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New report on biomass sustainability assessment published

The first public report of the SmartCHP project has been published, a sustainability analysis of five SmartCHP supply chains from feedstock to end user. The report, authored by BTG Biomass Technology Group, results in quantitative insight in RED II GHG reductions and identification of potential sustainability risks.

It is available to download in the resources section of the website. The report abstract is included below.

Abstract

Sustainability means that the needs of the present generation are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Issues concerning greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, carbon stock change and land use change are typically addressed in biomass sustainability schemes. In this report sustainability issues are assessed for five different Smart CHP supply chains by applying the European Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) emission reduction calculation methodology and other sustainability schemes, supplemented of a check of sustainability topics that are not or only partly included in sustainability schemes but play a role in the discussion on sustainability of bioenergy.

The sustainability of the following five Smart CHP supply chains from feedstock to end-user have been assessed:

  • Corn stover (Romania, East EU)
  • Softwood forestry residues (Sweden, North EU)
  • Olive kernel wood (Greece, South EU)
  • Miscanthus (Croatia, Central EU)
  • Pyrolysis oil import scenario (Netherlands, West EU)

According to the REDII methodology, the total emissions from the use of pyrolysis oil for Combined Heat & Power application can be calculated by adding up the emissions from the extraction or cultivation of raw materials, emissions from the pyrolysis oil production process, and the emissions from pyrolysis oil transportation to end-users. The emissions expressed in gCO2-eq/MJ are presented in Figure 1.

The emission reductions compared to the fossil fuel comparators as found in the RED II are presented in Table 1.

Results show that the emission reduction values of all Smart CHP supply chains are in the order of 89% to 97%. This indicates that the calculated GHG emission savings exceeds the required target of 70% emission reduction for electricity, heating, and cooling production from biomass fuels used in installations starting operation after 1 January 2021 and 80% for installations staring operation after 1 January 2026 as laid out in article 29(10) of the RED II. Therefore, the energy produced from all Smart CHP supply chains can be accounted for national renewable energy targets and are eligible for financial support.

The following conclusions and recommendations can be made from the assessment of RED non GHG sustainability criteria and the sustainability risk assessment:

  • Olive kernel wood has to comply to the RED II greenhouse gas emission reduction criteria only. Corn stover, forestry residues and miscanthus need to meet the RED II non-GHG sustainability criteria as well. It is expected that all selected feedstocks are able to meet these sustainability criteria regarding e.g. soil quality and soil carbon, biodiversity and carbon stocks. It has to be observed that at the time of writing, the RED II is still in the process of implementation. It is recommended to check the implementing acts which are not published yet at the time of writing and the still to be updated voluntary sustainability schemes at a later stage to confirm compliance with RED II.
  • The National Inventory Reports (NIRs), in which the carbon balance at level of countries and EU as a whole are presented, show that the European forests have a stable carbon stock. Despite these facts, in some Member States the public opinion regarding the use of forest biomass is very negative. It is recommended to take the issue of carbon debt into account in the further work on public perception.
  • All selected biomass types are included in RED II Annex IX of low Indirect Land Use (ILUC) risk biomass types, which indicates that the selected feedstocks are low ILUC risk feedstocks.
  • The EU “Guidance on cascading use of biomass with selected good practice examples on woody biomass did not result in the identification of sustainability risks for the selected biomass types. The production of pyrolysis oil from biomass fits in the picture that various application, from energy to chemicals and products from low value residues are possible.
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