Market for pellets tightens

Posted Sept. 25, 2008, at 12:02 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Within the past couple of years, wood pellet stoves have emerged as a cheaper alternative to No. 2 heating oil and a less labor-intensive option than regular firewood.

But, while it’s still early in the season, finding pellets to feed these stoves is no easy task

A number of pellet purveyors in Greater Bangor reported this week that while they are selling pellets, they don’t have any at the moment.

“I think October 1st is our next shipment,” said Luke Waldron, a sales associate at Lowe’s in Ellsworth. “We usually get a truckload every two weeks, but they are gone within three days.”

Jeff Stein, assistant store manager at The Home Depot in Bangor, also said his pellet pallets are empty.

“We’re still trying to catch up to the people that we pre-sold to earlier this year,” he said. “We’ve been getting three trucks a week, but very few of those bags go to in-store customers.”

Because the demand is so high, Stein said, the Bangor store has stopped pre-selling.

At Aubuchon Hardware in Newport, a sales associate who identified himself only as Al, said he has had to turn down customers in recent weeks.

“If I had [wood pellets], it would be fantastic, because tons of people want them,” he said Wednesday by phone.

Aubuchon has consistently carried pellets, he said, but lately suppliers have not been delivering in a timely fashion.

“We have 80 tons on order from seven different suppliers, but they all have a different excuse for why they can’t deliver,” he said. “It’s too bad, though, because we have customers that have been coming for years, and we can’t give them a single bag.”

Like Home Depot, Aubuchon has stopped pre-selling.

“We had a guy come in last year and order 5 tons, so we stopped doing that,” Al said.

The current price for a ton of pellets is around $300 in the Bangor area. A 40-pound bag usually retails between $6 and $8. Even if the price of pellets doubles, energy experts say, it’s still more cost-effective than oil, although that does not include the initial price of a stove, which can range anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.

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