Sign Up to our mailing list

The Voice of Canada’s growing pellet sector
  • Video: Heating with Wood Pellets

    Heating with wood pellets is an effective way to help in the fight against climate change.

  • Video: Wood Pellet Association of Canada

    Existing coal plants can be cost-effectively repurposed to use wood pellet fuel to help the environment and reduce air pollution.

  • Pellets

    Made from renewable forest byproducts and unmerchantable material, wood pellets from Canada provide a renewable, sustainable fuel source for generations to enjoy. | Read More

  • Sustainable

    Only 9% of the world’s forest are certified. Over 42% of them are in Canada, making it an ideal source for sustainable wood pellets. | Read More

  • Renewable

    WPAC members rely on sawmill waste and forest harvest residuals for the bulk of their fibre supply, allowing 100% resource use. | Read More

  • Fossil Fuel Alternative

    Whether on their own or co-fired with coal, wood pellets provide a lower carbon footprint and renewable energy source. | Read More

  • Innovative

    WPAC continues to support R&D in key wood pellet areas like safety, efficiency, fuel stability, energy content and more. | Read More

The European pellet market is huge, and someone has to keep track of all that product. WPAC member European Bulk Services of Rotterdam is part of that solution.

Europe is now the world’s largest wood pellet market, with annual consumption of more than 9 million tonnes. In 2010, Canada shipped about 1.1 million tonnes of wood pellets from British Columbia and about 175,000 tonnes from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK for co-firing with coal in electrical power stations.  But many people are unaware of the significant co-ordination and rerouting that takes place in Europe before pellets arrive at their final destination.

Floating cranes with clamshell bucket grapples unload bulk cargo such as coal and wood pellets from ship’s holds and transfer it to dry land or floating barges. Photo: European Bulk Services

Pellets from British Columbia are generally shipped in Panamax ships, so called because they are the largest size that will fit through the Panama Canal. A Panamax ship generally has a draft (submerged depth) of about 12 metres. Because many of the coastal power plants in western Europe are next to shallow water ports, they are not able to berth Panamax ships.  

Even if they could, power plants may not wish to take delivery of an entire shipload of pellets at once, preferring instead to receive smaller quantities. Thus, it is normal practice for Panamax ships to be off-loaded at a central location, the pellets stored, reloaded onto barges or smaller ships called coasters, and then shipped to the power plant, where they are unloaded once again. This process is known as transhipping.

The majority of wood pellets are transhipped through the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, which competes with nearby Amsterdam and Antwerp for wood pellet handling. The three ports are often collectively referred to as ARA.

Wood pellets are routed through European Bulk Services’ St. Laurenshaven terminal at the Port of Rotterdam. Photo: European Bulk Services

Rotterdam was the world’s largest port until 2004, when it was surpassed by Shanghai and Singapore. It remains Europe’s largest port. In 2010, Rotterdam handled 430 million tonnes of dry and liquid bulk cargo, containers, and break bulk (general cargo shipments), and it expects the total to rise to 440 million tonnes in 2011.  Antwerp was far behind, handling about 200 million tonnes, and Amsterdam handled about 90 million tonnes. By comparison, Vancouver and Halifax are tiny, handling 75 million tonnes and 12 million tonnes, respectively.

The Port of Rotterdam is vast, covering about 100 km2 and stretching some 40 km up the Maas River. About 90,000 jobs are directly related to the port complex; a further 56,000 are indirectly related.

European Bulk Services (EBS) is a Rotterdam company engaged in the transhipment of wood pellets.  It is also a member of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. “EBS is the dominant multi-purpose bulk terminal operator in the Port of Rotterdam,” says Frank van der Stoep, sales manager at EBS. “With our 220 employees, we engage in the transhipment, loading, discharge, and storage of all kinds of dry bulk products such as coal, minerals, agri-bulk, scrap metal, and biomass products—wood pellets—to and from Europe.”

 “We have a market of over 350 million people at our doorstep and can access them by ships and barges along the coast and inland via the Maas and Rhine rivers and their tributaries,” he adds.

EBS’s customers include mining companies, energy producers, processing industries, ship owners, traders and commodity brokers, and forwarding agents, says Paul Tromp, sales and projects at EBS.  The company operates 24 hours/day, six days/week, and will even run seven days if it is busy enough.  

“EBS conducts its business operations from two strategically located areas in the Rotterdam port area: EBS Europoort for handling the import and export for agri-bulk products and coal; and EBS St. Laurenshaven, a Panamax terminal that handles mainly mineral, coal, scrap metal, agri-bulk products, and biomass, including wood pellets,” explains van der Stoep.

The Port of Rotterdam covers about 100 km2 and is the gateway to a European market of more than 350 million consumers. Photo: Port of Rotterdam

“These two large terminals are equipped with excellent unloading, loading, and storage facilities,” adds Tromp. “Our terminals are also optimally connected to deep seaways, inland waters, railways, and highways. The terminals can be reached without having to pass a single lock.  All types of vessels can be handled at these terminals, from Capesize vessels to river barges.”

EBS handles some 16 million tonnes/year of cargo at its two terminals, using gantry cranes, level luffing cranes, floating cranes, mobile grab-cranes, pneumatic unloading machines, weighing towers, and wagon loaders and unloaders. The company provides direct transhipment from very large bulk carriers and smaller sized vessels into coasters, river barges, rail cars, and trucks.

When a Panamax carrying pellets arrives at St. Laurenshaven, it is moored dockside.  A gantry crane equipped with a grapple unloads pellets from each ship hold. Pellets are dropped into a long storage building with a retractable roof. As each portion of the building is filled, its roof section closes, providing rain protection. As each ship hold is emptied, the crane moves along rail tracks to the next hold and fills the next section of the long storage building. When a ship’s hold is close to empty, workers use a skid-steer loader and brooms to unload the remaining pellets.

From the long storage building, pellets may be transferred to storage pyramids or silos. The EBS terminal has 106,000 m3 of silo storage capacity for wood pellets, and 80,000 m3 of pyramid storage capacity.  Overall, the company has 200,000 m2 of open storage space and 475,000 m3 of covered storage space.

EBS is conscious of the hazards of wood pellets. It takes special care to control temperature, moisture, and dust, and uses a sophisticated remote monitoring system to track pellet temperature and off-gassing for early warning of potential problems. Because most of EBS’s customers adhere to various chain-of-custody certification systems, the company is certified under ISO 9001, GMP+ Code, USDA-NOP, BLU Code, and ISPS-certified administration procedures.

Transportation and handling makes up the highest proportion of the final cost of wood pellets. For producers to be successful, it is essential that logistics be handled efficiently.  When so much of it is handled thousands of kilometres and many time zones away, pellet producers are fortunate to be able rely on EBS to co-ordinate the movement of pellets.

Originally published in Canadian Biomass - All rights reserved. Gordon Murray is executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada ( and can be reached at 250-837-8821 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Industry Links

Industry Links



Become a Member

Become a Member


WPAC Safety Committee

The Board of Directors has appointed the Safety Committee to manage the safety objectives of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada ("WPAC"). The Safety Committee works in close cooperation with the BC Forest Safety Council.


Power Generation


Sustainable power

The vast majority of Canadian wood pellets are made from sawmill residuals - sawdust. The rest are made from the residuals from harvesting operations for sawmills and pulp mills, or low-grade timber from forest industry harvest sites that has no other economic value. Think firewood. Read more...

Breathing easier - pellet emissions vs coal

Sustainability should be top of mind for any company that wants to stay in the game in today’s world.

As important a role as Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions play, we also need to focus on noxious emissions versus coal.


Industry News


  • Report: biofuels could play ’significant role’ in accelerating shipping’s decarbonization

    The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) yesterday launched the report “The Role of…

  • Neste to supply SAF to KLM, reduce CO2 emissions

    KLM has purchased sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) for flights…


The Pellet Advantage

Efficient and Plentiful Production

Wood Pellet Association of Canada members are world leaders in the design and operation of modern pellet plants.


Innovating our way to a safer, better product

Wood pellets are a safe, reliable modern fuel. But they are still a fuel, requiring care in producing, shipping and storing.


Renewable and sustainable? Energy really can grow on trees.

There is no single energy source capable of solving our dependence on fossil fuels. Instead we need to look to a mix of new fuels, including wood pellets.


Argus Wood Pellet Index

US$ per metric tonneArgus Wood Pellet Index

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. To find out more, read our Privacy Policy.