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Enviva launches "one-of-a-kind" wood supply tracking system

Enviva Holdings, LP has publicly released the first data from its novel Track & Trace (T&T) programme. T&T is a proprietary system that enables the company to track every truckload of wood the company procures from the forest back to its source, providing a detailed understanding of the characteristics of the wood it uses while supporting its sustainable sourcing approach and commitment to transparency.

John Keppler, Chairman and CEO of Enviva, during Argus Biomass 2016 in London, UK.

John Keppler, Chairman and CEO of Enviva, during Argus Biomass 2016 in London, UK.

The world’s largest producer of wood pellets, US-based Enviva Holdings, LP has publicly released the first data from its groundbreaking Track & Trace (T&T) programme. T&T is a proprietary system that enables the company to track every truckload of wood the company procures from the forest back to its source, providing a detailed understanding of the characteristics of the wood the company uses.

Enviva’s sustainably produced wood pellets provide a cleaner energy alternative to fossil fuels, allowing electric utilities to replace coal and reduce the greenhouse gas intensity of energy generation while providing uninterrupted and dispatchable renewable energy that is there when customers need it. With our Track & Trace program, Enviva maintains unprecedented data on our wood supply chain, driving sustainable procurement activities and helping us demonstrate and verify our commitment to forest sustainability while creating jobs and supporting economic growth in the American Southeast, said John Keppler, Chairman and CEO of Enviva in a statement.

According to the company, it makes pellets using low-grade wood from Southern working forests and does not use high-grade wood that would otherwise be milled into furniture or construction materials, but procures only low-quality materials such as pulpwood and “leftovers,” including undersized or crooked trees, limbs, tops, wood chips and sawdust.

Furthermore, Enviva says that it does not source wood from independently identified bottomland forest ecosystems that demonstrate high conservation value attributes, or from any forest where the landowner plans to convert to a nonforest use.

Before selling wood to Enviva, a supplier must provide detailed data on the specific forest tract being considered for harvest, including each individual tract’s precise geographic location, acreage, forest type, species mix, age and the share of wood from each harvest that goes to Enviva versus other consumers. The company does not accept any wood from a harvest without this information, and the company records the data and verifies the accuracy of its procedures through third-party audits.

T&T data presentation

T&T data are presented in two ways. First, the Forest Trend Map is based on time-series data from the US Forest Service and displays changes in overall forest conditions in the Southeast US and in each of Enviva’s forest supply areas.

Second, the Enviva Wood Supply Map provides detailed information on actual timber harvests around each of Enviva’s facilities during the first half of 2016. Data include harvest site, landowner type, forest type, harvest type, years since the last harvest, the number of acres harvested and the percentage of the harvest volume provided to Enviva for wood pellet production.

The first T&T public release includes Enviva wood purchases from January through June 2016. Initial T&T findings include:

  • Since Enviva opened its first US pellet mill in 2011, the total amount of forested land in its primary supply area has increased by more than 320 000 acres (≈ 129 499 ha), with the volume of forest inventory on that land growing by 10 percent.
  • During the first half of 2016, Enviva procured wood from more than 750 individual tracts in 98 counties in seven southern states.
  • During the first half of 2016, about 75 percent of the wood came from forests of which 43 percent was from mixed pine and hardwood forests, 25 percent was from Southern yellow pine forests and 4 percent from upland hardwood forests. This wood consists of undersized or “understory” wood that was removed as part of a larger harvest; tops and limbs; brush; and “thinnings” that were removed to make additional room for planted pines to grow. About 3 percent came from working bottomland hardwood forests, made up of undersized or “understory” wood that was removed as part of a larger harvest; tops and limbs; brush; and “thinnings.”
  • About 25 percent of the feedstock was sawdust, shavings or residuals from wood product manufacturing.
  • Less than 1 percent came from landscaping or urban tree maintenance projects.

On average, the forests on these tracts were 37 years old at the time of final harvest.

Research shows that sustainably sourced and produced wood pellets can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a lifecycle basis compared to coal. Enviva is providing transparency into our sourcing process so that policymakers and other stakeholders can investigate for themselves the responsible wood supply approach that Enviva is taking to ensure the positive environmental impact of our wood pellets, said Dr Jennifer C. Jenkins, Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer at Enviva.

As the T&T system matures, Enviva expects to learn more and to incorporate the findings into its operations and procedures. Enviva plans to update the online T&T data a few times a year going forward.

By implementing such a robust tracking program for wood from the forest, and by providing real insight into their sourcing practices to the public, Enviva has taken the lead in supply chain transparency for the forest products industry. They have made a tangible commitment here, and we believe others will follow, said Scott Poynton, founder of The Forest Trust (TFT), a global nonprofit organization that partners with businesses to transform raw material supply chains to protect forests and communities.

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