Canadian Biomass Magazine

‘The grandfather of wood pellets’: John Swaan

May 2, 2024
By Canadian Biomass Staff

John Swaan

John Swaan is not just an industry pioneer — he also has a cool moniker. “The grandfather of wood pellets.”

Swaan’s journey begain in 1994 when he founded the Pacific Bioenergy Corporation in Prince George, B.C.

“Desperation during the ‘Livestock Feedmill’ era made pelletizing low-value fibre resources such as sawdust seem like a fix for our financial woes,” he said. “Little did I know, it would set the stage for a multibillion-dollar industry.”

Indeed, Swaan’s venture marked a pivotal shift in the industry when, in 1998, he orchestrated the first trans-ocean shipment of wood pellets from Western Canada to Sweden. This monumental achievement not only established Canada as a leader in wood pellet export but also signaled the birth of a global industry now renowned for its role in CO2 reduction.


“Negotiating that first off-take contract was not just a highlight of my career but the beginning of what we know today as the industrial wood pellet market,” said Swaan.

Beyond his entrepreneurial spirit, his tenure as the executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) from 2005 to 2009 underscored his commitment to nurturing the industry. In 2013, he continued his mission by joining FutureMetrics, where he shared invaluable insights with stakeholders.

Swaan’s philosophy on success in the biomass industry emphasizes both historical lessons and forward-thinking strategies.

“It’s about learning from the hard-won lessons of the past while improving and optimizing our processes to be safer and more profitable,” he said.

Looking ahead, Swaan remains optimistic about the sector’s prospects, citing ongoing global growth driven by increasing demand for renewable energy sources.

“The future looks bright, especially in regions actively combating climate change. However, maintaining sustainable supply chains and addressing misconceptions spread by NGOs are crucial challenges that need to be met head-on.”

For those aspiring to follow in his footsteps, Swaan offers this advice: “Explore new biomass resources and be open to next-generation fuels. The challenges are daunting, but the opportunities to replace traditional fossil fuels are too significant to ignore.”

Outside of his professional life, Swaan cherishes time spent with his family boating on Clucluz Lake or enjoying the warm waters of PaaMul, Mexico. .

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