Finnish Forest Research Institute  Metla

Press release 19.6.2006

Potential for utilizing forest energy in eastern and western Europe is promising

Forest chips represent a promising option to replace coal as a source of energy in northern Poland. The term "forest chips" refers to fuel chips recovered from logging residue, thinnings or stumpwood. Incentives for the use of energy wood include trade in carbon dioxide emissions, higher market price of electricity produced from renewable energy sources, the good image of bioenergy and environmental protection fees.

A power plant in north-eastern Poland was the first target in this study, which is part of the ClimBus technology programme, “Wood energy resources and markets of energy technology in the EU and international bioenergy trade”. The study is conducted by the Finnish Forest Research Institute (Metla) in collaboration with the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) and Lappeenranta University of Technology. Coal is the fuel currently used in the power plant, but the company is considering the possibility of modernizing one of the boilers of the combined heat and power (CHP) plant by changing it into a fluidized bed combustion system for the use of biomass fuel. After the modernization the plant’s fuel consumption will be 320,000 solid cubic metres per year. To ensure the profitability of the investment the power plant needs information on the availability of solid biofuels and harvesting costs of forest chips.

According to the results, wood recovered from thinnings is the most important raw material source for the CHP plant environment. Wood from thinnings, mainly of poor-quality pine, represents 57% of the total potential of forest chips. Limiting factors for the recovery of logging residues from commercial thinnings include the pine-dominance in the local forests and commercial wood harvesting being done as manual work, causing a separate phase of pre-piling the residue.

The on-site price of forest residue did not differ much from the pricing in Finland. Factors causing a price increase in Poland were long-distance haulage and the total mass limit of 40 tons set for road transportation vehicles in Poland, which means that the net load is approximately a half of that in Finland. On the other hand, availability of inexpensive labour reduced costs, with labour being half as expensive as in Finland.

Straw, produced as a by-product from farming, is not available for energy production, because most of it is used on farms either as bedding or feed for cattle. Additionally, cultivation of energy plants, such as triticale and willow, is still at an experimental stage. The price level of forest industrial by-products (bark and sawdust) was shown to be competitive, but at current levels of production they are already in full use either in forest-industrial energy production or as raw material for the chipboard industry.

The research project was started in December 2004 and will be of 2.5 years duration. In addition to the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes), the project is funded by Kesla, Kvaerner Power, Pentin Paja, Vapo and Wartsilä Biopower. The aim of the research project is to open new markets and business opportunities for Finnish bioenergy technologies within the EU area and to produce information on changes taking place in the international bioenergy trade and on the effects of the changes on the operations of the Finnish trade and industry. The research work will be conducted by collecting information about the energy sector and biomass resources, organizations and infrastructures of the target areas to be provided for the use by Finnish technology suppliers.

Depending on the information needs of the institutions funding the project, three or four central or eastern European countries will be chosen for in-depth analyses. A heat or power plant located in the target country will be the focus of a case study. The case study will consist of inspections of the availability of forest chips and other solid biofuels in the local environment, the harvesting technology and delivery logistics suitable for the target, as well as the plant alternatives and size options suitable for the target. The case studies will be made in collaboration between Metla, VTT and local partners.

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