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’Wood as Fuel’ – a must have essential reference

’Wood as Fuel’  – a must have essential reference
Dr Eugene Hendrick, Chairman of COFORD.

’Wood as Fuel’ is the self-explanatory title of a recently published book in five volumes, written by two authors who both have long distinguished careers in European forestry management, research, and international woodfuel standards – Pieter D. Kofman and Dr Eugene Hendrick. Bioenergy International (BI) caught up with the latter, Dr Eugene Hendrick, Chairman of COFORD, to learn more about the background, motivation, and ambition of the book.

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Firstly, a short synopsis of the book that describes all aspects of woodfuels from basic wood properties, to woodfuel types, combustion, economics, sustainable use as well as international woodfuel standards. Each volume is accompanied by a comprehensive index.

Launched in mid-2021, Wood as a Fuel opens a new window into woodfuels, providing an essential and comprehensive reference for those engaged along the woodfuel value chain.

The opening volume begins with an outline of underlying principles of woodfuel use, including sustainable and efficient use, the cascade principle, and others. The discussion then moves to the history of woodfuel use, and its role as an enabler of civilization and technology. It describes what wood is, and why it makes such a useful and versatile fuel. This leads to the all-important ISO solid biofuel standards, now the backbone of the woodfuel trade. These are summarised, with a complete listing provided.

Bag of firewood
A bag of air-dried firewood that meets or exceeds Wood Fuel Quality Assurance (WFQA) standards.

A series of useful software packages, free to download and use, which enable costs, revenues, and profitability of woodfuel supply chains to be calculated, are outlined and illustrated. The authors’ extensive practical experience in drafting and operating woodfuel supply contracts is brought to bear in a how-to guide to all aspects of contract drafting and negotiation. Trade itself, and other relevant aspects of transacting woodfuel, including phytosanitary matters, round out the volume.

An autumnal Hazelnut grove
Woodfuel such as firewood is part and parcel of the benefits of woodland ownership.

From the woodland owners’ and woodfuel user perspective, the sale and use of early thinnings for energy purposes can provide a source of income, as well as a sustainable fuel, for the landowner. For many in Europe and beyond, using thinnings and tops for firewood is part and parcel of the benefits of woodland ownership.

There is a ready market for thinnings for firewood and woodchip production. A number of forest owners have set up successful businesses producing and selling high-quality firewood. These and other aspects of firewood are covered in Volume II.

Volume III is devoted to woodchip production, including how to sustainably secure more, high-quality woodchips from thinning operations, and from harvest residues. Woodchip specifications vary according to the scale of combustion and understanding the market requirements and price-paying potential are important for growers and specifiers.

Wood pellets provide an increasingly popular way to heat homes, as well as in larger-scale applications. As with all well-specified woodfuels they provide for clean and efficient combustion. Volume IV covers all these aspects, including raw materials and manufacture, and how to ship, store and handle this versatile fuel. Wood briquettes are also covered, as their use for residential heating continues to grow.

Volume V opens with an outline of woodfuel conversion technologies, how to handle wood ash, and a description of embodied (upstream) emissions in woodfuel, and how these are calculated. This is followed by a statistical and economic overview of woodfuel use, from traditional to modern bioenergy. It continues with an in-depth treatment of the climate change challenge arising from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use, the role of land and ocean sinks in constraining concomitant rises in CO2 in the atmosphere, and how sustainable bioenergy harvest from land-based carbon stores works in tandem with sinks.

In making this argument, the book draws on a body of recent scientific literature and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. It explains and illustrates the impacts of bioenergy harvest on greenhouse gas (GHG) balances, and distinguishes concepts such as carbon parity and carbon neutrality.

The authors also challenge some current misunderstandings of the impacts of sustainable woodfuel harvest on carbon cycles. They show how IPCC guidelines and GHG inventories, and reporting to the UNFCCC process provide a sound basis for full international coverage of bioenergy emissions, within a compliance-based GHG accounting system.

These concepts matter in order to enable the continued expansion of woodfuel use. They are closely linked to the forest biomass sustainability and greenhouse gas saving criteria set out in the recast renewable energy directive, RED II now carried forward and amplified in the European Commission’s proposal for revision of the directive. The criteria and their rationale are fully explored.

Volume V also has much to say on how particulate emissions arise from incomplete wood combustion, particularly in residential settings, and how this issue can be effectively dealt with across the use of well-specified fuels, appliance selection, installation, and operation and maintenance.

BI: Tell us a little about your own background, how did you and Pieter cross paths?

– After finishing my forestry education back in the mid-70s, I joined the Irish forest service and worked in a number of areas ranging from forest management to research. Among the areas that I became involved in was investigating the impact of operations – such as thinning – on wood quality. It was from there that my interest in the forest biomass and woodfuels area began, at a time when oil prices were spiking, impacting energy costs, and driving the search for alternative energy sources. By the time I became involved in research administration in the early 1990s there was renewed interest in forest biomass and wood products to displace fossil fuels and materials.

Having become director of the national forest research and development body – COFORD – in 2000 the focus of our work was seeking an expanded use of forest biomass in heating and combined heat and power (CHP), and in funding research and development around supply chains. Along with these endeavors we embarked on a dissemination program around forest research outcomes, including woodfuels, while working with other national bodies and industry to input standards development and quality systems for woodfuels.

This work included the ForestEnergy project, in which Pieter Kofman was closely involved. Prior to that Pieter had almost twenty years of wood for energy research in Denmark and had been involved in several milestone projects including the first CEN standardization project “Solid Biofuels” and later the continuation of that in ISO TC 238.

Also, from 2000 until my retirement in 2018 I was closely involved in international negotiations on land use, land-use change, and forestry (LULUCF) as part of the Ireland delegation to the UNFCCC climate change process. Among the areas that I focussed on was the role of wood products, including biomass, in climate change mitigation. At the same time, I was involved in negotiations around the EU’s legislative proposals on LULUCF, which includes accounting modalities for wood products, in tandem with the EU’s renewable energy directives.

BI: Why write the series, what was the motivation, who is it written for, what is the ambition?

– Pieter and I are passionate advocates for the role of sustainable forest biomass in providing cost-competitive and low-carbon woodfuels. Upon retirement, we both felt that it would be a shame if all the practical knowledge that we had gained and developed over almost 40 years were to be “lost” so to speak. Wood biomass and derived products have, of course, a wide application across residential, commercial, and industrial scales. Our aim in the book is to support these applications, by informing good practices and providing confidence to policy makers and specifiers that woodfuels stack up economically and environmentally.

Another motivation for the book is that we recognized that there was a need for a single publication that would cover practical, economic, environmental, and social aspects of woodfuel production and use. So, as we began to sketch out our aims and how best we might address them, we decided to divide the subject matter into five stand-alone volumes.

Separate volumes would be devoted to the practicalities around the supply chain and processing of firewood, woodchip/hog fuel, and pellets/briquettes. An introductory volume was needed to set out aims and scope, and perspectives on the use of wood as a fuel. It would also deal with basic wood properties, their measurement, and the all-important aspect of international standards.

Allied to standards was the need to outline the role that independent certification of woodfuel quality and sustainability increasingly play in the woodfuel trade. connected world. Trade itself was another important aspect to cover. We also wanted to introduce a suite of free-to-use online tools we were involved in developing as aids to support the specification and procurement of woodfuels.

Policymakers and specifiers are highly engaged in the economic and environmental aspects of woodfuels. We decided to devote the fifth volume to these topics, and particularly to cover environmental aspects in sufficient detail. Much has been written about the contribution of biomass and bioenergy in general to climate change mitigation.

Untangling the key concepts and providing real-world examples of how sustainably sourced woodfuels, used in efficient combustion will contribute to reaching the Paris Agreement goals is, therefore, a core aim of the final volume. We also address air quality, and how it is addressed through the use of well-specified woodfuels, combusted using efficient, low emission appliances and plants, as part of the transition to modern bioenergy.

BI: Is it focused on Europe or does it cover woodfuel use in other regions of the world?

– While our own experiences are mainly Europe-based, the book is aimed at an international audience. The principles of wood procurement and quality outlined in the book are common to all regions, as is how to transact woodfuel supply.

Furthermore, ISO woodfuel standards are by definition global in application. We have tailored our treatment of climate change and air quality to audiences across the woodfuel and policy areas. Agroforestry, although an area of increasing interest, was outside our scope but the principles of drying and efficient combustion of firewood as outlined in Wood as a Fuel can be applied to all sources of woodfuel.

BI: Finally, how does one go about getting a copy of the book?

– The book costs EUR 50 for the five-volume set, excluding postage and packing, and can be ordered through the books tab at the Arrow Management website, or from Amazon Books. Later this year we plan to publish a fully electronic version as well as a reprint of the hard copy.

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