Understanding the timing and variation of greenhouse gas emissions of forest bioenergy systems

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Abstract

Forest-based bioenergy plays an important role in climate mitigation for limiting global mean temperature increase to below 2 °C. The greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of three forest-based bioenergy systems from the USA, Canada and Spain supplying wood pellets for electricity in the UK were evaluated by conducting lifecycle assessments and forest carbon modelling of the three forest systems. Cumulative emissions were analysed by calculating the forest carbon stock change and net GHG emissions balance of the forest-based bioenergy electricity. The analysis considered both the replacement of the existing electricity mix with bioenergy electricity and forest management with and without bioenergy use. The supply chain emissions and forest carbon balances indicated that GHG emission reductions are possible. However, the cumulative net GHG balance at forest landscape scale revealed that the reduction potential is limited, potentially with no GHG reductions in fast growing forests with shorter rotations, while slow growing forest systems with longer rotations result in greater GHG reductions. This means that the maximum climate benefit is delivered at a different point in time for different forest systems. To evaluate the climate change mitigation potential of forest-based bioenergy it is therefore necessary to consider the management, utilisation and relevant counterfactual of the whole forest and its products. In terms of climate change mitigation potential and minimising possible negative impacts that would require multi-level governance.

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  • Understanding the timing and variation of greenhouse gas emissions of forest bioenergy systems

    Rights statement: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Funding: This paper is a contribution to the SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); Grant Ref: EP/J017302/1. E. Thiffault acknowledges funding from the Quebec Fund for Nature and Technologies; Program for new scientists; Grant title “Chemical and physical characterisation of degraded trees for sustainable production of bioenergy”. C. Martínez-Alonso contribution was supported by financial assistance from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports through the Mobility stays abroad "José Castillejo" for young post-doctoral researchers (2016).

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-114
Number of pages16
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Volume121
Early online date8 Jan 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

Bibliographic note

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Funding: This paper is a contribution to the SUPERGEN Bioenergy Hub funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); Grant Ref: EP/J017302/1. E. Thiffault acknowledges funding from the Quebec Fund for Nature and Technologies; Program for new scientists; Grant title “Chemical and physical characterisation of degraded trees for sustainable production of bioenergy”. C. Martínez-Alonso contribution was supported by financial assistance from the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports through the Mobility stays abroad "José Castillejo" for young post-doctoral researchers (2016).

    Keywords

  • Carbon balance, Cumulative emission, Forest bioenergy, Forest management, Greenhouse gas emissions, Lifecycle assessment, Net GHG balance

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