
According to the catalog "KV Boiler", in Khabarovsk the cost of a pellet boiler with a capacity of 200 kW (heated area 1,2-2,2 thousand sq. M.) Is 633 thousand rubles, a boiler for 800 kW (6,2-8,9, 847 thousand sq. M) - XNUMX thousand rubles.
A large project on the use of biofuels in housing and communal services is expected in Transbaikalia. In the Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky District, it is planned to gradually transfer boiler houses (there are at least 20 of them) to fuel pellets, which, under a concession agreement, are serviced by the private company "Improvement +". The project is supported by the regional authorities and financed by the regional budget.
To supply alternative fuels, local entrepreneur Vladimir Samsonov opened pellet production at the beginning of 2021. Investments amounted to about 28 million rubles. “On the territory of the Trans-Baikal Territory there is no disposal of wood waste, this is a big problem. For 18 years now I have been working in the field of logging and timber processing, I produce 4 thousand tons of sawn timber, which used to be simply stored. And it is the presence of our own raw material base (sawdust, slab, trimmings from logging and timber processing) that will allow me to successfully implement the project and produce 2,7 thousand tons of pellets annually, ”Vladimir Samsonov said when the production was opened.
In fact, everything turned out to be not so smooth. As the entrepreneur told EastRussia, not all of the planned boiler houses were reorganized, the appropriate equipment was purchased. As a result, half of the pellet production remains unclaimed in the warehouse.
“The issue with sales is acute. The heating season is still underway, but in the summer they will not take pellets, the products are seasonal. Export is also a problem. There is China nearby, and it seems that the price there is normal, but at border crossings there are problems with customs from the Chinese side. Mongolia is close, but there is zero consumption, today they do not need pellets, their own coal is enough. Korea is ready to buy, but logistics eats up everything: it is far from Transbaikalia to ports. Although at a meeting in Chita with the participation of the head of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East, Alexei Chekunkov, and the governor, Alexander Osipov, the issue of the need to provide incentives for the transportation of pellets was raised, ”said Vladimir Samsonov.
According to Oleg Byankin, General Director of LLC "Improvement +", in this situation both the manufacturer of fuel pellets and public utilities were held hostage. “We agreed with the authorities that the Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky region will switch to pellet fuel, but for this we need to buy new equipment. At the same time, we transfer small boilers to automatic boilers, and we automate large, mechanical ones, - he explained. - We developed a plan, the region promised to allocate money in preparation for the autumn-winter period for boiler equipment, but there was one tranche, incomplete. Now it seems like tenders have been announced for the supply of seven boilers for the district. We, in turn, meet the regional government halfway, do not include in the work the dismantling of old boilers, the installation of new ones, commissioning, we do this at our own expense in order to expand the coverage of such boiler houses, to close more points. "
Despite the fact that the process is being delayed, by the next heating season, Oleg Byankin is convinced, the matter will be moved forward, and from September the consumption of pellets will increase significantly. In his opinion, the new type of fuel has a great future. “Firstly, environmental requirements are increasing more and more, and we pay for emissions. This will not happen with pellets. In addition, there is practically no waste from them, while we burn coal, the slag needs to be transported to the landfill, for this there is an additional fee. And the efficiency of pellets is higher than that of coal, you can work on one boiler instead of two. And maintenance of a biofuel boiler house is cheaper, ”says the CEO of LLC“ Improvement + ”.
By the way, in the Khabarovsk Territory, it is proposed to introduce biofuels based on various products. “It is not necessary that we are talking about pellets, there will be enough boiler houses that will accept sawmill waste - the same chips, slabs, firewood. At the same time, pellets can be used as an alternative source of fuel, mixing it with the same coal to improve the quality and heat capacity of the product, ”says Anatoly Syuzumov.
However, one of the timber companies believes that a quick and widespread transfer of public utilities to biofuel in the Far Eastern Federal District should not be expected. Most of the municipalities are subsidized, and many regions, as practice shows, are concerned to a large extent with the prospects for the development of large-scale power engineering and are not ready to radically change the existing schemes for the delivery of traditional energy carriers to remote areas - fuel oil and coal.