Sustainable Sourcing of Fiber
USIPA members are committed to sustainable sourcing practices for the wood fiber that serves as the raw material for the industrial wood pellets they produce for their customers.
Wood pellet producers turn low-value wood fiber into pellets. The most common sources are forest residues, thinnings*, tree tops and limbs, and low-quality fiber that is unwanted by other industries or lacks a local market.
*The common forest management practices of thinning and sustainable rotational harvesting means there is a continuous cycle of new growth in the forest. Thinning of forests clears out the smaller, and often less healthy, trees to ensure the remaining trees get the necessary sunlight and soil nutrients, and that new growth continues to occur.
US forests are not being clear-cut for the industrial wood pellet industry. This renewable energy is sourced from byproducts of other forest products industries. Pellet producers make full use of what others leave behind.
Sustainable Practices are an Integral Part of the
Industrial Wood Pellet Industry
USIPA members are guided by a culture that values sound forest management practices that produce forestry products while safeguarding environmental values and maintaining healthy growing forest stands that capture carbon from the atmosphere. A robust industrial wood pellet market helps ensure the removal of more greenhouse gases.
The environment factors into every decision USIPA members make about the sourcing of wood fiber for biomass, from harvest to production to transport.
- Harvesting is concentrated in the southern United States, which has a short timber rotation because trees naturally regenerate and grow quickly in the region's warm, moist climate.
- Loblolly pine, the dominant softwood, has a high rate of carbon absorption that begins to drop after year 15. That is when the first harvest takes place in a typical forest management program.
- Producers reduce transportation-related emissions by sourcing from nearby forests, usually within 50-75 miles of their production facilities.
- Most pellet plants are located near ports that serve ships bound for Europe.
Wood pellet producers meet the same high standards as every other industry that relies on US forests.
US forests are protected by a combination of statues, regulations, and certification programs that ensure best management practices are in place to reduce environmental impact. Still civil and criminal penalties help ensure that wood for wood pellets, along with other forestry products, is harvested sustainable. The protections include, but are not limited to:
Where Do Wood Pellets Fit in the Forest Products Chain?
While industrial wood pellets are vital part of the renewable energy mix, they still only account for a tiny portion of the products that the US forest industry produces each year. The vast majority of harvested wood goes to other forest products. Because USIPA members use the lowest quality wood fiber, these environmentally responsible businesses make it more profitable for landowners to maintain their forests by creating new demand for thinnings, residues, low-grade logs and other byproducts that would go to waste.
In 2023 demand for pulpwood and logging residue wood use from viable bioenergy applications could be 4% of the total wood use of the forestry sector. – Analysis of U.S. wood bioenergy markets confucted or NAFO