Local Prince Rupert suppliers are stating that pellets for wood burning stoves will be available this coming week and that the shortage may be nearing an end.
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”.
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. The store has received the directive to ration the amount of pellets sold to customers.
Through the Home Hardware chain of supply, Hunchuck has 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. The recent mid Jan. order of pellets sold out in four days, with the last order still having 169 bags available on Jan. 27.
While there have been some customers complaining about the lack of pellet availability the majority of Prince Rupert 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.
Local pellet expert Vince Amante, has over 13 years experience in the business as owner of V. Amante Home Supplies. 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 customers not having adequate supplies of pellets to heat their homes, that he recently drove to Vanderhoof to discuss the dire situation 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 as well, to ensure that everyone who relies on pellet heat can have some. 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. Due to the rationing, he currently does have pellets in stock and is receiving a shipment of 22 tonnes this week, and another 22 tonnes next week. These shipments are coming from a supplier who is out of province.
Amante wanted 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.
“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.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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