‘Not all biomass is carbon neutral’, industry admits

Posted: July 14, 2020 by oldbrew in climate, Emissions, Energy
Tags: , , , ,


This states the obvious of course. More carbon dioxide is emitted per unit of energy from biomass than from coal, undermining claims of ‘climate benefits’, and wood pellet production is energy-intensive. But ‘carbon targets’ mean the biomass obsession goes on due to lack of alternatives, given general dislike of nuclear power.
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Leading industry figures acknowledge that not all biomass brings benefits to the climate, insisting that only low-value wood and forest residues should make the cut under EU law, says Euractiv.

“Not all biomass is good biomass,” says Jennifer Jenkins, chief sustainability officer at Enviva, a US-based company which is the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pellets used for electricity and heat production.

“We agree that not all biomass should automatically be categorised as carbon neutral,” Jenkins told an online debate organised on 29 June during EU sustainable energy week.

To bring climate benefits, biomass needs to come from low-value wood residues or smaller trees coming from timber harvests – not from high-value trees that could be used in products like furniture or construction material, Jenkins said.

The question now facing policymakers in Brussels is how to ensure EU energy policies do not encourage the wrong sort of biomass, even inadvertently.

Biomass currently represents almost 60% of the EU’s renewable energy, more than solar and wind power combined, according to the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat.

And even though wind and solar are growing fast, countries such as Austria, Denmark, Finland, Latvia and Sweden would be unable to achieve their 2020 renewable energy targets without biomass, experts say.

“Bioenergy is basically the backbone for these countries’” renewable energy policies, said Martin Junginger, a professor of energy and resources at Utrecht University who spoke at the online event.

EU bioenergy review

The future of bioenergy in Europe is looking uncertain, however.

Earlier this year, the European Commission announced it would perform a comprehensive assessment of biomass supply and demand in Europe and globally with a view to “ensure that EU biomass-related policies are sustainable”.

Full report here.

Comments
  1. gbaikie says:

    –“Not all biomass is good biomass,” says Jennifer Jenkins, chief sustainability officer at Enviva, a US-based company which is the world’s largest producer of industrial wood pellets used for electricity and heat production.

    “We agree that not all biomass should automatically be categorised as carbon neutral,” Jenkins told an online debate organised on 29 June during EU sustainable energy week.–

    Well since climate change going to kill everyone, very soon, it seems it’s better to put all the biomass
    in a landfill.
    Burn good coal, instead.

  2. AWind says:

    Inefficiency cost of small scale? This is in addition to the obvious factors mentioned like low calorific value, raw material production and transport energy (diesel) costs. Many renewable energy plant are deliberately small scale to attract the grants necessary to make them economic. The UK set limits for grants arbitrarily at 40 MW***. i.e. Enhanced peddle power on a par with wind. Surprisingly, renewable energy plants are often 40 MW or much less. (***or did so until recently).

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    Why not burn household (and other) garbage? Singapore does so at high temperatures and generates electricity. Gets rid of plastics too. Leftover ash is 1% of input amount so saving on landfill, not to mention no methane emission from landfill.
    Of course it gives off CO2 but is the overall equation worse? Unfortunately the hysteria about CO2 prevents any EU country from thinking, and that applies also to the UK, Australia and NZ. Quite why those countries are handicapping themselves when two thirds of countries aren’t so stupid is beyond my comprehension.

  4. MrGrimNasty says:

    There is now so much tree being burnt globally (and rapidly increasing) as a result of crazy ‘green’ policy decisions, that it can’t possibly be fueled from low value forest waste/fast growing biomass/small trees. The only solution is to just ban it – burn domestic waste instead and dash for gas again.

    As I mentioned before, just the current Drax UK capacity would require an area almost the size of Wales given over to pine plantation, by average time to harvest/yield figures, to be fed continuously. To supply the entire UK’s current electricity needs from wood chip continuously would require a pine plantation slightly larger than the area of the UK.

  5. tallbloke says:

  6. cognog2 says:

    The term ‘Carbon Neutral’ when applied to wood burning is a legal term which depends on the word ‘Deemed’. It is only valid factually if the rate of burning equates to the rate of growth. It is quite apparent that current practices do NOT adhere to this principle.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Everyone knows a tree can’t be grown in the time it takes to burn one. Biomass* policy is a bad joke.

    *i.e. wood pellets

  8. ivan says:

    Maybe we should start pushing the idea that coal is Concentrated Biomass rather than wood pellets that are low grade biomass.

  9. lee smeaton says:

    The problem with waste burning (even if you get above pyrolisis temp) is that you still have to inject carbon, lime & ammonia into the flu gas to neutralise toxins such as furons. You also have the increased maintenance costs of replacing the Inconel coated boiler tubes on a regular basis – its only government grants that makes them profitable. For instance Peterborough City council get around £1 million per year in grants for their energy from waste plant – and around 1/2 a million a year in grants for the “district heating system” that runs off the waste heat of the incinerator. Little known fact, that district heating system supplies somewhere in the region of 6 radiators in the council office next door – the project to install that heating system to heat 6 radiators cost £460,000

  10. oldbrew says:

    Gas provides about six times as much electricity as biomass in the UK. If Drax currently gets £800 million subsidy, imagine the subsidies and impossible quantities of wood pellets needed to get gas off the grid system.

    Vast subsidies are also handed out to wind, solar, electric vehicles and everything else connected to ‘net zero’. Economic madness even before the Covid crisis.

  11. husqer says:

    >lee smeaton says:
    July 14, 2020 at 6:16 pm
    The problem with waste burning<

    As the policy of zero waste has seen the country running out of rubbish, Sweden has begun importing waste, with a four-fold increase between 2005 and 2014. Almost 2.3 million tonnes of waste was imported from the UK, Norway, Ireland and other countries in 2016. But unlike regular imports Sweden does not make any payments for receiving other countries’ waste, rather it is paid to do so.

    https://www.trtworld.com/europe/swedish-recycling-so-successful-it-is-importing-rubbish-24491

  12. oldbrew says:

    TRTworld says: “the contribution of CO2 emissions to global warming and climate change cannot be ignored.”

    The usual evidence-free propaganda.

  13. husqer says:

    oldbrew says:
    July 15, 2020 at 7:38 am.

    The point for me is why we can’t burn our own waste for energy?

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