“Southern U.S. Forests & Sustainability: The Real Impact of the New Industrial Wood Pellet Industry” is the title of a three-speaker session planned during the fifth Wood Bioenergy Conference & Expo to be held April 11-12 at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The session will be held mid-morning, Thursday, April 12.

“A lot of people were predicting doomsday for the Southern forests supply chain 10 years ago when the first U.S. industrial wood pellet plant (Fram Renewable Fuels) started up,” comments Rich Donnell, co-chairman of the conference and editor-in-chief of host Wood Bioenergy magazine. “Given it has been 10 years, we thought it was time to take hard look at what’s really happening in the woods.”

Virginia Dale, a highly respected expert on ecology, ecosystem and sustainability, and a lecturer at the University of Tennessee, will speak on the “Effects of Wood Pellet Production on Forest Condition in the Southeastern United States.” Specifically she’ll address forest conditions and trends since 2009 on two fuel sheds that supply pellets to the ports of Chesapeake, Va. and Savannah, Ga., and she’ll address research conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the impact of the wood pellet industry on the ecosystem.

Amanda Hamsley Lang, COO and VP of Client Services at Forisk, will speak about “The Industrial Wood Pellet Industry in the U.S. South: Wood Use and Supply Chain Implications.” The presentation will address how wood pellet producers function within the larger forest products industry, including implications of changes in the softwood lumber sector and supply chain dynamics.

Jennifer Jenkins, VP and Chief Sustainability Officer at the world’s leading wood pellet producer, Enviva, will speak on “Innovation in Sustainability: The Enviva Story.” She’ll provide an overview of Enviva’s systems and processes for ensuring the sustainable sourcing of wood, and partnerships built with forest stakeholders.

“This is a very powerful session,” Co-Chairman Donnell says. “Since Fram’s startup in 2008, we’ve increased to nearly 20 large scale industrial wood pellet plants in 10 years in the Southern U.S. This is an industry that is not yet an adolescent, in the U.S. or worldwide. On one hand you have experts who praise it for carbon dioxide reduction, especially compared to traditional fossil fuel raw materials, and on the other hand you have groups within the forest products industry that dispute such a claim and also add that this industry is negatively impacting the forest supply chain.”

In addition to two dozen speakers, the event features 60 exhibitor companies.