Biomass industry calls for coronavirus supply chain support


Deliveries of biomass feedstock to consumers including utilities, NHS hospitals and food producers must be safeguarded, if output is to be maintained as normal through the coronavirus crisis, a trade body has warned government.

Biomass Heat Works has sought reassurances from ministers that some 700,000 tonnes a year of pellets can continue to reach industrial and commercial (I&C) businesses and homes. UK production and delivery as well as imports must be protected, said the lobby group.

Two weeks ago the port of Immingham on Humberside received its biggest ever shipment of  wood pellets from the US, destined for Drax. The generating plant, once Britain’s biggest GHG emitter from coal, now burns in excess of 8 million tonnes of wood each year and has built its own supply chain in a bid to ensure continuity.

However, thousands of businesses, including retailers, manufacturers and health care providers, rely on biomass for power and heat, the trade body points out. These are at risk of disruption. One major supermarket chain needs uninterrupted deliveries of pellets every fortnight to its 100 stores nationwide, it added.

Food producers in off-grid rural areas also heavily dependent. The lobby group cited a poultry provider burning 20,000 tonnes of wood pellets a year across multiple farms.

Spokesperson Mark Lebus called for Whitehall departments to include suppliers in their logistics planning.

“It is essential that key frontline organisations like the NHS and healthcare providers, and essential businesses like supermarkets, food producers and manufacturers … can 100 per cent rely on our industry to provide critical biomass heating and power in a time of crisis,” he said.

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