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Most wood energy schemes are a 'disaster' for climate change
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Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 2:54 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote    

Not in this thread no, I don't think many people are interested in reducing their consumption so I try not to bang on about it.

I'm not sure what should be reduced first, I've seem some claims that some biomass produces 5 times more CO2 than coal, plus other harmful emissions. I've no idea if that is a realistic number but if it is then wouldn't it make sense to reduce that? If fracked gas is really as evil as people say should we not burn more coal than gas?

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 4453
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I would look into that claim with a strongly critical eye, and again, keep in mind the lifespan of the carbon that's being released.

Do you agree that geologically short term carbon cycling is better than long term cycling? (i.e., it's better to release carbon sequestered 150 years ago than carbon sequestered millions of years ago)

There are issues with fracked gas, but I don't think it's worse than coal for various reasons, primarily among them the amount of prehistoric carbon emitted per watt generated

Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 3:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

The question appears more like is it worth releasing more CO2 from short term cycling than less from long term. Now I thought there's a point of no return of CO2 levels, are we likely to reach that sooner by burning certain sources of biomass?

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 4453
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Treacodactyl wrote:
The question appears more like is it worth releasing more CO2 from short term cycling than less from long term.


I think this is where our core disagreement comes in.
You've pointed out that biomass schemes are not perfect, and that the assumption that regrowth carbon sequestration will exactly equate to carbon released at burning is flawed.

That does not mean that there is no biomass re-growth and carbon sequestration.
Also it's glossing over the fact that young forests sequester carbon at a faster rate than old forests, and that's not even bringing into the equation the (debated) notion that "stable" old growth forests are carbon neutral, not sequestering any more than they are releasing.

We can agree that we'd like to see less demand, but there is currently a high demand, and it's more likely to grow with population than to shrink with efficiency, unfortunately.

I'm not proposing that biomass is flawless, just a less-bad option than using coal to meet that demand.

Given a situation where the CO2 is likely to be released one way or another, wouldn't you rather it come from a batch that was sequestered post industrial revolution, in a woodland that now has a space open for new growth and re-uptake of that carbon (even if not 100% of what was released) than to add subterranean carbon into the equation?

Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Slim wrote:
That does not mean that there is no biomass re-growth and carbon sequestration.
Also it's glossing over the fact that young forests sequester carbon at a faster rate than old forests, and that's not even bringing into the equation the (debated) notion that "stable" old growth forests are carbon neutral, not sequestering any more than they are releasing


It could mean there is no sequestration if the trees aren't replanted. When you say young forest what age to you actually mean? A young sapling will not be absorbing much CO2, nothing like the amounts dumped into the air. when burning a large tree. What about all the CO2 pumped out cutting, processing, drying, shipping the biomass?

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 4453
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

When I mention young trees I'm referring to trees under 20 or 25 years old. It's true they won't have the capacity to uptake much in those first 5 or 10 years. Again this gets in to the murky assumptions of what systems are being used. (clearcut mountain sides and just see what happens, or selectively log sections of land and release the undergrowth saplings, or plantations/coppiceland, etc.....)

We're clearly coming from different perspectives.

I may be biased in that I live in a region where the default state is forest. If land is left alone it reverts to forest. I realize that is not always the case globally.

Neither one of us have the real numbers here (if they exist at all) so I'm going to call it a day on this (I need to stop procrastinating on some other work!)

While I know that there are horrible examples of biomass done improperly, that is not the perception I have of North American biomass energy production, and forest stewardship.

I'd love to know what the global average is, in terms of re-planting, regrowth, etc., but I doubt that's available. (at that point they'd just be able to say "were burning this much and the area the biomass came from is now re-absorbing x% of that at y rate per year." and that would be immediately comparable against coal)


Quote:
It could mean there is no sequestration if the trees aren't replanted.


While this undoubtedly occurs (and even then, there would be sequestration as species that weren't planted by man would grow anyway), we clearly know it's not the standard. I feel as though you're trying to make it seem like we're just cutting everything and leaving deserts behind.

The question is what percentages of biomass production land have which standards applied?

Then the next question is can we improve the practices in the places they exist? If not, can we stop the harvest in that area all together?(economic forces)

This isn't all or nothing. "Some biomass is bad" doesn't mean all biomass is bad.

I guess I don't understand what you're arguing for.... Do you want to stop all biomass energy schemes? Do you want to stop all poorly executed biomass energy schemes? Do you want to improve how biomass is done, or get rid of it? If you want to get rid of it, how do you want the power currently generated by biomass to be generated?

Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 17 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Slim wrote:
I guess I don't understand what you're arguing for....


More honesty in the 'green' sector and better regulation. A quick google comes up with this and it's hard to argue with some of the ideas, i.e. only subsidising short carbon cycle biomass. https://www.carbonbrief.org/biomass-subsidies-not-fit-for-purpose-chatham-house

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 8:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I read about half of that and came to the conclusion that the people writing it didn't know anything about forestry. Sorry, but most of that is a load of rubbish. In some places trees are stripped from the landscape, which then becomes desert. This is most likely to happen around deserts and the wood is used by the locals for cooking fires. In other places such as the Amazon and Indonesia trees are stripped to provide land for things such as cattle and palm oil plantations. A lot of the timber is burnt on site as it is uneconomic to move it. Medium to long term these areas could become denuded and potential deserts, although if left alone will probably reforest eventually.

In places that are worked for biomass the trees either regrow naturally as coppice or natural regeneration (you try stopping that in some British woods), are replanted, or are just being thinned. Most of the biomass that we get in the EU will come under this category if not all. Anything in the UK is watched over by the FC, and most parts of Europe have just as heavy control, as do Canada and the US. We are not considering here the cutting of virgin forest that would be better left, just any forest. There is no need to cut virgin forest but if it is cut it is usually for the unusual size of the trees, not for biomass.

I agree that biomass is the least energy efficient way to burn wood, but it happens to be the most convenient for power stations. They do not burn wet wood either I wouldn't think; it would be allowed to season either in the log or in the heap. In the UK anything stored outside; wood or coal will be at about 20% humidity, and may need further drying before use. Gas is often wet when extracted, so will need some sort of drying before use too.

No, biomass is not the 'ideal', but at the moment it is one of the best ways we have of covering at least part of the base load. If you want less transport, then coal is the answer, but importing gas from Russia seems a bit risky as well as using energy, as does importing oil from areas that are always a bit unstable politically.

Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Mistress Rose wrote:
I read about half of that and came to the conclusion that the people writing it didn't know anything about forestry. Sorry, but most of that is a load of rubbish.


Care to give a specific example, the article doesn't contain anything I saw that was disputed. Again you refer to coppice, as you know pine does not coppice, mature broadleaves will often struggle to coppice. Clear felled mature woodland may not grow back in a similar way etc - I don't know why you suggest otherwise. There seems to be plenty of question marks about how well managed the tree felling is in the US as well, so yes we are considering the cutting of virgin forest (old-growth I gather they call it in the US).

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
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Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Treacodactyl wrote:
Mistress Rose wrote:
I read about half of that and came to the conclusion that the people writing it didn't know anything about forestry. Sorry, but most of that is a load of rubbish.


Care to give a specific example, the article doesn't contain anything I saw that was disputed. Again you refer to coppice, as you know pine does not coppice, mature broadleaves will often struggle to coppice. Clear felled mature woodland may not grow back in a similar way etc - I don't know why you suggest otherwise. There seems to be plenty of question marks about how well managed the tree felling is in the US as well, so yes we are considering the cutting of virgin forest (old-growth I gather they call it in the US).


I'm not sure what will satisfy you in terms of forestry responsibility.
P.S. there is very little old growth forest left in the U.S., and it's primarily in national parks)

Also, are you suggesting that US forestry has no standards or rules? It can vary by state, but there are definitely rules and standards. For example, loggers keep complaining they'll be put out of business because water quality rules keep getting updated in my state......

Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Slim wrote:
Also, are you suggesting that US forestry has no standards or rules? It can vary by state, but there are definitely rules and standards. For example, loggers keep complaining they'll be put out of business because water quality rules keep getting updated in my state......


No, but it's very hard to find out what is going on. From one side you hear the words 'waste' and 'thinings' and from the other you hear comments that the waste has been used for years to make other products and the majority of biomass is fully grown trees.

What is clear is the biomass demand has grown very rapidly in the last decade so I can't see how forests could have been planned, planted and managed for it several decades before.

There's also plenty of stories such as this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3113908/How-world-s-biggest-green-power-plant-actually-INCREASING-greenhouse-gas-emissions-Britain-s-energy-bill.html although I tend to expect it to be simply dismissed so I've avoided posting it up. I would be curious to know what is going on as there's plenty of people against the biomass market in the US.

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 43858
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Treacodactyl wrote:
Slim wrote:
I guess I don't understand what you're arguing for....


More honesty in the 'green' sector and better regulation.


Agree, as the recent NI wood fired heating scandal shows most subsidies in the UK end up as ways of fleecing the system with no environmental benefit

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 4453
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Treacodactyl wrote:

There's also plenty of stories such as this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3113908/How-world-s-biggest-green-power-plant-actually-INCREASING-greenhouse-gas-emissions-Britain-s-energy-bill.html although I tend to expect it to be simply dismissed so I've avoided posting it up. I would be curious to know what is going on as there's plenty of people against the biomass market in the US.


I'm glad that scrutiny is taking place.

However, I'm frustrated that the article doesn't address what is apparently the main thrust of its thesis, regarding carbon emissions.

Okay, so it's been posited that more CO2 is being released than promised. They don't say how much that is, nor do they give an accounting for how much is expected to be taken back up the harvested forestland over the next however many years, nor do they compare the difference of those numbers with the amount of carbon that would be released by generating an equivalent amount of power from coal. Which really is what the debate is about, is it not?

As for the harvest and regrowth standards, it's good that they focused on them, as that is probably the most concerning. I trust the forester they quoted who mentioned that the timber wasn't of commercial value as saw logs. It probably would go as cordwood for woodstoves traditionally.

As to the subtitle that American forests are being raped, I'd suggest that you can't rape the willing, in the sense that the landowners are not being forced to sell their product.

The concern I have from that article is not knowing the specifics of how that forestland's regrowth is being handled. I don't know that any of us can speak to that with any authority, so we're left looking at both sides and discussing the carbon. (or not discussing it)

Treacodactyl
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Slim wrote:
As for the harvest and regrowth standards, it's good that they focused on them, as that is probably the most concerning. I trust the forester they quoted who mentioned that the timber wasn't of commercial value as saw logs. It probably would go as cordwood for woodstoves traditionally.


Or more likely not cut at all? I bet if the wood biomass exports were stopped overnight less trees would be felled.

As for a better breakdown of CO2 numbers that would be useful to see, along with a detailed breakdown of exactly what timber is used and how it is processed. That would take time though and require someone to pay for the research.

Slim



Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 4453
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 17 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Well, my support for biomass in general still exists, but you've certainly given me more things to keep an eye out for, and some reasons to be skeptical.

For one, I had no idea there was such an international trade in wood pellets.

As an alternative story: The biomass plant we have near me is just wood chips, and I think the only post-grinding processing they get is drying with waste heat from the generating plant (if that).

Quote:
Mostly the wood comes from within 60 miles of the station. Ninety-five percent comes from logging residue and cull material created when harvesting higher value wood products. Harvests are conducted in accordance with strict environmental standards specified by the [State] Public Service Board.

The wood is chipped at the harvest site and delivered in trailer trucks to the plant or to a railcar loading facility; at least 75 percent comes by rail. A small portion arrives in an unprocessed form that can be stored and chipped when needed. [The] Station also purchases lumber-making byproducts such as bark and shavings or clean urban wood waste.


Quote:
Most harvests are partial cuts designed to improve growing conditions for the remaining trees. When a new crop of trees needs to be created or when wildlife habitat improvement practices require it, small areas may be cleared after approval from a professional forester. [The generating station] also receives wood from site conversions for development or agricultural expansion. [Our] foresters monitor each harvest operation to see that wood is harvested properly. The stationís wood suppliers are required to conduct their activities in accordance with strict standards to protect the environment.


Quote:
[The generating station] is equipped with a series of air quality control devices that limit the particulate stack emissions to one-tenth the level allowed by state regulation. [The generating station]'s emissions are one one-hundredth of the allowable federal level. The only visible emission from the plant is water vapor during the cooler months of the year. In 2008, [The generating station] voluntarily installed a $12 million Regenerative Selective Catalytic Reduction system, which reduced the Nitrogen Oxide emissions to 1/3 of the state requirement.


It's where every arborist and homeowner in the area brings their woody waste. They also go through a fair amount of pallets

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