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Keywords:

  • CO2 emissions;
  • energy balance;
  • energy biomass;
  • fertilization;
  • forest management;
  • wood energy

Abstract

The aim of this work was to study the sensitivity of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from wood energy to different forest management regimes when aiming at an integrated production of timber and energy biomass. For this purpose, the production of timber and energy biomass in Norway spruce [Picea abies (L.) Karst] and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) stands was simulated using an ecosystem model (SIMA) on sites of varying fertility under different management regimes, including various thinning and fertilization treatments over a fixed simulation period of 80 years. The simulations included timber (sawlogs, pulp), energy biomass (small-sized stem wood) and/or logging residues (top part of stem, branches and needles) from first thinning, and logging residues and stumps from final felling for energy production. In this context, a life cycle analysis/emission calculation tool was used to assess the CO2 emissions per unit of energy (kg CO2 MWh−1) which was produced based on the use of wood energy. The energy balance (GJ ha−1) of the supply chain was also calculated. The evaluation of CO2 emissions and energy balance of the supply chain considered the whole forest bioenergy production chain, representing all operations needed to grow and harvest biomass and transport it to a power plant for energy production. Fertilization and high precommercial stand density clearly increased stem wood production (i.e. sawlogs, pulp and small-sized stem wood), but also the amount of logging residues, stump wood and roots for energy use. Similarly, the lowest CO2 emissions per unit of energy were obtained, regardless of tree species and site fertility, when applying extremely or very dense precommercial stand density, as well as fertilization three times during the rotation. For Norway spruce such management also provided a high energy balance (GJ ha−1). On the other hand, the highest energy balance for Scots pine was obtained concurrently with extremely dense precommercial stands without fertilization on the medium-fertility site, while on the low-fertility site fertilization three times during the rotation was needed to attain this balance. Thus, clear differences existed between species and sites. In general, the forest bioenergy supply chain seemed to be effective; i.e. the fossil fuel energy consumption varied between 2.2% and 2.8% of the energy produced based on the forest biomass. To conclude, the primary energy use and CO2 emissions related to the forest operations, including the production and application of fertilizer, were small in relation to the increased potential of energy biomass.