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Demands in Biomass Energy in Japan (continue)

The three major types of biomass import are: wood chips, PKS, and wood pellets. Here are the detailed import statistics of each type, as well as the trends that we are observing right now for each of them:

Wood chips:

Wood chips are one of the most commonly used forms of biomass power in Japan, powering thermal power plants as a substitute for coal. Japan imports a striking 12 million metric ton of wood chips in 2019, with the majority of wood chips going to paper and fibreboard manufacturing. Only 10% of that imported amount goes to biomass energy. We see a gradual increase in wood chips import since 2013, which is when the FIT program was implemented. However, the growth of wood chips import has decreased in 2019, signaling a transition from wood chips to wood pellets.


Source: Japan Ministry of Finance

2019 reaches above 1.4 million metric ton. The biggest competing exporters of PKS to Japan are Malaysia and Indonesia, due to suitable weather for growing palm trees. However, growing palm trees as a business is incredibly destructive towards the environment, and Japan energy companies are starting to take notice. In Borneo, Indonesia, large swaths of natural rainforests were burned down for palm tree plantation, which releases massive amounts of greenhouse gases and leads to the premature deaths of many animals residing within the rainforests. Future sustainability requirements for palm kernel shells may reduce the demands for this type of biofuel, and shift the demands towards wood pellets.

Wood pellets:

As stated before, Canada has been the biggest exporter of wood pellets to Japan until 2018, but was overtaken by Vietnam, a relatively new player in the global wood pellet export industry. Vietnam managed to overtake Canada as the biggest exporter in 2019, due to its closer distance to Japan which reduces the cost of wood pellets. However, as Japan imposes stricter sustainability requirements, especially the FSC certification requirements, many producers in Vietnam may be challenged.