By P Gosselin
How wood pellet power plants are fueling climate change
(Translated/edited by P. Gosselin)
German public broadcasting show SWR3-Wissen had a podcast about burning wood in Europe. In Germany’s forests, less wood is taken than what grows back, but in Europe it’s different. Here, the forest is losing total area, which also means that carbon sinks are disappearing. But deforestation is not the only problem; forests also store water and release it with a delay. These “sponges” are lost after clear-cutting. Apparently, the EU’s plans to substitute wood for coal call for expanding that as well.
In the United Kingdom, the former Drax coal-fired power plant burns significant amounts of wood.
Europe massively subsidizing a forest-destroying energy source
“Nearly nine million tons of pellets per year are burned by the Drax power plant. That’s three times Germany’s pellet production and one and a half times the UK’s wood production. With this huge amount of wood, the power plant generates seven percent of the UK’s electricity needs and gets plenty of subsidies for it: 3.5 million euros per day. Like the British, the EU is also promoting the conversion of coal-fired power plants to wood – with its Renewable Energies Directive adopted in 2009. Taxes on CO2 emissions from fossil energy are rising, but wood-burning is exempt.
Coal plants across Europe are converting to wood pellets
Several power plants in the Netherlands and Denmark have already converted from coal to wood. French power plant operator Veolia has just announced that it is converting a coal-fired power plant in Hungary over to biomass. German power plant operators are currently still hesitant. The operators of the Onyx coal-fired power plant in Wilhelmshaven are considering burning 2.9 million tons of pellets annually. Vattenfall’s power plant in Berlin’s Moabit district is to be converted; and the East German energy company LEAG has already bought two pelleting companies.”
US forests being cut down largescale to make Europe “green”
Wood pellets come to a good part from the USA. In this context, once again the reference to the US documentary Burned. It is about forest loss in the southwestern United States. A review of the film has already been presented in this blog 2020. The documentary has lost none of its topicality.
Where’s a Spotted Owl when you need one?
The UK does have Spotted Dick, so there’s that…
Now now. Anyway, I’m having treatment for it.
Why? Did you spot a dick?
Spotted Dick is a pudding with raisins, beloved by many British kids.
Expecting consistency out of the green blob is unlikely.
“Deforesting To Save The Planet? Europe’s Forests Shrinking”
Great headline, but it isn’t just forests. Oh no.
“A council leader who has been embroiled in a row after ordering the felling of more than 100 trees is to resign.
Richard Bingley, the leader of Plymouth city council, plans to step down next week as leader of the Conservative group and head of the authority. He signed an executive decision that resulted in 110 trees being cut down in Armada Way on Tuesday night last week to make way for a £12m regeneration scheme in the city centre.”
“Havering residents have taken to social media to complain about a surge of tree cutting taking place across the borough. During tree planting season, locals have instead watched council workers remove trees in Elm Park, Harold Hill and from the Drill roundabout in Hornchurch.
One resident who was angry at the cutting down of all the trees on the roundabout went up to ask council workers if the trees were diseased, but was informed that they were all healthy trees and they did not know why they were being made to cut them down.”
“Despite Coton Parish Council warning that a guided busway would save a meagre 90 to 210 seconds per typical journey, Lib Dem council leader Lucy Nethsingha cited a UN report highlighting the need to decarbonise economies.
Ms Nethsingha said: “Quality public transport links are a key part of decarbonisation.. Moving to a net zero economy cannot be done without changing the way we travel.”
It seems a net zero economy cannot be done without felling a great many trees…
““Despite Coton Parish Council warning that a guided busway would save a meagre 90 to 210 seconds per typical journey, Lib Dem council leader Lucy Nethsingha cited a UN report highlighting the need to decarbonise economies.”
You know, if she just left, there would be less carbon in the city.
Studies show that the climate cost of burning wood pellets far higher than just burning coal. Thus plan is the fastest way we know of to INCREASE the amount if CO2 in the atmosphere.
nonsense- and if you worry about CO2, you’re in the wrong forum
Cutting down American trees and shipping them to the UK to be burned is beyond stupid.
Increasing CO2 will be beneficial.
The whole energy market is stupid. Drax was quite happy burning coal. And harvest waste straw. But the gummint said ‘you cant do that’ . Biofuel was classed as renewable so they spent million converting to a hi tech wood burning system. The gummint said ‘but you wont get grants for that’ . Eventually a compromise was reached.
It is ALL about gummint interference.
stupid because you say so? prove it
we live in a world with trade- stuff gets shipped all over
and, the cutting is of WEED TREES – can you understand that? we’re not cutting down TIMBER trees that can be sold for hundreds of times more money- now that would be stupid
“”stupid because you say so? prove it””
Paul Homewood and others say it, try here
“”Burning Imported Wood in Drax Power Plant ‘Doesn’t Make Sense’””
ie. it’s stupid
so you believe every stupid thing you read? it starts off saying it’s not sustainable- without evidence- nothing is more sustainable than forestry
he ends with “But it is foolish and dishonest to pretend that it will lower emissions of carbon dioxide in our lifetime.”
NOBODY is claiming that- and, WE DON’T CARE because we LOVE CO2
people who rant against woody biomass have zero understaning of the issue, yet some people foolishly believe whatever they read without talking to the people understand the issue the best- in this case, foresters and the forest industries
Mr. Zorzin is right. Here in West Virginia, we have an abundance of trees. Most are cut to make wood products – great for sequestering carbon, if that’s your goal. But there are trees that can’t be used, because they are misshapen, and there are the branches trimmed from felled trees, or whatever. These make great fuel, and the clearcuts that are left behind are places where sun-loving trees regenerate pretty quickly.
There are lots of reasons not to reward wood burners with subsidies. It doesn’t really reduce carbon dioxide emissions. And maybe some places they are deforesting areas in an environmentally harmful way. But that’s not everywhere. Please don’t prohibit us from making a little money off trash trees.
Then burn your trees there
It isn’t rocket science
I presume you never purchase any product made outside your nation? And your nation should never sell anything to another nation? An, we aren’t BURNING TREES- we’re burning the dregs of the harvesting project. And if some “whole trees” get burned, so what? Does that hurt your feelings to think of the poor tree getting burned? That’s what humans do- we exploit the resources of the Earth- but it must be done as well as possible- not stopped.
what the tree huggers can’t grasp is that if tree cutting stopped- the price of all wood products would sky rocket- they can’t say homes can be built without wood, how furniture can be made without wood, how all paper products can be made without wood- what I keep trying to tell this that they should be focused more on understand the difference between forestry being done right vs. wrong- I have been a huge critic of bad forestry my entire career and more than once the establishment has tried to silence me because of it
I’ll second that. There is good forestry and bad forestry.
While I think it is stupid to have forced Drax to start burning wood instead of coal, we should at least find the best way to do it.
That would probably mean sourcing wood products from Russia. They’ve got a lot to spare.
I don’t think that is going to happen any time soon.
why source it from Russia? It would still be from a long distance and from what I’ve read the Russians haven’t been doing good forestry work in the era of oligarchs who are rapacious in developing resources to enrich themselves. America also has a lot of wood to spare and it’s better quality too- with premium hardwood which Russian doesn’t have.
Everyone of the 200+ homes in our neighborhood are steel-framed. The remainder of the homes could have been built without any wood products, but the main house was built without wood. There is another nearby neighborhood with over 1000 homes in which the homes are also steel – not wood.
Not to dispute your other contentions about proper forestry, but the statemtn that to say that homes can’t be built without wood is not correct.
you can build without wood of course- steel, stone, mud, thatch, but who really wants homes without wood? wood is lower cost than steel and looks better- and for those with a horror of CO2, steel has a far higher carbon footprint
Especially so since the wood is being shipped on diesel burning freighters.
May I ask, what would be worse, burning the waste wood in the open or in a controlled environment such as bio mass? Or do you just leave it on the ground which only exacerbates wild fires.
We read here a lot about thinning the forests to lessen the impact of wild fires. Why not use the product to produce power?
Not just in Europe, the Drax vampire rages on in North America. It’s controlled and tax subsidized arsonists.
nonsense – you don’t know what you’re talking about
There is precedent: The last time a magical-thinking, argumentative, belligerent, chronically-depressed, religious bigot, impotent physical train-wreck and sugar-addict orchestrated the felling of a large number of trees in NW Europe, he set off an Ice Age which was felt around the globe
Let’s not imagine that Drax’s felling of so many American trees had anything to do with the frost-induced failure of someone’s Blueberry harvest, as reported on here recently.
Oh no, Natural Variation did that.
wrap up warm
edit to PS
Previously, around 6,000 yrs ago, some ‘industrious’ people completed the destruction of a rainforest that occupied the place we now refer to as ‘The Sahara’
And thus ended the Holocene Optimum – they knocked 4 and 5 Celsius off Earth’s average temperature to set off an Ice age we are still in
I was with you all the way up to “sugar-addict “.
You can’t blame it on a sweet tooth.
That’s all he/she/it ever does.
The Sahara was never (in the last 2,000,000 years, anyway) a rain forest. It was, at various times, a savanna.
right- too often when people talk about forests- they don’t do their homework first
I’ve read that during the Pleistocene, the Sahara has gone from savanna to desert something like 20 times- and yet, the Earth survives! So, a degree or 2 C is insignificant and nothing to panic over, as Saint Greta demands.
The Sahara was a desert before human ancestors came down from the trees.
Sorry Peta, but wrong century and wrong desert, but correct results.
Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, The Phoenicians, even ol’ King Solomon and the king of Tyre and not last the Roman Empire were the ones that done it. Chopped down all the cedar trees that streached from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia. Lost the water storage and ground cover / shade and changed it all to desert. It was the killing of the timber guard Humbaba and not CO2.
The stupid, it burns
If you could actually burn ‘stupid’, the world would have an endless supply of dispatchable, renewable energy.
This is total bullshit. I’ve been a forester for exactly 50 years. There is a movement afoot to stop all logging- and this bullshit about how using wood for energy is helping to deforest the planet. But in the past, when I tried to defend “wood for energy”- I get slammed here. The REALITY is that using wood for energy is a great thing, It is a renewable resource- when done right. It can provide base load power- so it has NOTHING IN COMMON with wind and solar. The wood industry LOVES FOSSIL FUELS- it needs them to do forestry work. The people who do forestry are not whack job climatistas- they’re mostly good old boys who live in rural areas, vote conservative, have and love guns, drive ICE pickup trucks- wouldn’t be caught dead with an EV.
In the lead in this ignorant battle to end wood for energy is Mary Booth: https://www.pfpi.net/
and Bill Moomaw, who invented a fantasy he calls proforestation- which says all forests should be allowed to grow old to sequester carbon to save the planet. Of course, those 2 clowns already have nice, large, wood homes with nice wood furniture and tons of paper products.
These idiots push the idea that burning wood is “worse than coal”. Certainly it emits CO2 but while some wood comes from the forest to burn, the forest is growing more wood- all this carbon is in the carbon cycle, unlike carbon removed from the ground as fossil fuels that adds carbon to the carbon cycle. But Booth and Moomaw can’t grasp this simple idea.
Of course, I should think most people active here aren’t worried about “carbon pollution” anyway- so I never understand why woody biomass gets such a bad rap here. Of course I understand that some Brits don’t like the Drax plant burning wood when it sits on coal beds. I can appreciate that- but since the UK government won’t allow that coal to be used- then why not use wood?
Of course, for those who say “using wood won’t replace all the fossil fuels”. Well, OF COURSE NOT– and we forestry people don’t say it will- that’s not our goal since few forestry people even think there’s a problem with fossil fuels. Our goal is to grow forests– to produce wealth for the owners and part of this process results in “junk wood” with no other use than to burn for energy. As for the supposed deforestation in the American southeast due to biomass- the amount of wood going to biomass is a trivial percent- I think it’s 3%. Most of the wood goes into other markets- for lumber, for pulp, for local firewood use, etc. There is far more wood in those forests than there was a generation ago- so any fool who thinks it’s deforestation should screw your head on correctly.
The folks here in WUWT should not believe the crap pitched by these forestry haters. Forestry folks producing wood for energy HATE the wind and solar idiots.
If you have a garden- you have weeds in it that you must remove. To practice forestry- so humans can have a great, renewable wood resource, which has a low carbon footprint, we have “weed trees” which must be removed and for some of those trees, the best market is for energy.
As for the argument that biomass gets heavily subsidized- that’s false. There is some subsidies but pretty much every industry on the planet gets subsidized in one way or the other if you look close enough. I say stop all subsidies to ALL energy production and if biomass can remain a viable industry, then let it happen.
In conclusion, I’m shocked with the title of this report, “How wood pellet plants are fueling climate change”. If you believe fossil fuels don’t fuel climate change, then you shouldn’t believe burning wood will either.
It should be obvious to all that anyone opposed to woody biomass for energy is really a strong supporter of the wind/solar industries and hates fossil fuels- or, they’re simply misinformed by all the forestry hating propaganda.
That documentary is pure lies and propaganda by the people who hate fossil fuels and worship wind and solar.
Just to be clear and fair, Drax uses wood pellets from USA which are transported to Drax by ship and train, although I think that the American wood should be used in America and the British coal should be used in Gt. Britain.
And again to be clear, I use my own wood in the fireplace in my house.
And finally you are spot on about subsidies.
Yes, Drax burns US wood pellets.
No they are not deforesting anything.
Yes, its plain stupid.
Show me one green energy law that actually makes sense.
Well said. Woodsmen are the toughest, hardest, working salt-of the-earth guys around.
. We need to put our forest management
back to how it was during Gilford Pinchot’s time in my view. Volvo is said to have a production solids to liquids Fischer Tropsch type plant that converts 1 ton of wood chips to 80ish gallons of diesel at the landing with some LNG. There is much that could be
done to improve our forest management. The radicals in the Ivory Towers in DC
need to be replaced.
Just to add a bit more:
Here in the Southeastern USA, trees are grown as a crop. There are about 43 million acres of pine forests planted as crop. That’s not quite as big as the UK, but maybe as big as Great Britain. They plant the trees, grow them, and harvest them. The big logs go to lumber mills. The branches go to other purposes, including pellets and paper.
Being opposed to harvesting pine trees for pellets is akin to being opposed to harvesting cotton for shirts. It’s even worse than that, because the actual crop, the logs, is harvested for timber. Turning timber into lumber, phone poles, etc., generates a lot of sawdust and scrap.
In the past, a lot of the trimmings just got burned in piles. If you buy a bag of planting soil it started life as wood chips.
Joseph, it’s not the woody biomass that’s stupid. It’s transporting ig form the American south to the UK, via fossil-fueled ships, that’s stupid.
it’s stupid to think it’s stupid to ship products. Probably most of what’s in your home and your car came from Asia. Is that stupid? America has a vast forest resource- more than we need- so we produce for the world market. Is that difficult to comprehend?
I think he meant that it’s stupid on a “save the planet cuz of CO2” level.
I know some people do believe that as I’ve seen that argument.
Some simple sums show how Biomass burning in the UK (Drax) and Germany obliterates all potential CO2 emissions savings from Weather-Dependent “Renewables”, Wind and Solar
Well weather dependent renewables dont save CO2 anyway, as the measures to deal with intermittency and low energy density end up using more fossil fuel…
but its dead wrong- written by fools who don’t have a clue about forests and forestry
besides, most here like CO2, a wondrous plant food
Let’s see now, should we fight global warming in the denuded forest lands stripped by tax credits or cower at a seaside mansion like Obama? decisions decisions
we certainly don’t want forests to be denuded- but with real forestry, that doesn’t happen, even if some of the cutting is clear cutting- it’s temporary, the forests grow back
EPIC wrong! Burning wood waste is one (maybe the only) of the great sucess stories from the Jimmy Carter 70s energy crisis. Many of the wood fired power plants built to clean up the air in lumber towns are still around burning wood cleanly.
“the US documentary Burned. It is about forest loss in the southwestern United States.”
I live in the desert southwest. The video depicts wood being shipped from the US southeast. At the moment I am living in Louisiana where lumber is is the biggest agriculture crop.
I lived a few years in a place called Forest VA. The closest power plant burned wood. I also lived in Sutter Creek CA 10 miles from a wood fired power plant.
I also live in the PNW in the summer and a WA State resident. An example of wood fired power plant is in Kettle Falls. I am an expert in semi-arid forest health issues.
I have lived in almost every part of the US and heated with wood.
To suggest that harvesting wood is depleting our forest is just nonsense. There are limitation for using wood for energy rather than left to rot. This based on the fuel to transport it by truck. If you can put it on a ship, there is no limitations.
To be clear it’s a German article being quoted. About depletion of European forests.
Europe has a far higher population density than US/Canada.
The article says:
the forests of Europe aren’t being depleted- some have been managed for a 1,000 years
Forests are not being cut down. What is happening is that swamp wood plantations are being recycled.
The fastest growing biomass is alder poplar and willow. And none of them are especially valable as timber, whereas slower growing hardwoods and conifers are.
I used to think I was a “liberal”, in fact I used to hang out with a MEETUP group of them until about 10 years ago, but as I grew older and paid attention, and noticed the hypocrisy, I started to dislike them and their ideas, and the one key issue was climate change.
I notice lots of unintended consequences from their policies.
Why does it seem like all the “green” solutions are terrible for the environment, especially forests?
Drax has invested in the west coast of Canada, also.Think about the distance from British Columbia to the UK. From August 2022.
– – – – – – – – –
U.K. power producer increases stake in B.C. wood-pellet industry
The Drax Group is seeking to boost secure of supply for its own power plant and sales to fuel a growing market for biomass power, which still gets credit as renewable energy.
“Wood pellets come to a good part from the USA. In this context, once again the reference to the US documentary Burned. It is about forest loss in the southwestern United States.”
Sheesh! Get your location right, at least. It’s in the American southeast, not southwest, which has become the “wood basket for the world”. Not much logging in the southwest- mostly arid landscapes. The southeast by contrast is warm and wet- ideal for forestry. Much of the forest land in that region was cotton fields back in the slavery days. It’s now a place for decent blue collar jobs and with modern logging machinery, it’s not as hard or dangerous as it used to be.
The fools who’d like to shut down forestry- and cause the loss of all those jobs- are the same who thought it would be nice for America to ship all its factories to China- and look what that got us, a new dangerous, aggressive enemy! I just noticed how China is whining because the Philippines wants more American military.
in defense of woody biomass: https://www.eenews.net/articles/carbon-neutral-scores-another-victory-in-omnibus/
If you produce something, somebody who does not produce anything will be against it.
I worked for Duke Power on nuclear in the PNW. I read about some of the biomass projects they had. Gave them a call because the technologies would help with some of our local environmental problems.
I was used to critics being in nuclear power. I was surprised that there was opposition to solving an environmental.
The Chinese are a friendly people who like Americans. I worked there. They have a leader who is dangerous but mostly to the Chinese people.
I was in the US Navy. The first time a missile is fired at any nation by China is the last time a ship enters or leaves a port in China. China imports large amounts of food and energy and exports manufactured goods.
It takes all the navies of the world to keep the sea lanes open.
I burn wood harvested from my Fig and Ash trees
That makes me the good guy
These people are dreadful. The US shouldn’t ship even one pound of our precious wood outside the US for others to burn. To hell with those bottom feeding hypocrites.
Mature forests are carbon neutral – if left alone in 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 years time there will be the same amount of tree in them. Turning Europe’s forest into wood pellets does not remove a carbon sink, but it does remove forest. Forget about the carbon sink angle, a carbon sink has no value.
Don’t forget growing fuel for fun-sized sludge plants, too. And «subsidised soil destruction».
But what’s unusual about it?
When the socialists cared about peasants, it quickly proved to be Very Bad News for those peasants. When the socialists cared about workers, likewise it was bad news for those workers. When the socialists began to care about “ethical treatment of animals”, it was bad news for the beasts. When the socialists began to care about plants… uh… what else could possibly happen?
Wood has a lower net heating value than an equal mass of coal, due to the heat input required to vaporize the water content of the wood, before it ignites. This means that more wood has to be burned to yield the same energy output as coal, which results in higher CO2 emissions from wood than from coal.
Cutting down healthy trees for their fuel value also prevents them from removing CO2 from the atmosphere over their future lifespan (during the growing season), which could be several decades. Removing a “carbon sink” is effectively increasing net CO2 emissions.
If wood pellets are to be mixed into the fuel mix for coal-fired power plants, it should only come from trees that have either died of natural causes (and may still be standing), or from branches blown down by storms. Cutting down live, healthy trees for fuel is completely counterproductive from the point of view of reducing CO2 emissions.
“Nearly nine million tons of pellets per year are burned by the Drax power plant”.
Just a bit less than 700 cords of wood burnt up in an HOUR.
1.5 tons of pellets = 1 cord = 20,000,000 btu..
Power output..4,000 MW = 13,648,569,800.492 Btu/h= 680 cords/hr
I hate the entire biofuel program!