A group of scientists has published a Letter exploring the use of forest biomass to produce energy, ahead of the European Parliament vote on the EU Renewable Energy Directive on 17 January.
There is heated debate about the best way to realize the potential of our forests in the fight against climate change. In the EU, the debate is currently very much focused on questioning the use of forest biomass to produce bioenergy. Our view is that bioenergy from sustainably managed forests can contribute positively to climate change mitigation.
One of the criticisms against forest bioenergy refers to the observation that a tree stops growing and accumulating carbon when it is cut, and the carbon stock in a single stand decreases at harvest. But this narrow perspective overlooks fundamental principles behind forest management, which is coordinated across the whole landscape to maintain forest growth and obtain a continuous flow of wood for the forest industry.
In the absence of management, forest growth rates decline and disturbance risks increase as trees become mature. Therefore, while old and unharvested forests can hold large amounts of carbon per hectare, they have a lower sink strength and may become carbon sources instead of sinks. Sustainable harvesting of trees and managing stem densities and species composition helps to maintain net forest growth (i.e., carbon sink) at a high level, allowing sustained harvesting. The forest growth rates can be enhanced through silviculture, such as species selection, planting and other management options. This has been the case for example in the Nordic countries.
The carbon stock at a regional or national level can in fact increase simultaneously with increases in harvesting. Indeed, the EU forest carbon sink and forest harvesting have increased simultaneously since the 1960s. This situation is to a large extent the result of improved and more extensive forest management. The increased demand for forest products – including bioenergy products – stimulates and provides income for active forest management that promotes regeneration, enhances growth and helps protect forests against disturbances, such as fires.
EU forests and the forest sector currently achieve an overall climate change mitigation impact that corresponds to about 13% of the total EU emissions. This includes the carbon sink of forests and harvested wood products, as well as the reduction of emissions achieved when wood products are used instead of emission-intensive materials such as concrete, steel and plastics, or when bioenergy is used instead of fossil fuels. It is important to understand that forest bioenergy is not an independent enterprise but an integral part of forestry-industry-energy systems. Bioenergy systems are often components in value chains or production processes that also produce products such as sawnwood, paper and chemicals.
In most European countries, sawlogs and pulpwood are the main income-generating wood assortments from managed forests. Processing these to produce forest products generates side-streams of residues that are used for bioenergy. Small trees from thinnings, logging residues, and low-quality wood that is not suitable to produce sawnwood and paper products are also used for bioenergy. This situation is reflected in the fact that despite forest bioenergy having increased significantly in the EU in this century, the roundwood production is at the same level today as it was in the beginning of the century. The increased forest bioenergy production is neither the result of EU having increased energy wood imports. Currently, about 96% of the forest bioenergy use in the EU is based on domestic raw materials. Also, EU wood fuel imports - 4% of EU forest bioenergy use - are roughly equal to its wood fuel exports (Data: FAOSTAT).
There can be synergies and trade-offs between forest carbon sequestration and biomass production. Which approach is more beneficial depends on priorities concerning short-term vs. long-term climate objectives, expectations concerning society’s future dependence on carbon based energy and materials, and whether these needs can be met in a climate friendly way without using biomass. Related to this, there is increasing concern that the Paris Agreement target – to limit global warming to well below 2ºC – will not be achieved unless large amounts of CO2 are withdrawn from the atmosphere. Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is one of the major options for atmospheric CO2 withdrawal.
A holistic perspective that recognizes the multiple roles of forests and forest sector in the GHG balance in needed: the system assimilates CO2 from the atmosphere, stores carbon in soils, standing biomass, and in wood-based products, and it helps to avoid GHG emissions by displacing fossil fuels and other emissions-intensive products. Very detailed regulation, such as imposing strict cascading principles or restricting eligibility for bioenergy to specific feedstocks (e.g., excluding all roundwood, irrespective of size or quality) may prevent the effective management of forest resources to economically meet multiple objectives, including climate change mitigation and adaptation.
A concern expressed in the debate is that the wood demand for bioenergy may rise enormously, threatening the existence of forests. As bioenergy is typically a side-product of forest harvesting and wood processing, and sustainable forest management (SFM) principles provide safeguards against overharvesting, the forest sector’s contribution to providing biomass for bioenergy will be limited. To address sustainability concerns, the EU has set criteria to which bioenergy must comply. Several countries have set additional more strict criteria, in some cases allowing only biomass from certified sources.
In the past, the European forest sector has responded to increased demand for sawnwood and paper by expanding forests and intensifying management to increase wood production. Similarly, the likely response to increased bioenergy demand will be to devise management approaches that enable biomass production for energy in conjunction with supply of sawlogs and pulpwood. Considering market realities, SFM requirements and existing regulations around bioenergy, we do not expect to see a paradigm shift towards large scale cutting of forests solely for bioenergy.
 The views expressed in this Letter are those of the authors and not those of their institutions.
 Gert-Jan Nabuurs, Philippe Delacote, David Ellison, Marc Hanewinkel, Marcus Lindner, Martin Nesbit, Markku Ollikainen and Annalisa Savaresi. 2015. A new role for forests and the forest sector in the EU post-2020 climate targets. From Science to Policy 2. European Forest Institute.
Professor in Biomass and Land Use. Dept of Space, Earth and Environment, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
IPCC Lead Author (Special Report on on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation); Contributing Author (5th Assessment Report); Expert Reviewer (4th Assessment Report)
Professor in Silviculture with Focus on Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. Dept of Forestry and Wood Technology, Linnaeus University, Sweden.
Professor. School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Australia
Member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of The Global Environment Facility (GEF), Washington DC, USA.
IPCC Lead Author (Special Report Climate Change and Land)
Associate professor in Forest Based Bioenergy. Dept of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden.
Adjunct Professor in Forest Economics and Marketing. Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki.
Assistant Director, European Forest Institute, Finland
Professor in Environmental Science and Policy. Faculty of Biological end Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
IPCC Lead Author (2nd Assessment Report) and Co-ordinating Lead Author (3rd Assessment Report)
ACES Distinguished Professor in Environmental Economics. Dept of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois
Senior Research Scientist, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada.
Coordinating Lead Author or Lead Author of seven IPCC reports.
Principal Scientist, Resilience Programme. European Forest Institute, Germany
Professor in Silviculture. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), Sweden
Director, Unit of Field Based Forest Research, SLU, Sweden
Member of the Advisory Panel of The Swedish National Forest Program.
Professor European Forest Resources, Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen University and Research
IPCC Co-ordinating Lead Author (4th Assessment Report; Good Practice Guidance LULUCF) and Lead author (3rd Assessment Report; Special Report LULUCF)
Ralph E. H. Sims
Professor in Sustainable Energy. Massey University, New Zealand
Director, Centre for Energy Research
Member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of The Global Environment Facility (GEF), Washington DC, USA.
IPCC Co-ordinating Lead Author (4th Assessment Report; Special Report on Renewables; and 5th Assessment Report).
Professor in Forest Economics. Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway.
IPCC Review editor (3rd Assessment Report) and Lead author (Special Report on Land Use Changes and Forestry)
After 30 years, Bradford Forest, Inc., a Danzer company based in Bradford, PA, changed its name to Danzer Lumber North America, Inc. on January 1st, 2018. “The name change is part of Danzer’s overall brand strategy to provide a diverse product offering under one common Danzer brand,” says Steve Bukowski, General Manager of Danzer Lumber North America, Inc. and adds: “The transition to the new name will be seamless for customers, with no interruption in great products and services.” Danzer Lumber North America operates two production facilities in Pennsylvania, one in Bradford, PA and one in Shade Gap, PA. Each location specializes in different product portfolios and employ a combined total of approximately 200 people.
Danzer Lumber, Bradford Sawmill – Production of Premium Hardwood Lumber
The Bradford sawmill is one of the tenth largest hardwood sawmills in North America. The facility processes 26 MMBF (61,350 cubic meters) of lumber annually and employs approximately 160 people. “We are in the heart of the best cherry in the world, which enables us to offer consistent, high-quality cherry lumber. With our controlled procurement strategy, we are also able to maintain a high degree of color consistency in other species we offer” states General Manager Steve Bukowski. Hardwood species processed at the Bradford facility are cherry, hard and soft maple, red and white oak, and ash. Bradford’s technologically advanced sawmill enables the efficient conversion of logs into consistently sawn hardwood lumber.
Danzer Lumber, Shade Gap Facility – Specializing In Drying Thick Stock Lumber
The Shade Gap facility employs approximately 40 people and processes 7.5 MMBF (17,700 cubic meters) of lumber each year. With years of thick stock kiln-drying experience, the Shade Gap facility is a partner of choice for customers needing quality, consistently dried thick stock. Shade Gap also offers high-quality kiln-dried lumber in more typical thicknesses. Proximity to the resource base is a key logistical advantage of the Shade Gap facility. The main hardwood species processed at the Shade Gap facility are walnut, white oak, red oak, hard and soft maple, cherry and ash.
Danzer facts box:
One of the world’s largest producers of decorative hardwood.
Holding company located in: Dornbirn, Austria
Production sites: 4 in Europe, 5 in North America
Sales offices: 7 in Europe, 8 in North America, 3 in Asia
Product range: sliced wood, lumber, timber and logs, speciality products (Vinterio, 3D-Veneer)
Sales in 2016: EUR 190 million (229 million USD)
Supplies customers in 87 countries worldwide
Employees: 1,600 worldwide
Danzer is a leading quality hardwood company with production facilities in North America and Europe. It has approximately 1,600 employees and services customers from 18 sales offices worldwide. Founded in 1932, Danzer is managed by a third-generation family member. The company owns and sustainably manages forests in North America and produces sliced veneer, lumber and innovative value-added wood products for decorative purposes. Danzer products are used in high-quality furniture, kitchen cabinets, cars and other applications.
CIFOR’s Robert Nasi weighs in on the EU debate over forest biomass
Wood is increasingly being used to replace coal as a source of electricity generation in many regions such as the European Union, where policymakers have declared it “carbon neutral.” However, new research from researchers at MIT, Climate Interactive, and UMass Lowell reveals that displacing coal with wood for power generation can make climate change worse for many decades or more.
In the new study, Does replacing coal with wood lower CO2 emissions? Dynamic lifecycle analysis of wood bioenergy, the researchers—John Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester Professor of Management at MIT Sloan School of Management; Juliette Rooney-Varga, Director of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative; and Lori Siegel, PhD, Senior Modeler for Climate Interactive—examine the climate impact of replacing coal power generation in the EU and UK with wood pellets sourced from forests in the southern US. The research is slated for publication on Friday, January 19, 2018 in the academic journal, Environmental Research Letters. The paper can be accessed online at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aaa512/pdf
The researchers found that wood pellets burned in European and UK power plants, such as the Drax facility in North Yorkshire, England—which has transitioned some of its coal power generation capacity to wood pellets with the support of UK government subsidies—actually emit more CO2 per kilowatt hour than that generated by coal. This is because wood is both less efficient at the point of combustion and has larger processing and supply chain emissions than coal. Their research shows that using wood instead of coal in power generation increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, worsening climate change until—and only if—the harvested forests regrow.
US forests are a main source for EU wood pellet imports, which have been rising as demand has grown. These forests grow back slowly, so it takes a long time to repay the initial “carbon debt” incurred by burning wood instead of coal. For forests in the central and eastern US, which supply much of the wood used in UK power plants, the payback time for this carbon debt ranges from 44 to 104 years, depending on forest type—and assuming the land remains forest. If the land is developed, or converted to agricultural use, then the carbon debt is never repaid and grows over time as the harvested land emits additional carbon from soils.
The research was conducted with the use of a system dynamics model, based on the award-winning Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support (C-ROADS) simulator. Launched in 2008, the model was reviewed by an external scientific review committee, chaired by Sir Robert Watson, former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A summary of their review can be accessed here.
The researchers also explored an increasingly common scenario in which hardwood forests harvested for bioenergy are replaced with faster-growing loblolly pine plantations. Surprisingly, replanting with fast-growing pine plantations worsens the CO2 impact of wood because managed plantations do not sequester as much carbon as natural forests.
They found that continued growth in wood use, as many predict, will worsen climate change throughout the rest of this century, or longer. This is because the first impact of substituting wood for coal in power generation is an increase in CO2 emissions. Even if the forests eventually regrow, notes Prof. Sterman, each year the new carbon debt from increased harvest and combustion outweighs the regrowth, just as borrowing more on a credit card each month than one is able to pay back will steadily increase what he or she owes. For countries using wood bioenergy as a component of their climate policies this could take them backwards. Indeed, bioenergy from wood made up 44% of the EU’s renewable energy production in 2015.
“A molecule of CO2 emitted today has the same impact on the climate whether it comes from coal or biomass,” says Sterman. “Declaring that biofuels are carbon neutral, as the EU, UK and others have done, erroneously assumes forest regrowth happens quickly and fully offsets the emissions from biofuel production and combustion. One way to address the challenges raised in this study would be to count emissions where they occur, for example, at a power plant, and monitor and count carbon removed from the atmosphere by regrowth on the harvested land.”
Critically, the analysis doesn’t support continued coal use as it is the most carbon intensive fuel and a major contributor to climate change. The researchers stress energy efficiency, solar, wind and storage as the cheapest, safest, and quickest ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions while meeting energy needs.
The model behind the research is available for scientists and policymakers to design their own scenarios for bioenergy, conduct sensitivity analysis, and get immediate feedback showing the full dynamics, including both short and long run impacts.
Drax produces about 7% of the UK’s power. The picture shows unloading wood pellets at ABP Immingham for this power plant.
Source: John Chadwick http://www.im-mining.com
Always striving to increase its business volume while maintaining personalized customer support, Carbotech has announced the opening of a new office on Québec City’s north shore (Saint-Nicholas sector).
A division of the Plessiville head office’s engineering department, the new offices will mainly accommodate new draftspeople, mechanical engineering technicians, engineers, project managers and the members of our after-sales service, CARBOCARE.
Taking advantage of its momentum and a favourable economy, Carbotech will continue developing markets in South America, Europe, Oceania, the United States and Canada. At the same time, the company will maintain its contribution to the lumber industry by continuing to develop patented concepts for efficient lumber production.
Carbotech will be launching an extensive recruitment campaign in the greater Québec City area to welcome more people to its team.
Carbotech specializes in maximizing production efficiency and high-speed board handling in sawmills and planer mills.
Always working on new ideas and patents, Carbotech is a highly valued partner in the industry, relying on a skilled 100 – person workforce. Its mission over the past 30 years has focused on these four principles: speed, precision, know-how and durability. Carbotech has a number of business partners, parts & service distribution centres and mechanical intervention centres to serve its markets around the world. For more information, please visit www.carbotech.ca
International Sales & Marketing Director
Tel.: 819-362-6317 / email@example.com
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The World Bamboo Organization will be hosting its 11th Congress on August 14-18 2018. Hosted in Xalapa, Mexico, the World Bamboo Congress (WBC) offers an opportunity “to demonstrate the vast potential of bamboo in the Americas, and particularly Mexico, as well as showcase what’s happening around the world in bamboo development.” The Congress is hosted […]
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