2014 Biomass Forest Research Report - European Commission

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Review of literature onbiogenic carbon andlife cycle assessment offorest bioenergyFinal Task 1 report, DG ENER project, ‘Carbonimpacts of biomass consumed in the EU’May 2014Robert Matthews, Laura Sokka, Sampo Soimakallio,Nigel Mortimer, Jeremy Rix, Mart-Jan Schelhaas, Tom Jenkins,Geoff Hogan, Ewan Mackie, Allison Morris and Tim RandleThe Research Agency of theForestry Commission

Cover photographsCover Photographs (left to right, top to bottom): All images Crown Copyright.1, 3, 7, 8: Forestry Commission4, 5: Forestry Commission/John McFarlane6, 10: Forestry Commission/Isobel CameronAcknowledgementsThe authors of this report wish to express their gratitude for the comments, suggestionsand contributions received from Marc Sayce (Forest Research), Gert-Jan Nabuurs and JanPeter Lesschen (Alterra), Ian Tubby and Mark Broadmeadow (Forestry CommissionEngland), Sheila Ward (Forestry Commission GB) and Liz Fowler (Fetcham, UK).

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyForest Research is the Research Agency of the Forestry Commission and is the leadingUK organisation engaged in forestry and tree related research. The Agency aims tosupport and enhance forestry and its role in sustainable development by providinginnovative, high quality scientific research, technical support and consultancy services.Review of literature on biogenic carbonand life cycle assessment of forestbioenergyFinal Task 1 report, DG ENER project,‘Carbon impacts of biomassconsumed in the EU’Robert Matthews1, Laura Sokka2, Sampo Soimakallio2, Nigel Mortimer3,Jeremy Rix3, Mart-Jan Schelhaas4, Tom Jenkins1, Geoff Hogan1, EwanMackie1, Allison Morris1 and Tim Randle1 (2014) Review of literature onbiogenic carbon and life cycle assessment of forest bioenergy. Final Task 1report, EU DG ENER project ENER/C1/427, ‘Carbon impacts of biomassconsumed in the EU’. Forest Research: Farnham.1234i Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, UKVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Espoo, FinlandNorth Energy Associates Limited. Sheffield, UKAlterra, Wageningen UR, NetherlandsFinal report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyContentsExecutive Summary . v1.2.3.4.5.Introduction . vForests, forest management and wood utilisation . vForest biogenic carbon and its management . viiLife cycle assessment: essential concepts and key issues . xiiAssessment of literature on GHG emissions of bioenergy . xii1. Introduction. 11.1. Scope of this report . 11.2. Essential background . 21.3. Objectives of Task 1 and report structure . 82. Background on forests, forest management and wood utilisation . 102.1. Purpose .102.2. Regions of the world .102.3. Forest management: key principles and practices .112.4. Forest management around the world .182.5. How wood is produced and used .292.6. Current and potential future production and consumption of forestbioenergy .362.7. Potential impact of increased consumption of forest bioenergy .442.8. Conclusions on forests, forest management and wood utilisation .543. Overview of forest biogenic carbon and its management . 583.1. Purpose .583.2. Forest carbon pools and GHG dynamics .593.3. Forest carbon stocks and flows in EU27 and the world .603.4. Interplay between human management and natural processes .643.5. Spatial scale and scale of biomass harvesting .653.6. The twin roles of biogenic carbon in the form of forest biomass .663.7. Biogenic carbon in the form of harvested forest biomass.723.8. Influence of forest bioenergy conversion technologies and‘counterfactuals’ .733.9. Short-term and long-term consequences of forest managementinterventions .753.10. Growth rate of forests as a key factor .763.11. Avoidance of harvesting as a forest management option .773.12. Influence of natural disturbance events .783.13. Market-mediated (indirect) land-use change (iLUC) .783.14. International and EU accounting for biogenic carbon emissions .793.15. Non-GHG climate effects of forests (albedo and aerosols) .813.16. Synthesis of findings on forest carbon stocks and forest biogenic carbon .823.17. Conclusions on forest carbon stocks and forest biogenic carbon .87ii Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest Bioenergy4. Life cycle assessment: essential concepts and key issues . 944.1. Purpose . 944.2. The genesis and principles of LCA . 944.3. The main approaches of LCA: consequential and attributional LCA . 954.4. System definition and system boundary delineation . 1004.5. Robust definitions for GHG emissions . 1054.6. Scenarios in consequential LCA . 1124.7. Selection of temporal system boundary (time horizon) for LCA calculations . 1144.8. Selection of a functional unit for LCA calculations . 1154.9. Representation of timing and impacts of GHG emissions . 1164.10. Reference to a baseline in LCA calculations . 1174.11. Conclusions on LCA principles and methodology . 1255. Assessment of literature on GHG emissions of bioenergy . 1285.1. Purpose . 1285.2. Literature on metrics for quantifying GHG emissions of forest bioenergy . 1285.3. JRC technical report: Carbon accounting of forest bioenergy . 1345.4. Other recent reviews and commentaries on GHG emissions associatedwith forest bioenergy . 1475.5. Case studies of GHG emissions associated with forest bioenergy . 1595.6. Conclusions on assessment of literature on GHG emissions of bioenergy . 169References . 178Appendix 1. Glossary of terms and units. 194Appendix 2. Measurement of forest growth and productive potential . 207Appendix 3. Assessment of literature on metrics for quantifying GHGemissions of forest bioenergy . 211Appendix 4. Analysis of estimates for GHG emissions payback timeassociated with production of forest bioenergy as reported in Table 1 ofthe JRC review (Marelli et al., 2013). 220Appendix 5. Summary descriptions . 224Appendix 6. Summary of assessment against criteria of published casestudies on GHG emissions of forest bioenergy . 262Appendix 7. Assessment of transparency of case studies on GHGemissions of forest bioenergy . 265Appendix 8. Meta-analysis of methodological choices, scenarioassumptions and model parameterisation in published case studies . 268Appendix 9. Meta-analysis of published results for GHG emissionsassociated with forest bioenergy . 273iii Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyAppendix 10. Analysis of estimates for GHG emissions payback timeassociated with production of forest bioenergy as reported in Appendix 9 . 290Appendix 11. Provisional qualitative assessment of sources of forestbioenergy that may contribute to increased bioenergy consumption . 293iv Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyExecutive Summary1. IntroductionThis report has been prepared towards fulfilment of a European Commission project,ENER/C1/427-2012 on ‘Carbon impacts of biomass consumed in the EU’. The principalobjective of this project, as stated originally in the project tender specification, is todeliver a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the direct and indirect greenhousegas (GHG) emissions associated with different types of solid and gaseous biomass usedin electricity and heating/cooling in the EU under a number of scenarios focussing on theperiod to 2030, in order to provide objective information on which to base furtherdevelopment of policy on the role of biomass as a source of energy with low associatedGHG emissions.This report addresses Task 1 of the project, which is concerned with a review of scientificliterature on the contributions of ‘biogenic carbon’ to GHG emissions due to theproduction and use of bioenergy, and how these contributions may be appropriatelyincluded in methodologies for calculating GHG emissions. The review is concernedprimarily with woody biomass harvested from forests for use as bioenergy, referred to inthis report as ‘forest bioenergy’, because this reflects an important current focus ofdebate in the scientific literature. The report effectively constitutes the qualitativeassessment required as part of the principal objective of this project, and is divided intofive sections:1 Introduction2 Forests, forest management and wood utilisation3 Forest biogenic carbon and its management4 Life cycle assessment: essential concepts and key issues5 Assessment of literature on GHG emissions of GHG bioenergy.Detailed supporting information is provided in 11 appendices. This Executive Summarydescribes the essential content and key messages of the report.2. Forests, forest management and wood utilisationIn order to set the context for the assessment of GHG emissions due to consumption offorest bioenergy in the EU, Section 2 of this report briefly considers the status of forestsin the EU, and more widely, the extent of current and potential future use of forestbioenergy in the EU and the implications for harvesting and utilisation of wood fromforests.Forest bioenergy is typically a co-product of wood material/fibre productionTypically, forest bioenergy is produced as a complementary co-product of woodmaterial/fibre products. It is unusual for forest bioenergy to be the sole product fromharvested wood.v Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyForest bioenergy consumption in the EU has increased and is likely to increasesignificantly in the period to 2020The consumption of wood for energy in the EU has been increasing in recent times. Thedemand for wood in the EU is very likely to increase in the period to 2020 and potentiallybeyond, with most of this due to a significantly greater increase in the demand for woodfor energy.Forest management will need to change to meet demands for forest bioenergyIn order to fill a gap between future demands for wood and potential supply, it will benecessary to intensify management of EU forests in order to increase removals ofprimary wood and/or import more wood into the EU and/or mobilise the availability ofsources of other woody biomass. This may be achieved through a number of changes toforest management and/or patterns of wood use, which may be more or less likely toactually occur.Certain harvested wood feedstocks and forest management practices are morelikely than others to be involved in the supply of forest bioenergyIn the period to 2020, demand for forest bioenergy seems likely to be met throughincreased extraction of harvest residues including poor-quality stemwood and trees, theuse of sawmill co-products and recovered waste wood. Some small roundwood may beused as a source of bioenergy. It is less likely that forest bioenergy will involveconsumption of wood suitable for high value applications, such as sawlogs typically usedfor the manufacture of sawn timber.In terms of changes to forest management, a rise in demand for forest bioenergy isalready stimulating interest in the extraction of harvest residues and in the introductionof silvicultural thinnings in young stands. In some regions, it is possible that theadditional revenue from forest bioenergy is giving incentives for harvesting operations inforests (thinning and/or felling) for co-production, where this would not otherwise occur.Demand for forest bioenergy would need to be very intense for harvesting to beintroduced in otherwise unmanaged forest areas, or for forest management to befundamentally restructured, solely to produce bioenergy. Activities such as enrichment ofunproductive forest areas and creation of new forest areas would most likely require veryintense demand for forest bioenergy or additional incentives.Competition for forest biomass for energy use or for paper and board mayoccur, but there are also existing market trendsThe use of sawmill co-products may be based on additional supply associated withincreased production of sawn timber, or may involve the diversion of some of the existingsupply from the manufacture of wood-based panels. Similarly, some small roundwoodused for bioenergy may involve increased co-production with sawn timber, or diversion ofsupply from the wood-based panel and paper industries. It is difficult to assess theextent to which these activities may occur. Meeting demands for forest bioenergy mayinvolve some direct competition with the wood-based panels and paper industries, orvi Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest Bioenergymay involve ‘picking up’ existing supply in situations where demand for wood-basedpanels and paper is already declining.Forests are managed for multiple objectives and increased demand for forestbioenergy is very unlikely to change this situationIn the EU and elsewhere, generally forests are managed for many purposes, one of whichis to supply forest bioenergy. Production of forest bioenergy is thus most likely to occuras an integrated part of forest management and wood use for a range of objectives. Arequirement to produce forest bioenergy seems unlikely to become the principal driver offorest management unless demand for forest bioenergy becomes very intense.3. Forest biogenic carbon and its managementSection 3 of this report presents an overview of the role of forest carbon stocks asbiogenic carbon in contributing to the GHG emissions of forest bioenergy, in particularinteractions with forest management and demands for increased bioenergy production.Sensitivity of GHG emissions due to biogenic carbonBiogenic carbon can make a very variable contribution to the GHG emissions associatedwith forest bioenergy. Consequent GHG emissions can vary from negligible levels to verysignificant levels (similar to or greater than GHG emissions of fossil energy sources). Insome specific cases, forest bioenergy use may be associated with net carbonsequestration. Many factors influence GHG emissions of forest bioenergy due to biogeniccarbon. These factors have been analysed and their influences are summarised in FigureES1. GHG emissions are very sensitive to these factors but outcomes are predictable, atleast in principle.Additionality of GHG emissions and reductionsAlthough perhaps not explicitly stated, there is a general presumption in the discussionpresented in this section of a focus on GHG emissions that would occur as a result ofchanges in the level of consumption of forest bioenergy. Any contribution of biogeniccarbon to GHG emissions associated with existing consumption of forest bioenergyeffectively forms a component of baseline levels of GHG emissions. The critical questionis concerned with the effects that a change in the scale of consumption of forestbioenergy would have on baseline levels of GHG emissions, i.e. whether they wouldincrease or decrease. This needs to be clearly understood and allowed for in assessmentsof contributions of biogenic carbon to GHG emissions of forest bioenergy.Baseline forest managementAs part of the assessment of the effects of changes in levels of consumption of forestbioenergy, it is necessary to include appropriate assumptions about the age distributionof existing forests, deforestation and afforestation into scenarios for future land use andforest management to meet demands for forest bioenergy. It is also necessary tocharacterise the existing management of relevant forest areas, and the effects ofvii Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest Bioenergymanagement on the development of forest carbon stocks. Representation of theseaspects of forests and their management is required for the construction of a baselinescenario, representing ‘business as usual’ development of the management of forests,against which any policy scenarios may be evaluated. Furthermore, it is necessary toconsider the possible influences of changes in demands for forest bioenergy on the agedistribution of forests and on future rates of deforestation and afforestation.Relevance of scaleThe concept of scale is relevant to the assessment of GHG emissions associated with theconsumption of forest bioenergy in two senses.Firstly, forest bioenergy systems need to be assessed at an appropriate spatial andtemporal scale. The spatial scale needs to reflect the complete terrestrial vegetationsystem involved in supplying bioenergy. Examples of relevant spatial scales, variouslydepending on context, include the complete areas of forests supplying a particularconsumer with bioenergy, all of the forests situated within a country or group ofcountries, or all of the forests managed by a commercial company or land owner. Thescale of an individual forest stand is generally of less relevance except for very specific,detailed purposes. The temporal scale needs to capture the variable effects of forestbioenergy on GHG emissions over time. GHG emissions calculation methodologies needto address sensitivities of results to interactions between human management of forestsand natural processes and in particular the generally contrasting short-term and longterm consequences of forest management interventions.Secondly, the contribution of biogenic carbon to GHG emissions of forest bioenergy issensitive to the scale of consumption. For example, a modest increase in consumptionmight be achieved through marginal adjustments to existing management of forestareas, with limited effects on forest carbon stocks. However, a significant increase inconsumption, for example as illustrated by the ‘high wood mobilisation’ scenariosconsidered in the EUwood study (Mantau et al., 2010) and EFSOS II study (UN-ECE,2011) would require changes to forest management such as illustrated by scenarios inTable 2.10, Section 2.7. The implications of significant increases in consumption of forestbioenergy in the EU on patterns of forest management and wood utilisation are alsoassessed in Appendix 11 and also considered in Table ES1. Many of the scenariosidentified for changes in forest management would involve significant and variableinfluences on the development of forest carbon stocks. Consequently, the variable effectsof scale of consumption need to be allowed for in assessments of the contribution ofbiogenic carbon to GHG emissions of forest bioenergy.Related to the issue of scale, it is important to recognise that transitions in the level ofconsumption of forest bioenergy, and consequent responses of forest carbon stocks, caninvolve long timescales. This is particularly true when considering significant increases inconsumption of forest bioenergy, which would require major changes to the managementof large forest areas over time.viii Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyCounterfactualsFor assessments of GHG emissions of forest bioenergy involving changes to themanagement of forests and/or changes to patterns in the use of harvested wood, it isessential to characterise realistic and justifiable ‘counterfactuals’. Often it is relevant tostudy the change from ‘business as usual’ in patterns of land use, i.e. forestmanagement, thus making the construction of a ‘business as usual’ scenario relevant aspart of the definition of the counterfactual. For harvested wood products, counterfactualsinvolve the ‘business as usual’ patterns for wood use, and also a set of assumptionsabout what energy sources and materials might be used instead of forest bioenergy andharvested wood products. When defining such counterfactuals, it is important torecognise that the use of wood for material and fibre products, and as a feedstock forchemicals, may become more important than forest bioenergy in the future, as part ofthe development of a bioeconomy, or an otherwise decarbonised economy.LULUCF accounting rulesExisting EU and international accounting systems for biogenic carbon in forests andharvested wood, supporting international efforts to limit GHG emissions, serve veryspecific purposes and are unsuitable for more general application as calculation methodsfor assessing the GHG emissions associated with forest bioenergy.ix Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

x Final report on Task 1 15th May 2014a number of factors.Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyRobert MatthewsFigure ES1. Illustration of how the GHG emissions associated with the harvesting and use of forest bioenergy may depend on

xi Final report on Task 1 15th May 2014Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyRobert MatthewsFigure ES1 (continued). Illustration of how the GHG emissions associated with the harvesting and use of forest bioenergymay depend on a number of factors.

Biogenic Carbonand Forest Bioenergy4. Life cycle assessment: essential concepts and key issuesSection 4 of this report discusses key concepts and issues concerning LCA methodology,with particular reference to inclusion of biogenic carbon in LCA calculations. Considerablecare must be exercised when reviewing and evaluating existing LCA studies, becausemethodologies may be applied with more or less objective and transparent reasoning.LCA is the appropriate methodology for assessing GHG emissions of forestbioenergyLCA is the appropriate methodology for the assessment of GHG emissions associated withthe consumption of forest bioenergy. There can be challenges in representingcontributions to GHG emissions due to terrestrial vegetation and its management, butthis is true regardless of the methodology employed.LCA methods and results depend on the goal and scope being addressedLCA studies can address quite wide ranging goals, scopes and research questions. Thespecific methodological approaches and detailed calculation methods depend strongly onthe specific goal, scope and question being addressed. As a consequence, the results ofdifferent LCA studies can vary considerably.Consequential LCA is used for assessing GHG impacts of changes in bioenergyuseAn approach known as consequential LCA, as opposed to an alternative of attributionalLCA, should be applied when assessing the impacts on GHG emissions due to increasedor decreased forest bioenergy. The purposes, modelling principles and methods ofconsequential LCA and attributional LCA are fundamentally different and they canproduce very different results for GHG emissions. These differences need to be clearlyunderstood.Consequential LCA requires careful specification of scenariosThe calculation of GHG emissions in consequential LCA typically involves the developmentof two scenarios, i.e. the scenario of interest (describing how the world may change, e.g.if bioenergy consumption is increased) and a baseline scenario (describing how the worldwill develop if the changes of interest do not occur). Currently there is some confusionand ongoing debate amongst researchers with regard to the application and definition ofa baseline in attributional LCA studies but this debate is not relevant to consequentialLCA methods.5. Assessment of literature on GHG emissions of bioenergySection 5 of this report presents the main substance of the review of scientific literatureconcerned with the assessment of GHG emissions due to the consumption of forestbioenergy.xii Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest BioenergyCareful examination of existing scientific literature suggests a consistent storyTo sum up the assessment presented in this section, a superficial consideration of thescientific literature on GHG emissions associated with forest bioenergy would most likelyarrive at the impression that the outcomes and conclusions of different publications arehighly variable and that the overall picture of forest bioenergy is confused and sometimescontradictory. However, on closer examination, it becomes evident that there is a certainlevel of fundamental agreement or at least consensus on some basic phenomena.Biogenic carbon needs to be included in strategic assessments of GHGemissions arising from consumption of forest bioenergyFundamentally, it is undeniable that the status of forest bioenergy as an energy sourcewith either low or high associated GHG emissions is inextricably linked to the property ofwood as a reservoir of biogenic carbon and, crucially, how the source of that biogeniccarbon, i.e. the carbon stocks in forests, is managed to produce bioenergy.It is particularly important to allow for biogenic carbon when making strategicassessments of GHG emissions due to policies, plans or decisions involving changes inactivities that will lead to increased consumption of forest bioenergy. It is important toclarify that what needs to be demonstrated is the achievement of significant reductions inGHG emissions, as the ‘global consequence’ of any changes to the management of forestareas involved in the supply of forest bioenergy, implying the application of consequentialLCA for the purposes of assessment.GHG emissions of forest bioenergy display systematic variation more thanuncertaintyAn analysis of published case studies indicates that forest bioenergy sources may involvewidely varying outcomes in terms of impacts on GHG emissions. However, it is veryimportant to stress that this variability does not imply that outcomes are uncertain.Rather, much of the variation is systematic and can be related to clearly identifiablefactors.Many factors can influence the GHG emissions of forest bioenergyThe variability in reported results for GHG emissions of forest bioenergy reflects manyfactors related to the forest bioenergy systems being studied and the methodologiesapplied in calculations. However, a meta-analysis of published studies would appear toindicate that a major reason why different studies have arrived at different results andconclusions is simply down to the fact that they have looked at different types of forestbioenergy source.Forest bioenergy systems can vary considerably with respect to a number of factorsincluding: Geographical location and spatial scale. Characteristics of pre-existing growing stock of forest areas. Productive potential of forests.xiii Final report on Task 1 Robert Matthews 15th May 2014

Biogenic Carbonand Forest Bioenergy Types of forest management intervention involved in producing additional forestbioenergy, e.g. any or all of additional thinning, additional felling, increased extractionof harvest residues, enrichment of growing stock for increased production. Whether additional harvesting in forest areas is for forest bioenergy as the soleproduct or as a co-product alongside material/fibre products. The types of feedstocks used for forest bioenergy, e.g. any or all of harvest residues,poor quality trees, small roundwood, stemwood, sawlog co-products, recovered wastewood. Energy conversion systems, e.g. small-scale

forest bioenergy in the EU, Section 2 of this report briefly considers the status of forests in the EU, and more widely, the extent of current and potential future use of forest bioenergy in the EU and the implications for harvesting and utilisation of wood from forests. Forest bioenergy is typically a co-product of wood material/fibre production

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