20 April 2011

Europe could increase biomass use to energy by a half

Populus crops in Granada, Spain. Photo: Andalusian Energy Agency
Populus crops in Granada, Spain. Photo: Andalusian Energy Agency
Agrobiomass and forest chips are the most underused bioenergy sources available today.

There is potential for increasing their use by 50 percent from the present, says a new study from Eubionet III project that provides more accurate information available than ever before on biomass reserves in 23 EU member states and Norway

The annual potential for biomaterial gained from forests, fields and industry was eventually estimated at the equivalent of 157 million tonnes of oil, according to the project coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

"Current use of bioenergy exploits less than half the bioenergy potential of the states studied. The greatest potential for increase is in forest chips and agrobiomass," says Senior Research Scientist Eija Alakangas from VTT, who was in charge of the project.

The project focused on the technical and economic potential of biomass reserves and on solid biofuels.

"If we further assume that about half the waste generated in the EU is biodegradable, that would translate into the equivalent of about 37 million tonnes of oil, bringing the total available biomass up to some 200 million tonnes of oil."

The data on biomass reserves established during the project are publicly available, and best practices are being exchanged between countries. Information on biomass fuel chains, for example, is useful for enterprises.

Removing obstacles to trade

Logging residues chips. Photo: MW Power
Logging residues chips. Photo: MW Power
The Eubionet project aimed to increase biomass fuel use in the EU by finding ways to remove existing obstacles to trade.

In addition to exploring the biofuel potential of the EU and its sufficiency, the Eubionet project studied sustainable development criteria for solid biofuels, generated information for use in standardization and monitored biofuel price development since 1999.

For instance, wood pellet trade was evaluated in the project using customs codes and by collecting price data on biomass fuels. Foex Indexes Ltd, an enterprise specializing in monitoring indices, uses a standard as the basis for the index for industrial pellets. A new customs code will be introduced for wood pellets to monitor the pellet trade from 2012.

EU sustainability and energy policy will influence how biomass fuel use develops in the future. It has not yet been estimated at the EU level what the volume required for sustainable development might be.

EU criteria for sustainability of solid and gaseous biofuels will be drawn up in the future, and the country reports and summary produced in the project will provide valuable inputs. The EU will make use of the findings of the project in its preparatory work.

The EUBIONET III project ran from 2008 to 2011. Together with its earlier incarnations, the project has lasted altogether 12 years. The project forms part of the Intelligent Energy Europe programme.

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