Forestry residues and wood waste for biofuel production


A study on the Future of the European Forest-Based Sector: Structural Changes Towards Bioeconomy was published in late 2014 by the European Forest Institute. Further links to EC and national activites on forest biomass production and use are included below.

Two main types of forestry resources are used for demonstrations of advanced biofuel production:

a) Residues from harvest operations that are left in the forest after stem wood removal, such as branches, foliage, roots, etc.

b) Complementary fellings which describe the difference between the maximum sustainable harvest level and the actual harvest needed to satisfy round wood demand.

Not all forest residues can be removed, some must be left in situ to provide ecological benefits (e.g. to provide habitat, and improve soils).

In addition, wood wastes from a range of sources (e.g. construction or demolition wastes, waste from manufacturing of wood-based products) can potentially be used for bioenergy and biofuels production. Wood wastes are widely used as local fuel sources across the world, by combustion in wood burners or larger biomass boilers.

At industrial scale, forest residues and waste wood can be converted to advanced biofuels or intermediates, such as BioSNG, Biocrude, BtL, Methanol or BioDME, through various thermochemical pathways.

Environmental and commercial benefits of harvesting biomass to both maintain forest health and provide feedstock

In 2014, 200,000 tons of biomass were removed from federal lands through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program in the US. This provided dual commercial/environmental benefits of removing diseased and hazardous trees, and optimising forest health, while providing valuable feedstock for bioenergy production.

Examples of demonstrations using wood waste for advanced bioenergy and biofuels production

The GoBiGas facility is the first plant in the world to produce bio-methane from biomass continuously through gasification, hereby using forest residues as feedstock, generating fuel and heat at the same time, and injection bio-methane into the transmission grid for use as vehicle fuel, fuel for CHP or heat production, or as feedstock to the processing industry.
The technology was planned to be commercialized in two phases:

  • Phase 1 - 20 MW demo plant, partly financed by Swedish Energy Agency
  • Phase 2 - 80 – 100 MW commercial plant, when the technology is proven in phase 1 and the market conditions are sufficient

Phase 2, was  selected project by the EU Commission to receive NER300 funding, but is currently not being developed. (see GoBiGas presentation at EBTP SPM7).

In December 2013, it was announced that work will begin on a 10.3 MW biomass gasification plant in Tyseley, UK. The plant will be developed by Carbonarius, a joint venture of O-Gen UK and UNA Group, with a £47.8m investment by the UK Green Investment Bank and Foresight Group. The plant will be built and operated by MWH, based in Broomfield, US, and will use the biomass gasification process of the Canadian firm Nexterra Systems to convert 67,000 metric tons of locally-sourced woodwaste into power. The feedstock will be supplied by JM Envirofuels Ltd.

In 2013, Fortum started up its fast pyrolysis facility in Joensuu, Finland. The facility is integrated into the local CHP plant, which uses the bio-oil from the pyrolysis facility for heat and power production. The bio-oil raw materials include forest residues and other wood based biomass.

In 2015, BTG BioLiquids opened its fast pyrolysis facility which was supported under FP7 under the Empyro project. The plant will produce bio-oil, electricity - to cover its own use - and steam. The steam will be supplied to the neighbouring salt factory. The pyrolysis oil will  be  supplied  almost  exclusively  to  the  dairy  company  FrieslandCampina. They will use the oil to produce steam in their boilers. This replaces an amount of natural gas that is equivalent to the annual use of 8,000 households.

Two pyrolysis projects using wood waste were selected for counterpart funding under the second phase of NER300. These included a fast pyrolysis plant in Estonia to convert 130,000 tonnes of wood chips to pyrolysis oil (heavy fuel oil), and a CHP pyrolysis facility in Latvia using 100,000 tonnes of wood chips. Both plants plan to export pyrolysis oil to replace heavy fuel oil in Sweden and Finland.

In December 2011, CHO Power SAS (a subsidiary of Europlasma) and Sunrise Renewables announced plans to build 4 high temperature plasma gasification facilities at UK docks to convert waste wood into clean syngas. The Syngas will be cleaned further and the tar removed, prior to power production via gas engine generators.

CHO Power is also developing a demonstration facility in Morcenx, France that will gasify 37,000 tonnes of ordinary industrial waste and 15,000 tonnes wood chips per annum, generating power for EDF.

In northern Europe (e.g. Sweden, Finland) it has been demonstrated in long-term experiments that the potential sustainable harvest level can be drastically increased by means of fertilisation, which will increase the amount of biomass available for bioenergy and round wood for the industry.


EC and national activites on production and mobilisation of forestry residues

The TORERO (TORrefying wood with Ethanol as a Renewable Output: large-scale demonstration) project The Torero project aims to demonstrate a cost-, resource-, and energy-efficient technology concept for producing bioethanol from a wood waste feedstock, fully integrated in a large-scale functional steel mill. Duration: 2017 - 2020.

A report by IEA Bioenergy “Balancing Different Environmental Effects of Forest Residue Recovery in Sweden: A Stepwise Handling Procedure” was published in 2016.

Forest biomass for energy in the EU: current trends, carbon balance and sustainable potential” was finished in 2014 by IINAS, EFI and JR.

On 20 September 2013 the Commission adopted a new EU Forest Strategy which responds to the new challenges facing forests and the forest sector. The new Strategy gives a new framework in response to the increasing demands put on forests and to significant societal and political changes that have affected forests over the last 15 years. It was developed by the Commission in close cooperation with Member States and stakeholders over the past two years and has been submitted to the European Parliament and the Council.

See also Sustainable Foresty and the European Union and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (US).

ROKWOOD is an FP7 project to support the cooperation between six European research-driven clusters in order to improve research and technological development (RTD), market uptake and to increase investments in wooden biomass production and utilisation schemes at regional level. The six participating regional clusters will be co-ordinated in order to develop a Joint Action Plan (JAP) at European level to drive economic development through research and technological development activities in the selected topics of sustainable production and efficient use of wooden biomass.

Futureforest project is a partnership of regions sharing ideas on how the forests of Europe could adapt to climate change using innovative natural solutions, contribute towards carbon sequestration and reduce risks caused by climate change such as flooding, drought, fire and soil erosion.

EuWood - Real Potential for Changes in Growth and Use of EU Forests addressed biomass demand, supply, potential and constraints and review of policies. Download all presentations (8Mb Zip file) from the EUWood Stakeholders meeting on 4 2010 June.

In June 2010, the EUwood project published a report that examines the potential availability of wood in Europe: Real potential for changes in growth and use of EU forests.