Circular economy

Energy compressed into ultra-dense wood

| Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 27, 2017

Manufacture of pellets in the factory of Biomasa Forestal Biomasa Forestal

Packs of pellets Biomasa Forestal

Biomass Forest Plant in As Pontes (Pontevedra) Biomasa Forestal

Spanish company Biomasa Forestal upcycles tree waste into small biofuel pellets to power both homes and factories.

From small business to large economies, the long-term availability of energy worldwide is crucial for sustained growth and development. Energy provides the backbone of manufacturing industries, powers households, enables food production and keeps the wheels of society rolling.

Unfortunately in the 21st century, the key problem lies in the source of this energy. According to the World Energy Council 80 percent of energy currently consumed originates from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal. While consumption habits vary from country to country, the United States, China and the European Union come top of the list but one Spanish company is trying to change this.

With headquarters in As Pontes (Pontevedra, Spain) Biomasa Forestal aims to promote the use of biofuels across the nation. Reported in the Financial Times as one of the fastest growing European organizations between 2012 and 2015, the company fabricates wooden pellets from tree waste (collected during pruning, felling and carpentry). Established in 2006 with only five employees, Biomasa Forestal was acquired in 2012 by Luis Pardo, Managing Director of Grupo Gestán, when it was in a delicate financial situation. But today, this difficult period is now a distant memory for Pardo and his team—business is buoyant and income has skyrocketed by 227 percent (up to 7 million euros) since 2012, “This is undoubtedly a huge source of pride and motivates us to keep going in the same direction,” Pardo gleed.

Named the Costa Verde (Green Coast) Galicia’s luscious landscape provides ample forest waste for the company to make use of. Biomasa Forestal produces 65,000 tonnes of pellets a year, fabricated primarily from locally sourced pines trees.

“There is an increasing demand in the market for pellets,” Pardo explained. Used for both domestic and industrial consumption across the European Union and the DominicanRepublic, these pellets emit fewer greenhouse gases, notably nitrogen, than their traditional counterparts. Composed primarily of sawdust, pellets contain no additives as sawdust is compressed using lignin (the polymers in wood) which acts as a natural binder.

Biomasa Forestal has two prime products; one for the domestic market and the other for industry. Pellets produced for home use measure in at 6 millimeters thick as opposed to their industrial 8 millimeter counterparts. The Biomasa Forestal team maintain that the 2 millimeter difference means that less smoke is emitted when the pellets are burned, making the smaller ones preferable for home use. Shiny in appearance, as if varnished, and denser than the original wood itself the pellets are unfortunately more expensive to produce than wood chips.

The company is keen to continue growing and, in 2014, invested 450,000 euros (US$ 530,000) into machinery and storage, and then another 800,000 the following year. In 2017, Pardo is expecting to outlay another million in order to optimize efficiency. Last year, Biomasa Forestal experienced a capital increase of 1.7 million euros (US$ 2,000,000), thanks to Xesgalicia—the venture capital management firm of la Xunta, the regional government of Galicia—as well as Garcia Forestral, the plant's raw material supplier. The company’s existing capital is 4.8 million (US$ 5.7 million)—60 percent from Grupo Gestán, 26 percent from la Xunta, and 14 percent from García Forestal.

Pardo maintains that the company’s level of sustainability depends on the production process as well as the origin of the material. Biomasa Forestal carries the stamp of approval of the British government's Biomass Supplier List, which attests to the low greenhouse gas emissions released by their pellets.

According to the World Bank, Spain is one of the few countries in the world to experience an increase in its forest coverage, at present 36.8 percent of the country is forested, up by 9 percent in 1990. This paves the way for an even more prosperous future for Biomasa Forestal, particularly as Pardo there is a great deal of untapped potential in exploiting biofuel in the Iberian Peninsula. Looking into the years to come, it seems that this Galician flame will continue to burn bright.

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Published on October 27, 2017
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