B.C. wood pellets a green hit in Europe – but not Alberta

Every day, 500 tonnes of tiny wood pellets are churned out of Pacific BioEnergy’s Prince George plant, destined for thermal power plants in Europe. Loaded into boxcars and transported by rail, cargo ship and, finally, canal barges, they’ll travel more than 20,000 kilometres before they end up heating some kid’s waffle in Belgium.

Using B.C.’s pine-beetle-killed wood to reduce the carbon output of coal-fired power plants on the other side of the planet sounds cool but economically implausible. Yet biomass is Prince George’s fastest-growing commodity.

By the end of 2010, Pacific BioEnergy will double the capacity of its Prince George plant on the strength of a deal signed earlier this year with a leading energy company, GDF SUEZ. Throughout the 10-year pact, the European company expects to reduce its net CO2 emissions by more than 4 million tonnes by supplementing coal with B.C. wood pellets.