The UK’s wood pellet imports hit a new April high earlier this year, as biomass-fired generation took a record share of the power mix.

The UK imported 896,000t of wood pellets in April, up by 46.2% on March and by 39.3% on the 643,000t imported in April 2019. The UK imported from 16 countries in April this year, compared to 11 in April 2019.

Biomass averaged 7.98% of UK grid demand in April, compared to 6.82% in March and 5.27% in April last year, according to data from Drax and Imperial College London.

UK generator Drax saw just two days off line across its three 645MW biomass base-load units at its Selby plant in North Yorkshire in April, and a further outage day at its 645MW peak-load biomass-fired unit 4. Comparatively, there were 12 outage days at the three base-load units in April 2019, and an additional 10 days at its unit 4.

Czech-Slovak utility EPH’s 396MW Lynemouth plant in northeast England continued to ramp up, with capacity availability averaging 87.24% last month across its three units. Availability at the plant averaged 85.74% in March this year and 79.42% in April 2019.

The US, the UK’s dominant wood pellet supplier, accounted for 475,000t of imports in April, up by 27.7% on the year and by 20.9% on March.

Imports from Canada rose the fastest in April, with the UK receiving 202,000t, up by 108.2% from 97,000t a year earlier.

Output from North America also hit a record April high this year, driven by strong growth in US shipments, while Canadian exports were marginally weaker on the year.

The UK imported 127,000t of Baltic wood pellets in April, flat on the year. Latvian supply made up 97.6% of the Baltic imports at 124,000t. But wood pellet imports from Estonia declined by 85.7% on the year in April.

The UK received 44,000t of wood pellets from Brazil in April, after sending nothing in April 2019. It also received 32,000t from Russia, up by 28% on the year. Imports from Portugal fell to 12,000t from 20,000t in April 2019.

Immingham, on the east coast of England — where Drax has unloading facilities and 120,000t of storage for its Selby power plant — was the UK’s most active wood pellet handling port in April. Throughput reached 403,000t, compared with 282,000 in April 2019. The majority of imports handled at the port came from the US.

And throughput at the UK’s second-most active port, Tyne, rose by 53.6% on the year. The port handled 192,000t of wood pellets in April. Throughput at Liverpool also rose by 75.4% on the year. Drax and EPH have storage and unloading facilities at the port of Tyne for their respective power plants in Selby and Lynemouth.

Aggregate UK wood pellet imports have risen by 11.5% to 3.11mn t in the first four months of the year, from 2.79mn t in the same period in 2019.

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