The Biomass Thermal Energy Council and Life Cycle Associates released a study in June 2021 titled ‘Life Cycle Analysis of Renewable Fuel Standard Implementation for Thermal Pathways for Wood Pellets and Chips’. The study was conducted under a grant issued by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service.
The study indicates that using wood pellets and chips result in a 65-100%+ reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to heating oil.
The reduction of 65 to 100% in GHG emissions from wood pellets and chips exceeds the targeted 60% GHG reduction requirement for cellulosic biofuels, replacing heating oil under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.
“It has long been known that using wood fuels for heat reduces GHG emissions by displacing the use of conventional fossil fuels, like heating oil and natural gas,” said Peter Thompson, BTEC’s deputy director. “This new study quantifies the GHG advantages of wood fuels for the record and highlights the avoided emissions from the resource’s alternative fates.”
“Low-value biomass residues are often treated as wastes with very poor carbon fates, require extremely little processing to become thermal energy, and are shown to have very low carbon intensity (CI) scores,” said Dan Wilson, vice-president of Wilson Engineering Services and former BTEC chair.
Meanwhile, the use of fossil fuels for thermal energy is responsible for 1/3 of the US’s energy consumption. Lew McCreery, forest products technologist of the USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region State, and Private Forestry, commented: “Maintaining markets for wood processing residues supports the effort of keeping forests as forests across the country.
“Use of these manufacturing residues for renewable energy is such a market. Their use for energy displaces fossil fuels and avoids fates which have substantially greater climate impacts.”