Passion for Timber

High-profile industry meeting serves as a market indicator

4th Pellets Forum in Imst: Pfeifer on the path to becoming Central Europe’s nr. 1

For the 4th time, the Pfeifer Group had invited guests to attend the big Pellets Forum, this time held at its home location in Imst. This well-established industry meeting attracted 60 retailers from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. Two days of high-ranking lectures, common objectives and success stories on wood pellets – the fuel of the future – were on the agenda. The programme as complemented by many opportunities to socialise.

Opening the event, host and CEO Michael Pfeifer highlighted some exceedingly pleasing facts: “We are seeing stable growth in all markets relevant to us. Heating with pellets is continuing its upward trend and the benefits are undisputed. What makes me particularly happy is the fact that in the first quarter of 2019, 30 per cent more pellet boilers were sold in Austria than in the previous year. In southern countries such as Italy we have been able to record strong dynamic growth in the bagged pellets field.” The Pfeifer brand, the CEO continued, is very well known and Pfeifer’s pure spruce pellets are regarded to be of exceptional quality. 200,000 pellet stoves are sold annually in Italy alone which corresponds to an annual growth in demand amounting to 320,000 tonnes or more than 13,000 truckloads. Equally impressive is how the growth in pellet stoves develops in France: “This is why we want to significantly expand our market share in France as well as on the promising market of Spain.”

Pfeifer & pellets – a success story

Not only has Pfeifer accompanied the triumph of the little pellets on the various markets, the firm is actually considered a pellets pioneer. A single pellet press at its Kundl location in 1998 marked the start of a success story. Some 20 years later, at its current high point, Pfeifer dominates the market of EN certified pellets in Central Europe. Tobias Schindler, Sales Manager for Processed Products at Pfeifer Timber GmbH, put this growth into numbers during his lecture at the Pellets Forum.

“After our current capacity expansion at our Chanovice location, Pfeifer will soon produce a total of 500,000 tonnes of pellets per year. To reach this mark, we are currently investing in new infrastructure, among others in pellet presses and three pellet silos with a capacity of 3,500 tonnes. This will allow us to further strengthen our market leadership in Central Europe. The fact that wood pellets make up some 12 % of the Pfeifer Group’s overall sales underlines their importance for the company.”

Michael Pfeifer

CEO of the Pfeifer Group

“What makes me particularly happy is the fact that in the first quarter of 2019, 30 per cent more pellet boilers were sold in Austria than in the previous year.”

Summit of the pellets industry at Central Europe’s leading manufacturer: (From the left: Christian Rakos (Managing Director of ProPellets Austria), CEO Michael Pfeifer and Helmut Schellinger (Chairman of Deutscher Pelletsverband DEPV)

Capacity increase corresponds to growth

By 2024, the output of Pfeifer’s pellet plants in Kundly (150,000 t) and Imst (30,000 t), Chanovice (150,000 t) and Thranov (30,000 t) as well as Unterbernbach (120,000 t) and Lauterbach (80,000 t) is supposed to amount to more than 560,000 t. “On our core markets, we are recording an average annual growth of 7 %. We were going along with the capacity increase,” Tobias Schindler stresses. Annually, Pfeifer cuts 3.8 million solid cubic metres of round timber at its sawmill sites in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. As sawmill by-products, some 60 % of this are refined to pellets, pallet blocks and thermally processed to produce green power. Tobias Schindler underlines his company’s dedication to using 100 % of the valuable resource that is wood: “As a sustainable, ecological product, pellets are the result of a closed value creation chain.”

Europe as a pioneer

Following a convivial evening of networking at the rustic Bergl-Keller in Imst, the second day of the 4th Pellets Forum was dedicated to more interesting lectures on relevant industry topics. Christian Rakos, Managing Director of ProPellets Austria, delivered a pleasing market overview: “20 million tonnes of pellets are currently being produced in Europe, 16.7 million of those are used for heating. Austria is currently ranking sixth among the largest producers. On the heating market, the demand for pellets is growing by 1 to 2 million tonnes of pellet annually. Countries such as Denmark and Great Britain are fully relying on pellet-fuelled district heating to heat their large cities and are increasingly using industrial pellets instead of coal in their power plants.” He continued to point out that people in Eastern Europe are also starting to rethink their use of fossil fuels (above all coal) exemplified by a strong increase in the sale of pellet boilers

Tobias Schindler

Sales Manager of Pfeifer Timber GmbH

“After our current capacity expansion at our Chanovice location, Pfeifer will soon produce a total of 500,000 tonnes of pellets per year. This will allow us to further strengthen our market leadership in Central Europe.”

20 million tonnes of pellets are currently being produced in Europe, 16.7 million of those are used for heating.

At home in Austria

In his speech, Helmut Schellinger, Managing Director of Schellinger KG/Weingarten (D) and Chairman of Deutscher Pelletsverband DEPV, called Austria the “cradle of the pellet industry. This is where the spirit originated, this is where the know-how comes from.” The pellet pioneer from Southern Germany lists the products most important success factors: “Pellets activate regional economic cycles and are beneficial to climate protection. They meet all sustainability criteria and are predestined to be a relevant building block for decarbonising the heating market.” He appeals to the industry, the associations and politics: “The sales potential is massive but we have to ask ourselves the question of how much is available in a sustainable way. We have to educate the population about the fact that utilising our forests constitutes active climate protection. And politicians need to make sure that a proper development is made possible. We need a level playing field, reliable price development and supply, positive multipliers and a positive atmosphere for pellets.”

With these positive perspectives in the back of their minds, the participants took to the mountains in the afternoon of the second day, more precisely to Sölden in the Ötz Valley and its striking Gaislachkogelbahn which took them to a height of more than 3,000 metres. Enjoying lunch at the ice Q gourmet restaurant and subsequently visiting the spectacular, subterranean 007 ELEMENTS James Bond Experience on Gaislachkogel marked the highlight for many a participant in the 4th Pfeifer Pellets Forum.

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