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Asian biomass demand on the up, six new power plants given the go-ahead

by Fiona Matthews Jul 24, 2018

This is the fourth entry in our blog series on the Asian biomass market, and this time we are focusing on biomass demand.

As we highlighted in our introduction (here), wood pellet imports into South Korea and Japan have grown quickly in the past few years. South Korea imported 2.4Mt of wood pellets in 2017, while Japan imported over 0.5Mt. Meanwhile, PKS consumption has also risen rapidly in both countries, to 1.5Mt in 2017.

At the same time, there is growing demand for local biomass in both Japan and Korea. Research for our Asian Pacific Biomass report concluded that the two countries used approximately 4.3 million bone dry metric tonnes (BDMT) of woodchips in 2017, most of which were sourced locally. This figure is likely to increase significantly in the future, due to preferential subsidies in both countries for locally sourced biomass.

The Japanese FiT provides a higher rate of support for local forestry residues of YEN32/kWh for projects above 2MW, and YEN40/kWh for projects below 2MW. This compares to the YEN21/kWh (previously YEN24/kWh) rate for projects using imported biomass.

Meanwhile the Korean government has recently (see here) approved changes to the country’s Renewable Portfolio Standard policy which will increase subsidies for local biomass. Specifically, biomass power plants using domestic ‘unused woody biomass’ e.g. forest residues, brash, hogfuel etc, will be eligible for a new weighting of 1.5-2.0REC/MWh. However, support for power projects using imported fuels will be reduced from 1.5REC/MWh currently, to 1.0REC/MWh for projects which finalise their construction plans in H1 2019, and 0.5REC/MWh for those whose plans are finalised in H2 2019. (Subscribers to Forest Energy Monitor can find out more about these changes in Issue #86).

The impact of these changes has been to encourage the swift development of new dedicated biomass projects in Korea. As a result three new projects have recently been given the go ahead.

» SMG Energy’s S1 biomass plant, a 100MW project in Gunsan, was initiated on 6 July by development partners SMG Energy, E-Tech Construction and SK Construction. It will use approximately 400kt/y of wood pellets after it commissions in 2020/21.

» CGN’s 109MW dedicated plant in Daesan achieved financial close in June. It will use up to 400kt/y of pellets from Q4 2020, of which 315kt/y will be supplied by Canadian producer Pinnacle.

» GS EPS has confirmed it is progressing with plans for a second 105MW dedicated biomass plant, Dangjin 2. Fuel for the plant is expected to be a combination of 200kt/y of woodchips and 300kt/y of pellets. It is due online in 2021.

The pipeline of new biomass power projects in Japan is also progressing rapidly. Several projects have achieved financial close in 2018, including:

» Air Water & Energia Power Onahama Corporation is proceeding with its 75MW project in Fukushima prefecture. It is expected to begin operating in H1 2021 and will use a combination of wood pellets and PKS.

» Kansai Electric Power, through its subsidiary Biopower Kanda Goudou Gaisha, will soon begin construction of its 75MW dedicated biomass power plant in Kanda, Fukuoka prefecture. The plant will run primarily on wood pellets, which will be supplied by French utility Engie through a 15-year offtake contract with Japanese trading house Mitsui. The contract will begin in 2021 when the plant is expected to start operations.

» Renova has reached financial close on its 75MW Kanda Biomass Energy project, which it developed in partnership with Sumitomo Forestry, Veolia, Kyuden Mirai Energy and Mihara Group. The plant is due to start operating in June 2021 and will use a combination of wood pellets, PKS and local forestry thinnings. Pellet supply to the plant will be handled by Toyota Tsusho, with 170kt/y supplied by Pinnacle.

These projects will add to the already significant demand for biomass in Asia. Data from our Q2 2018 Outlook for Wood Pellets report indicates that industrial pellet demand in Asia could reach 4.9 million tonnes in 2018, an increase of +49% on 2017, while demand for woodchips and PKS will rise too.

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