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Europe could increase biomass use by 50%

Apr. 21, 2011, Finland – Agrobiomass and forest chips are the most underused bioenergy sources available today; there is potential for increasing their use by 50% from the present. Increasing biomass fuel use would help attain sustainable development goals.


April 21, 2011
By EUBIONET / VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Apr. 21, 2011, Finland – Agrobiomass and
forest chips are the most underused bioenergy sources available today; there is
potential for increasing their use by 50% from the present. Increasing biomass
fuel use would help attain sustainable development goals. Thanks to the EUBIONET III project
coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, there is now more
accurate information available than ever before on biomass reserves in the
European Union. The project estimated the biomass potential in 23 EU Member
States and Norway. The annual potential for biomaterial gained from forests,
fields, and industry was estimated at the equivalent of 157 million tonnes of
oil.

“In this project, we focused on the
technical and economic potential of biomass reserves and on solid biofuels. If
we further assume that about half the waste generated in the EU is
biodegradable, that would translate into the equivalent of about 37 million
tonnes of oil, bringing the total available biomass up to some 200 million
tonnes of oil,” says senior research scientist Eija Alakangas from VTT
Technical Research Centre of Finland, who was in charge of the project.

Since publication of the report, the
countries involved have estimated in their national renewable energy action
plans that about 250 million tonnes of biomass reserves would be required to
achieve the combined goals set. It has not yet been estimated at the EU level
what the volume required for sustainable development might be. Moreover, some
countries import their biomass fuel from other EU Member States or from outside
the EU.

“Current use of bioenergy exploits less
than half the bioenergy potential of the 24 EU Member States studied. The
greatest potential for increase is in forest chips and agrobiomass. Finland
aims to use forest chips to produce energy equivalent to the yield of 13.5
million cubic metres of solid fuel or 25 TWh,” says Alakangas. One
terawatt-hour (TWh) = 1 billion kWh of energy; 1 million tonnes of oil equals
11.63 TWh of energy.

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In addition to exploring the biofuel
potential of the EU and its sufficiency, the project studied sustainable
development criteria for solid biofuels, generated information for use in
standardization, and monitored biofuel price development since 1999. The
project yielded information useful for new quality standards for solid biofuels;
a price index for international trade was developed together with businesses.

Solid biofuel standards will make
international trade in biomass fuels easier. FOEX Indexes Ltd, an enterprise
specializing in monitoring indices, uses a standard as the basis for the index
for industrial pellets.

EU sustainability and energy policy will
influence how biomass fuel use develops in the future. Major pellet users have
proposed that greenhouse gas emissions should be calculated for solid biofuels
and that industrial pellets should have a quality classification and
certification system of their own. Transport emissions are also an issue in
international trade. The necessity and possible content of an industrial pellet
standard and certification system were explored in the project through
questionnaires. Major exporters of wood pellets to the EU include the USA,
Canada, and Russia. Most of the imported wood pellets are blended with coal and
used at large power plants.

The EUBIONET III project ran from 2008 to
2011. Together with its earlier incarnations, the project has lasted altogether
12 years. The Ministry of Trade and Industry and its successor the Ministry of
Employment and the Economy have provided partial funding for the project
throughout its existence. The project forms part of the Intelligent Energy
Europe program.


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