The results are in for our first industry survey, giving a snapshot of current activity in the Canadian biomass industry.
June 8, 2011 By Heather Hager
The results are in for our first industry survey, giving a snapshot of current activity in the Canadian biomass industry. While reviewing the results, keep in mind that this was a non-scientific survey relying on the initiative of individuals to participate. Of 321 respondents, 253 completed all questions. For biomass consumers and generators, the scale of use ranged from 10 to 2-million oven-dried tonnes/year, with the largest fraction in the 10,000 to 100,000 oven-dried tonnes/year range.
Who are the respondents?
Respondents were asked to select the category that best described their job title. A large proportion (but less than half) were equipment or service providers, sales and marketers, government employees, and researchers. “Other” included engineers, educators, business and economic developers, funders, laboratory personnel, woodlot owners and licensees, and boiler operators and engineers.
Where are they located?
Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents’ Canadian enterprises were located in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Less than 1% of respondents were from the Yukon. There were no respondents from Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut, even though biomass heating is well developed in areas of PEI and NWT. A small number of respondents were from outside Canada (not shown).
Types of biomass businesses
The largest single fraction of respondents, at 15%, were not yet involved in the biomass business, but were considering or looking for opportunities. Around 27% were biomass suppliers, harvesters, or transporters, whereas about 21% were biomass consumers, producing heat and/or power, pellets, briquettes, chemicals, and liquid fuels from biomass. “Other” included researchers, emissions monitoring, and policy development. Slightly more than half of respondents had multiple roles in the biomass industry.
History of involvement
Most respondents were either recent entrants into the biomass industry (1 to 5 years) or longtime biomass industry veterans (more than 10 years).
By far, the need to diversify was the main reason for entering the biomass industry.
Source of fibre
Of the respondents that use biomass, many access multiple source streams. The most cited single source of biomass was from wood-processing operations such as bark and wood shavings from sawmills.
A little more than one-quarter (27%) of respondents that use biomass transport it up to 200 km or more as the furthest distance. Maximum transport distances of 50, 100, and 150 km were cited almost equally, at about one-quarter of respondents each.
Of the 74 respondents who purchased biomass-related equipment in the past 12 months, many spent less than $50,000, although some major multimillion-dollar investments were made. The most-purchased items were boilers and furnaces, loaders, grinders, pelletizers, chip trucks, and dryers.
The outlook for biomass equipment-related spending in the next 12 months is more positive, with 100 respondents noting planned purchases. Big-ticket spending is expected to increase significantly for purchases of more than $100,000 and particularly for purchases of more than $1 million. The top items that respondents noted on their planned purchasing wish lists were grinders, boilers and furnaces, chippers, pelletizers, loaders, and buildings.
Of those who generate revenue from a biomass-related business, slightly more than half saw an increase in revenue between 2009 and 2010. Optimism is high, with three-quarters of respondents expecting to see biomass-related revenue increase in 2011.
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