THE NATURE OF THE WOOD PELLET SUPPLY TO THE UK

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1 THE NATURE OF THE WOOD PELLET SUPPLY TO THE UK Carly Whittaker Rothamsted Research Torrefaction workshop 2 nd April 2014 University of Leeds Rothamsted Research MSc Forest Protection and conservation at Imperial College London 1

2 Aim of presentation Assume similar supply of wood to current wood pellet industry Who s who? Major pellet producers Properties of biomass Sustainability concerns Pellet Consumption UK Ofgem Annual Sustainability Report 2012 UK Consumed approx. 1.3 million tonnes pellets About 10,000 tonnes from UK Imported 1.3 million tonnes 90% Pellets from North America Supply from Russia may grow Just built a mega plant 900,000 tpa! South Africa 1% Russia 0% New Zealand 1% Latvia 0% Sources of Wood Pellets USA 29% Portugal 5% UK 1% Canada 63% 2

3 Biomass Properties Characteristics of biomass- for torrefaction modelling purposes Mixture of hardwood and softwood Sawmill residues & sustainable wood = pulpwood? Low bark content - sawdust or pulpwood Sawdust/pulpwood 50% moisture content Sustainable wood = forest residues? Higher bark content, also 50% moisture content Waste wood Drier still 10-25% moisture content logistics & cleaning important Average scale of existing plants 65,000 tpa Newer plants are larger: 500,000-1 million tpa Made up of pellet lines of 25,000 tpa North Americas Concentrated on east side US only recently started exporting, as it consumes most of what it makes. Canada more experienced exporter Expanding rapidly 3

4 Wood Pellet Supply Biomass Types? Resource USA Canada Sawmill residues 36% 18% Wood Waste 17% 3% Sustainable wood 7% - Logs 6% 3% Not clear 34% 77% Wood Pellet Supply from FOREST RESOURCES Many of the sources are not transparent Only few sources claim Sustainable credentials Sustainability Concerns Forestlands are considerably large carbon sinks In biomass and in soil Carbon Debt Time taken for forest to recover from harvest operation Increase in demand will increase management intensity in forestlands overseas Old growth forests at risk Original uses of wood displaced Competing uses of wood will mean use of less sustainable materials or deforestation 4

5 DECC BEAC Model Developed to look at net GHG balance of forest systems Counterfactuals Assumes using wood for bioenergy will displace some other use E.g. replacing sawn timber will mean that concrete etc., used instead The use of whole trees causes large GHG penalties Sustainability Concerns What wood are they talking about? Argument focused on whole trees Detective work Highlighting the use of logs in pellet mills Creating controversy over the sustainability of imported wood pellets 5

6 Myth Busting Time Rebuttal to the Dirty as Coal Report TRUE Using whole trees from old growth forest is not good for GHG balance Data used in the report was worse case scenario Taken from a selection of many scenarios Carbon debt Focuses on just 1 tree not the forest Zero possibility counterfactuals The cheapest biomass source will always be used for bioenergy Unrealistic comparisons Many cases in North America old pulp woodlands Forgetting the rest of the forest! Biomass proportion relatively small carbon sequestered in timber 6

7 Back to basics Understanding the GHG Balance of Forest Products Back to basics Understanding the GHG Balance of Forest Products Brash bales END OF LIFE? Burnt? Recycled? Landfilled? PROCESSING Sawlogs Pulpwood HARVESTING MEASURE GHG EMISSIONS 7

8 Origin of the Carbon Debt Finite storage Natural disturbances GHG savings can be achieved if management does not lead to permanent or long-term depletion of forest stocks Some argue that time taken to replace this carbon means that forest biomass is not instantly carbon neutral A tree See the wood through the trees At national scale net sequestration under forestland Sustainable harvesting can maintain carbon sink FSC certification can ensure this is followed CERTIFICATION IS IMPORTANT 8

9 Back to basics Forests are Multi-product Systems Source of renewable fuel and material CHEAPEST Counterfactuals Fuel Replacement materials OFTEN IRRELEVANT E.g. Drax Power Opening 2 wood pellet mills in Mississippi & Louisiana Combined capacity 900,000 tpa Paper forestlands Paper production moved to South America Unused resource Benefiting forest industry where otherwise would have suffered 9

10 The full picture Relative yields show a large proportion of forest biomass ends up in long-term carbon storage Boost GHG savings if timber is used to displace cement and steel Not cost-effective to remove roots Remember end use if we send to landfill benefits are lost! Save GHG emissions - Replacing fossil fuels - Replacing building materials Branches Pulpwood Combusted short term some left onsite Paper/short life product short term Sawlogs Timber products Sawmill residues Building - long term Combusted short term Roots Left in forest long term Policy should focus on using forest biomass for fuel & construction products Conclusions Pellet supply may reflect supply to torrefaction industry 90% of pellet supply originates from North America Produced from mixture hard and softwood forest products Mainly sawmill waste and low grade wood Sourced at a large scale up to 1 million tpa Concerns over sustainability after sensational reporting True in worst case scenarios forests are large carbon sinks Sustainable harvesting can maintain carbon sinks and eradicate carbon debt Cheapest biomass resource will only ever be available so doesn t displace existing uses The full picture shows that the best GHG savings can be achieved if forests are simultanesouly managed for building materials and fuel 10

11 Thank you! 11

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