Premium wood pellets burn into a cardboard coloured ash. Black pellets, made out of bark, burn into a much darker ash and can create problems for pellet stoves. Vince Amante, pellet expert, shows premium product in the back of a pellet stove on Jan. 30. (Photo by: K-J Millar/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Wood pellets are a hot commodity

Despite a provincial shortage, wood pellets are available

Haida Gwaii residents may warm to wood pellets becoming available this week. Prince Rupert suppliers are stating that pellets for wood burning stoves are now available and that the shortage may be nearing an end. Wood pellets are available from Prince Rupert retailers who can ship to Haida Gwaii.

The recent pellet shortage is a high school economics class in supply versus demand. Demand has been high and supply has been low. Orders and sales have exceeded the availability of the product.

Mills produce the raw wood material and then sell to the manufacturers for production.The manufactured wood pellets are then sold to suppliers in bagged form or as bulk loose pellets.

“Wood pellets are like lumber,” Brian Hunchuk, owner of Prince Rupert Home Hardware Building Centre (H.H.) said. “What you need to remember is that they are a global commodity item. When production is oversold no one is able to buy”.

READ MORE: Regional wood pellet shortage forces rationing

The primary mill that supplies the raw product has been down, so the manufacturer in Vanderhoof can not make the necessary pellets. The local Prince Rupert pellet plant makes pellets destined for the over-seas markets first. So, demand has exceeded supply, Hunchuk said. His store has received the directive to ration the amount of pellets sold to customers.

Pellet expert Vince Amante, has over 13 years experience in the business as owner of V. Amante Home Supplies in Prince Rupert. He is certified as a solid fuel systems advisor, has WETT certification and has completed wood pellet training programs. Amante has been so concerned about his customers not having adequate supplies of pellets to heat their homes, that he recently drove to Vanderhoof to discuss the situation, he considers to be dire, with the manufacturer.

“People are upset. We try to keep them warm. We are trying to help them out,” Amante said. The sale of bags are being rationed through his store to ensure that everyone who relies on pellet heat can have some. Due to the rationing, he currently does have pellets in stock and received a shipment of 22 tonnes this week, and another 22 tonnes will be coming next week. These shipments are coming from a supplier who is out of province because pellets are not available locally. He was completely sold out for a period of about two weeks. When he did restock he sold out of 22 tonnes of pellets in five days.

Amante said he sends a lot of pellets to Haida Gwaii, Port Simpson, and Hartley Bay among other areas. Individual customers can order pellets and get together with friends on the delivery and shipping costs. His store will arrange for shipping to Haida Gwaii.

READ MORE: Over $2 million in funding given to projects for wood waste recovery

Amante wants to warn customers about what he calls bad quality pellets on the market in desperate times. Black pellets, which some people have been purchasing, Amante said are made of bark. The black pellets burn a dark ash. A good wood burning pellet from a premium product should burn into a cardboard coloured ash, he said. The bad burning pellets create oils and can create sediment in the working mechanisms of the pellet stove. Pellet stoves, Amante said run on a fan. If the fan doesn’t run at the proper speed, it can create problems as proper burning needs to have controlled air flow.

“I want to remind people for safety, if they are using black pellets, to open up the air in the stove and make the burning a little faster so the sediment doesn’t build up in the pipes,” Amante said. He also reminds users to clear out the the basket on the stove more often to stop the build up of ash.

“I want to keep people warm and safe,” Amante said. “People are crying out for pellets. They need to know, that they do not need to freeze their butts. We have pellets and more are coming this week,” said Amante.

Through the Home Hardware chain of supply, Hunchuck has also been able to secure a delivery of 4 skids early in the week of Feb. 3. Each skid has 50 bags of pellets weighing 40 lbs each. These pellets are on their way from Alberta, because of the shortage in B.C. A recent mid Jan. order of pellets sold out in four days, with the last order still having 169 bags available as of Jan. 27.

While there have been some customers complaining about the lack of pellet availability the majority of the region runs on electric heat, Hunchuck said. Sales of electric heaters have increased substantially at H.H. but he thinks this is more to do with the recent cold weather snap than a pellet shortage.

K-J Millar | Journalist 
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