Life cycle analysis is used to assess the energy requirements and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with extracting UK forest harvesting residues for use as a biomass resource. Three forest harvesting residues were examined (whole tree thinnings, roundwood and brash bales), and each have their own energy and emission profile. The whole forest rotation was examined, including original site establishment, forest road construction, biomass harvesting during thinning and final clear-fell events, chipping and transportation. Generally, higher yielding sites give lower GHG emissions per ‘oven dried tonne’ (ODT) forest residues, but GHG emissions ‘per hectare’ are higher as more biomass is extracted. Greater quantities of biomass, however, ultimately mean greater displacement of conventional fuels and therefore greater potential for GHG emission mitigation. Although forest road construction and site establishment are “one off” events they are highly energy-intensive operations associated with high diesel fuel consumption, when placed in context with the full forest rotation, however, their relative contributions to the overall energy requirements and GHG emissions are small. The lower bulk density of wood chips means that transportation energy requirements and GHG emissions are higher compared with roundwood logs and brash bales, suggesting that chipping should occur near the end-user of application.
Whittaker, C., Mortimer, N., Murphy, R., & Matthews, R. (2011). Energy and greenhouse gas balance of the use of forest residues for bioenergy production in the UK. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35(11), 29-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2011.07.001