Bioenergy GHG calculator
The use of forest-based bioenergy to replace fossil fuels in heat and electricity generation has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under sustainable forest management practices, forests can provide renewable feedstock for bioenergy as the CO2 released during wood combustion is later recaptured by photosynthesis as the forest regrows. However, the presumed “carbon neutrality” of forest bioenergy has been the subject of much debate recently because of the three following points: 1) wood combustion emits more CO2 than fossil fuels per unit of energy released; 2) the release of CO2 is much faster when wood is burned than when wood undergoes natural decomposition; and 3) CO2 recapture by vegetation is not immediate and is usually achieved on time scales ranging from a few years to several decades. Therefore, there is a period of variable length during which cumulative CO2 emissions to the atmosphere are greater for a bioenergy system than for a fossil fuel system. Once this time period is over, atmospheric GHG benefits are achieved.
This tool makes it possible to evaluate the GHG mitigation potential and timing of GHG emission reductions when forest bioenergy is used as a substitute for fossil energy. The uncertainty related to the timing of GHG emission reductions is also provided. Users are invited to build their own bioenergy deployment scenario by selecting different options related to the supply chain and forest dynamics. The more the user makes choices, the smaller the uncertainty period will be. Results are presented on a 100-year time frame, starting at year 0 with the production and use of bioenergy sourced from a forest landscape that is sustainably managed. Results can be used to provide guidance for promoting the best forest bioenergy pathways for GHG mitigation.
The equations, analysis methodology, and error terms are presented in the following paper:
- Laganière, J.; Paré, D.; Thiffault, E.; Bernier, P. Y. 2017. Range and uncertainties in estimating delays in greenhouse gas mitigation potential of forest bioenergy sourced from Canadian forests. GCB Bioenergy, 9: 358–369. doi:10.1111/gcbb.12327.
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