Japanese trading house expands in fuel for biomass power

business.conbio.info/2016-08-17/  Japan’s general trading companies are expanding supplies of fuel from biomass like wood chips, pellets etc. for power plants to meet an expected surge in demand from facilities set to start up in 2017 and 2018, a development encouraged by the country’s feed-in-tariff system reports Nikkei Asian review.

Sojitz will begin production as early as 2018 of fuel made from woody biomass in Vietnam in partnership with state-run Vietnam Forest, also known as Vinafor. Sojitz and Vinafor jointly run four production bases for papermaking materials in Vietnam.  Sojitz is targeting annual shipments of 1 million tons of biomass fuel to Japan in the medium to long term — enough to power a 200,000kW plant for a year.

Itochu aims to boost annual imports of fuel pellets made from such biomass as coconut shells and wood chips from around 120,000 tons in fiscal 2015 to 1.2 million tons in fiscal 2019. The trading house buys biomass from coconut shell sellers in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as from pellet manufacturers in China and Vietnam.

Sumitomo Corp. will start importing fuel containing bagasse — the material left over after juice has been extracted from sugarcane 2020. The trading house holds a 20 percent stake in a Brazilian biomass fuel maker. It plans to help lift the producer’s capacity from roughly 180,000 tons a year to 2 million tons by 2025, with about 20 percent of the output to be shipped to Japan. Sumitomo now imports biomass fuel from Canada.

Specialized and general trading houses including Mitsubishi Corp. and Mitsui & Co. have dealt in biomass fuel, and Nippon Paper Industries plans to make it in Thailand starting next spring. But none of these companies has produced or imported more than 1 million tons a year.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry aims to have biomass power account for about 4% of Japan’s total in fiscal 2030. Its feed-in-tariff framework for this fiscal year offers 24 yen (23 cents) per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated from woody biomass.