Finland – probably the most sustainable forest bioeconomy in the world

LUKE 13-03-2017
Photo: Erkki Oksanen

“You probably know already that 12 percent of Finnish forest area is today protected by environmental and ecological reasons. But did you know that forestry has brought to Finland €229 billion export revenues since 1995? You know that we have such a strong populations of moose, bear, and wolf that we need carefully to hunt them in order to maintain the balance and harmony between their prey and people living in forests.

But did you know, that since year 2000, timber sales have brought €24 billion of revenues for ordinary private citizens, who owns over 60% of all Finnish forests. Every fifth Finn owns forest area or has forest owner in his/her family, which spreads the income nicely to remarkable number of ordinary people throughout the country. Forestry also offers numerous working opportunities for people living in rural areas; this has also been always an important part of social sustainability.

Despite of the remarkable economic impact of forest industry and intensive wood use, we have more trees in our forest than ever before.

If you have been in Finland, you know that we have a lot of forests and trees. But did you know that despite of the remarkable economic impact of forest industry and intensive wood use, we have more trees in our forest than ever before. Nowadays there are about 80 billion trees and both the number of trees and total volume of forests are growing even if we increase our annual use of forests from the current level. This increased growth of forest means more carbon from air bound into trees and into the forest products replacing fossil based materials. Good for climate and climate targets.

You may know that we did large clear-cuttings in 1950’s and 1960´s when we were building the basis of our society. At that time we introduced intensive forest management practices based on monocultures and large units. But did you know that those large clearcuttings are now nice mixed-species forests again, our forest management is certified and biodiversity has been promoted for decades by introducing more diverse harvesting.

If you know some other country, in which renewable forest resource has equal importance for the economy and which has done things better than we have, please, bring it in! We want to benchmark it and to be better in the future.

Forests are tremendous source of sustainable welfare and wellness and we want to keep it that way – forever. (…)” (Luke Blog Posts).

The original blog post can be found from the blog section of GREBE partner Luke under: https://www.luke.fi/blogi/finland-probably-the-most-sustainable-forest-bioeconomy-in-the-world/

Forest biomass, carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation

forest-biomass-10-11-2016

A new report on “Forest biomass, carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation” has been recently published by the European Forest Institute (EFI) with involvement of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) within EFI´s “From Science to Policy” series.

“World leaders finalized a historic global agreement to combat climate change in Paris in December 2015. They agreed on the need for global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to peak as soon as possible; to achieve GHG neutrality in the second half of this century; and to hold global warming well below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels.”

“A key issue in the debate about the climate impacts of bioenergy is the question of ‘carbon neutrality’: bioenergy systems can influence the cycling of biogenic carbon between the biosphere and atmosphere, but studies sometimes disregard this when estimating GHG balances. In other words they assume that bioenergy systems can be considered neutral in regard to the biosphere-atmosphere CO2 flows.”

“This report provides insights into the current scientific debate on forest biomass, carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation. Its objective is to provide a balanced and policy-relevant synthesis on the issue, taking into account EU and global perspectives. Other societal objectives and interests are briefly touched upon but the focus is on climate change mitigation.”

The link to the series on EFI pages can be found here: http://www.efi.int/portal/policy_advice/publications/from_science_to_policy/fstp3/

The GREBE Project participates in Irish Bioenergy Association Study Tour to Denmark

Pauline Leonard, GREBE Project Coordinator, had a very successful and enjoyable trip to Denmark with GREBEs Associate Partner, the Irish Bioenergy Association.  Representatives participated from a broad range of sectors including Irish biomass boiler manufacturers, Coillte, private forestry and farming interests, pellet producers, representatives from Údarás na Gaeltachta, and other government agencies focusing on building sustainable rural energy projects. 

Brewery Vestfyen was our first site visit, here they have shifted from oil to local biomass sourced from residual wood in the Danish forestry and sawmill sector. 2 boilers running on 700,000 litres of heating oil each year have been replaced with a 40 bar 4MW boiler from Focus BioEnergy running on P45 wood chips since January 2015 with a yearly consumption of 10,000 m3. The brewery has a yearly production of cans and bottles containing beer and soft drinks exceeding 120 million units. Biomass is tipped into two 100 m3 containers and transferred to the boiler by auger. Biomass is sold to the customer by the gigajoule of energy delivered and payback is less than 2 years as a result of a government incentive to encourage the switch to renewables.

In the afternoon we visited the town of Stoholm which has a district heating system common to many small towns (780 houses) we met a company which designs, sells and installs bio-fuel boilers. This particular plant was a 1MW pellet boiler and provided the heating and water for all the houses in the town during the summer months, in the winter months a larger capacity gas boiler kicks in to meet the peak load demand. On Friday we travelled to Sonder Omme District heating plant which provides heating for housing and industry (pop. 1700). It is a fully automated system using woodchip, Anders Hjørnholm from Danstoker brought us around the plant the boilers here was manufactured by his company, he said it was a typical build in Denmark.

We visited a second 5.5MW district heating plant in Grindsted where we were accompanied by Peter Larsen from Justsen who specialise in biomass boiler system installations. Finally last stop was Danstoker fabrication workshop, a large aircraft hangar full of boilers at different stages of construction, ranging from sub 1MW up to 20 MW.

It was a very informative trip and good contacts were made.  It was impressive how Denmark take renewable heat seriously and provides targeted incentives to underpin investor confidence in the sector. It is a model we would like to see here in Ireland. There are so many energy intensive businesses in the Irish food, pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors who have a global ambition to become carbon neutral through reducing emissions and using resources more efficiently. It is widely recognised that our State and the emerging private forestry biomass resource can play a key role in delivering on this ambitions.

Expected socio-economic benefits of bio-oil production in a resource periphery

The Finnish GREBE partners, Karelia UAS and LUKE, have assessed the direct and indirect socioeconomic impacts on a local, regional and national economy from forest biomass-based bio-oil production using input–output (I–O) analysis.

The planned fast pyrolysis bio-oil industry project will include two production units (each with the capacity of 90 000 tons of bio-oil) and related sites, a raw material terminal and infrastructures. The annual requirement for the biomass raw materials is approximately 700 000 solid m3, including by-products from the wood processing industries as well as round wood and smaller diameter energy wood. For fast pyrolysis bio-oil production, town of Lieksa has locational advantages, as there are available stocks of wood processing industry by-products (sawn dust, cutter shavings) with a currently limited market.

The analyses shows the potential of a bio-oil factory on the development of the local economy and determined the type of impacts bio-oil production has on population and employment development and on the public municipal economy. The study area is located in a resource periphery far from growing regions and suffers from development problems and stagnating development trends. In terms of employment and income, bio-oil production could have a significant positive net impact on the local economy despite leakages to regional and national economies. The impacts of bio-oil production could enhance the future development prospects for the resource periphery according to positive changes in the net migration and by slowing population losses.

Karelia UAS 01-09-2016

Pie chart from average estimates of the employment (number of jobs) and income (million euros) impacts of bio-oil factory construction and operation present at the local, regional and national levels. Size of the pie shows the scale of the total employment and income impacts of the construction and production periods.

For further information, please contact Lasse Okkonen (lasse.okkonen@karelia.fi), Olli Lehtonen (olli.lehtonen@luke.fi)

“How to provide bioenergy in the Nordic and Baltic regions? Wood is the future!” – ENERWOODS

LUKE image 23-06-2016

The joint Nordic-Baltic collaborative research project ENERWOODS (wood based energy systems from Nordic and Baltic forests) has now concluded after four years of research and outreach. The project results clearly demonstrate both the leading role of forests and forestry in today’s renewable energy systems, and the large and often overlooked potential for further expanding the supply of wood and woody biomass – both in the short run, but particularly when employing a scope of 2050 and beyond.

It is expected that a 50-100 percent increase of forest productivity at the stand scale is possible. This is a conservative estimate and is viewed relative to today’s most common forest types, and in a sustainable forest management context.

The ENERWOODS project included partners from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Denmark. The results and conclusions apply to these “ENERWOODS-countries”.

GREBE partner Luke (Natural Resources Institute Finland) had the lead on the Work Package 2 – Forestry logistics. WP2 focused on wood procurement principles and systems optimized towards much higher woody biomass production, long distance transportation and precision supply.

How to provide bioenergy in the Nordic and Baltic regions? Wood is the future!

Why:

  • Wood and woody biomass is already the most important source of bioenergy in the Nordic and Baltic region.
  • Harvesting low-grade wood material can foster an increased biofuel supply in the coming decades.
  • Forests can become more productive, and adaptive to climate change by using well-known silvicultural measures
  • Forests can thereby contribute much more to a sustainable development of our societies towards carbon neutrality by 2050

How:

  • by genetic improvement, introduction of non-native tree species, fast growing nurse trees, fertilization as well as afforestation.

Utilisation and implementation depend on policies and regulations as well as public perceptions of nature conservation, biodiversity, recreation, game management, ground water etc. Diverging interests related to forestry and conservation can be aligned.

The large forest areas and the well-established forest management, forest industry and infrastructure in the Nordic and Baltic regions makes these regions well prepared along all of the value chains to implement the more intensive management if confidence in the profitability can be justified.

Woody biomass is already the largest contributor to our renewable energy systems. An increase of this component is likely to need relatively small additional investments to provide a high impact compared to other alternatives in the renewable energy systems.

Measures needed to reach the potentials of forests and forest management

The region is already in the frontline of replacing fossil energy with renewables. Currently renewables provide 46 percent of the total energy consumed, which is far more than the average EU target of 20 percent by 2020. Bioenergy and waste account for 65 – 97 percent of the renewable energy in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. Forestry products are the dominant fraction of the bioenergy supply. Unfortunately, statistics do not distinguish between biomass and waste nor the various sources of biomass (forestry, farming, peat etc.).

Logistics

ENERWOODS results indicate that modern logistic systems should be based on larger trucks than now, in addition to the trains and ships that generally are recognized at the most cost and climate efficient means for transportation whenever feasible.

Some of the measures mentioned can be implemented with short notice (fertilization and afforestation). A common rotation length in the region is now typically 70 years – longer under colder climate and shorter under warmer climate, and very much depending on e.g. other site conditions and species. Consequently, a full implementation will take longer than the 70 years.

The ENERWOODS project results can be relevant and find implementation possibilities also in the Northern Periphery regions and GREBE partner countries.

The complete ENERWOODS executive summary can be found through the following link: http://enerwoods.ku.dk/boxes/recommended-reading/ENERWOODS_Executive_summary_v._3.pdf

BioRES project report on “Biomass Logistics and Trade Centres” published by GREBE partner Luke

BLTC

The BioRES project studied the best European practices to establish Biomass Logistic and Trade Centres (BLTCs), local or regional centres with optimised logistics and trading organization where different woody bioenergy products (or heat) are marketed at standardized quality focusing on the domestic market uptake. The BLTCs as regional hubs will help increasing local supply and demand for woody bioenergy products.

GREBE partner Luke (Natural Resources Institute Finland) is leading the working package on European best practices of BLTCs. The recently published report about good practice examples analysed 11 examples of operating BLTCs from Austria, Finland, Germany and Slovenia. The SWOT analyses of business models were carried out in the stakeholder workshops in the implementing countries to evaluate the possibilities and limitations to transfer the business models.

The role of Luke in the BioRES project is to support the project partners in the implementing countries, particularly with logistics of biomass procurement and technological solutions related questions. Transfer of Finnish knowledge and experience through training of local stakeholders in Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia is very important for the successful realization of the project objectives, says research scientist and project manager Karri Pasanen of Luke.

Lessons learned and key success factors for local market development of woody bioenergy and setting-up BLTCs were identified during a joint international workshop:

  • Finding (political) support on local level is important
  • Optimize locations (supply and demand in the same region)
  • Transparency of business (prices, contracts, reliability) – price shouldn’t be the only factor
  • Synergies with other industries should be created
  • Several main pillars of BLTC business will help to be/stay successful, e.g.selling and providing heat (not just biomass), services for potential customers (about investment in boilers, etc.),connection with other industries and businesses (for example tourism).
  • Being a local stakeholder helps to establish trust
  • Be a pioneer and have new ideas (e.g. facilitated by EU projects with European know-how exchange)
  • Extending supply chains (e.g. from private forest owners)
  • Motivated members/staff will ensure success (maintenance, customer service and sales)
  • Establishing trustful and long term cooperation among suppliers and customers and between energy market actors (also in difficult economic times) is crucial for ensuring economic success of BLTCs
  • Costumer development has to be considered as a major activity in establishing the BLTCs. This includes larger costumers, such as district heating plants and smaller individual costumers
  • Local businesses and potential BLTC investors need to invest in raising awareness about the benefits of woody bioenergy products
  • Developing suitable business models which fit to the specific local condition and nature of the BLTC operator setting has a major impact for the success of new BLTCs.
  • Specific solutions, such as public private partnerships, local district heating systems, or cooperative structure, provided participants valuable insights about a large variety of ownership models, business segments and market development.

In conclusion, the successful establishment of BLTC is a longer process requiring persistence, and it usually takes several years to achieve positive financial results.

The BioRES project results can be implemented also in the Northern Periphery regions and GREBE partner countries.

The report and other BioRES project results can be found through the following link: http://bioresproject.eu/

Biomass research in Finland with the help of drones

Drones 03-03-2016

The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is currently testing various research options using drones. The drones tested are capable of carrying camera, sensors or similar devices which can record data from a total new angle.

Recognition and measurement of biomass storage piles

Luke has been testing drones for example when measuring biomass storage piles used for energy purposes. With the help of the drone, a sensor can fly over the piles and collect the data which then, after processing, can be used in the detection of the amount of biomass. In addition, different contrasts of the captured image can help identifying specific characteristics of the biomass.

Improving working methods in the field

Another possibility of drones is in combination with a high-resolution camera used in the forest. Tests have shown that drones can take high-quality images and videos from the bird-eye perspective and might give a total new way for the visualization of forest machine operations. The video material opens new educational possibilities as well.

The researchers at Luke in Joensuu are studying the forest procurement chain from the forest until the roadside storage. The perspective offered through the “drone´s eyes” can help in re-organizing the machine work when cutting, collecting or storing forest biomass and help to increase the productivity. Especially in difficult, remote and challenging terrain of Northern Peripheral regions, this method opens new possibilities. The tests are very promising and research with this innovative technology will continue.

GREBE partner Luke will inform on results gained from this new and innovative approach and transfer the knowledge across the NPA regions.