Canadian Biomass Magazine

Biomass imports need European hub – Port of Rotterdam

October 11, 2012
By Argus Media

October 11, 2012, London, UK — The biomass market must develop economies of scale with shipping and logistics if it is to see the same growth that the coal market has seen, according to the Port of Rotterdam.

Wood pellet imports should be concentrated into hub ports in large vessels, according to the port, and then distributed deeper into Europe.

“Currently in northwest Europe, it is still more profitable to burn coal over biomass in co-firing plants,” Port of Rotterdam dry bulk business developer Hugo du Mez said at the 12th Industry Forum Pellets in Berlin yesterday. “We need to reduce the cost of pellets to make them more profitable, and the only way to do this is by creating smart solutions regarding logistics.”

By 2015, 80,000t Panamax vessels will transport wood pellets into northwest Europe from the US, Canada and possibly other production areas such as Brazil, according to du Mez.

“We can make comparisons to the coal market — on an annual basis we see around 125mn t of thermal coal delivered into Europe in large Capesize vessels,” du Mez said. “A few large ports have become coal hubs, with large strategic stocks and therefore security of supply. We believe this will also happen in the biomass market.”


The Port of Rotterdam handled 435mn t in 2011, of which around 1mn t was wood pellets. The port has 500,000m3 of covered storage and is investing in increasing this capacity. It will also have two co-fired power plants operational by next year with Germany's Eon and Belgium's Electrabel constructing on site. It is reserving a plot at its new Maasvlakte 2 terminal to create a “bioport” – which will include biomass, biofuel and biochemical operations.

“Rotterdam is an ideal port to act as a biomass hub,” du Mez said. “It has a central location for further biomass distribution, and it is also a biomass power producer. When demand increases and larger vessels are deployed for wood pellet shipping, the use of a hub port will create these economies of scale.”

There are several stevedores handling biomass at the port, including EBS, Marcor, EMO, RBT and ZHD.

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