In a French wood industry where papermakers and sawmills suffers a crisis, a niche is booming : wood pellets heating, the demand is skyrocketing to the point that manufacturers are struggling to keep pace.
Several factories have opened in recent months in France, in the Landes, in the Deux- Sèvres or in Aveyron, while the French are turning increasingly to wood stoves and boilers for heating.
Last to open was the factory Biosyl SMEs Cosne -sur- Loire in Nièvre (thirty employees), the largest in France with a production capacity of 120,000 tons per year .
Enough to feed a growing market, which was around 850,000 tonnes in 2013 (nearly 300 million turnover) and is widely expected to exceed one million tonnes this year.
On the French market, it is on a very strong growth rate of between 30 and 40%, told AFP Antoine de Cockborne, who founded Biosyl in 2010 to compete with the two incumbents, Piveteau and Archimbaud.
The demand is so high that the supply is hard to follow, with about 100 000 tonnes imported last year.
The Vendée Piveteau took control of a second site in Corrèze, while Archimbaud completed a factory at Labouheyre in Landes and will double the existing factory in Secondigné Belle (Deux- Sèvres). Cogra, another player in this market (Moulins Wood Energy and EO2, Norman Aswood , Haut- Doubs Pellets etc.) it starts a new site Séverac -le-Château (Aveyron).
7.4 million homes are heated with wood.
To meet the demand, he also had to find new forest resources. Traditionally, the pellets were made with scrap and sawdust from sawmills.
But the combined effect of the increase in demand for pellets and the decline of many French sawmills, this source is already saturated.
Biosyl has leveraged resources come directly from the forest, which come from logging clarification (made to help other trees grow) performed by the second French forestry cooperative, Unisylva (400,000 hectares of forests).
The industry believes already be at a cost equivalent to gas, cheaper than electric heating, and 30-40 % cheaper than heating oil.
Unlike other modes of heating with wood - the good old open fireplace which releases polluting particles - the pellet can also boast of being used in devices usually efficient and cleaner.
Its small size allows it to flow easily during transport and its use, which optimizes the amount burned for heat.
France has set a target of 9 million households heated with wood in 2020, against 7.4 million (half of 100% wood) according to the latest tally from the Environment Agency and control energy (ADEME) published in October. A number that has increased 25% since 1999.
According to Biosyl, the number of domestic wood stoves are currently growing at a rate of 80 to 90,000 units annually.