Sustainable wood pellet production

This is an interesting article on aspects of what makes wood pellet production sustainable and on the relativity of carbon neutrality. Intrigued? So was I.

The article states some obvious facts, such as the inefficiency of logging and then shipping pellets overseas to burn for electricity. But it also raises some lesser known aspects of sustainability:

Forest lands also have requirements to protect water quality, wildlife habitats and replanting trees post-harvest. Authorities deal with organisations that own or manage forest lands; and paper companies, sawmills or pellet producers. There is often a mix of products coming off the lands in any given harvest with larger trees typically going to sawmills, and the smaller trees that are not mature, or that were thinned, might be going to pellet or paper mills. The pellet industry is going after low-value material, often by-products of traditional saw timber harvest: low-grade wood fiber, often diseased or crooked, or the tops, limbs and slash that doesn’t have higher value elsewhere.

Companies can receive a variety of certifications, including Forest Stewardship Council, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, and the Sustainable Biomass Program.

Certification holds forest owners responsible for what happens on the ground.
The FSC for example map endangered areas around mills to keep loggers from harvesting in those sensitive areas. It also assesses companies for re-planting.

On the surface, it seems rather clear biomass, with its relatively short life cycle and ability to store atmospheric carbon, is carbon beneficial but it depends on the species and whether they’re being cut after 20, 40 or 100 years, as the carbon sequestration in each of those will be different.

We recommend to get the wood pellets from local sources to keep your carbon foot print minimal. To check how sustainable particular pellet types are comparing – not just in terms of price, follow this link