Biomass Wood Pellets are better for the environment than fossil fuels
Biomass Wood Pellets are recognised as being one of the richest sources of pure, sustainable, eco friendly fuels in the world. Compared to fossil fuels such as oil or gas, wood pellets are considered much friendlier to the environment because they produce less CO2, the gas which is contributing to global climate change.
There are a number of reasons why using wood pellets produces less CO2:
Burning wood pellets is considered as a CO2 neutral process. The CO2 released into the atmosphere is the same amount as absorbed by the original tree that the wood pellets are made from. Meaning the overall release of CO2 is zero. Also the CO2 released can then be reabsorbed as another tree grows, thus continuing the cycle.
Manufacturing Wood Pellets is a relatively straightforward process which involves compressing sawdust into a hard pellet. The process uses little energy and emits very little CO2, especially when compared to something like oil refining.
Wood Pellets are available locally. This means that transportation (which produces CO2) from the forest to the factory and then from the factory to you is reduced.
How much CO2 is produced when burning Wood Pellets compared to other fuels?
If we take into account manufacturing and transportation costs, it is estimated that burning wood pellets produces 34g CO2 per KiloWatt Hour of heat produced (g/kWh)*. This compares very favourably to other more popular forms of heating such as gas (211g), oil (304g) or electricity (433g). Even ground source heat pumps which are considered a renewable heating source and are included in the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, produce 123g CO2 per KiloWatt Hour, because the pump requires electricity to operate. The comparison of CO2 emissions by different fuels is illustrated in the graph below.
* CO2 emissions are measured in grams per kilowatt hour of heat produced (g/kWh). This is a standard measurement and allows us to compare CO2 emissions when burning quite different fuel types such as wood pellets, oil or liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
Biomass Wood Pellets are a sustainable resource
Wood Pellets have one more environmental benefit over fossil fuels in that they are considered a sustainable resource. The trees from which the wood pellets are made are continually growing and with careful forest management will not be depleted.
The same cannot be said of oil which is slowly running out. In fact experts are predicting that at some point this decade we will reach “Peak Oil”, the point in time when we will reach the maximum rate of extraction. From this point onwards production will start to decline and we will eventually enter a period when demand for oil outstrips supply. Meeting this demand will mean more and more exploration, increasing the cost of crude oil and in turn increasing the cost of heating oil.
How do I know that the trees used to produce wood pellets will be replanted?
You don’t unfortunately. Only trees harvested from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woodlands are guaranteed to be replanted. However, no pellets currently available in the UK carry FSC certification, but woodpellets2u is actively seeking UK sourced, FSC pellets that meet the ENPlus quality standards.
In the mean time we rely on the licensing regulations put in place by the Forestry Commission to control the felling of trees. The UK has the strictest regulations in Europe, with those involved in the felling of trees requiring a licence from the Forestry Commission before felling can commence. In order to be granted a licence, the following conditions have to be met:
The area felled has to be restocked
Forestry Commission has a say in how the area is re-stocked
Re-planted trees have to be maintained for a period of time before they can be re-harvested
Only in exceptional circumstances will a licence be issued without restocking after assessment under the Environmental Impact Assessment (Forestry) Regulations 1999.
In this way the forestry commission helps to ensure that trees are replanted in most circumstances and that UK woodland is preserved.
Using Wood Pellets will Benefit the Environment!
All the renewable technologies supported by the Renewable Heat Incentive will benefit the environment and lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to traditional heating methods using gas, electricity or oil. However, it is striking how much lower the CO2 emissions are using wood pellets when compared to other renewable technologies such as ground source heat pumps. The environmental benefits of using wood pellets for heating and hot water are obvious and should be an important consideration when deciding how to fulfil central heating and hot water requirements.