VTT report estimates EU and Norway biomaterial potential

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The annual potential for biomaterial derived from forests, fields and industry in the European Union (EU) and Norway has been estimated at the equivalent of 157 million tonnes of oil.

This is one of the findings of the EUBIONET III project co-ordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland that ran from 2008 to 2011 and asserts that biomass and forest chips are the most underused bio-energy sources available today.

‘In this project, we focused on the technical and economic potential of biomass reserves and on solid biofuels,’ said senior research scientist Eija Alakangas from VTT. ‘If we further assume that about half the waste generated in the EU is biodegradable, that would translate into the equivalent of about 37 million tonnes of oil, bringing the total available biomass up to some 200 million tonnes of oil.’

Since the publication of the report, the countries involved are said to have estimated in their national renewable energy action plans that about 250 million tonnes of biomass reserves would be required to achieve the combined goals set.

It has not, however, been estimated at the EU level what the volume required for sustainable development might be. Moreover, some countries import their biomass fuel from other EU member states or from outside the EU.

‘The current use of bio-energy exploits less than half the bio-energy potential of the 24 EU member states studied. The greatest potential for increase is in forest chips and agrobiomass. Finland aims to use forest chips to produce energy equivalent to the yield of 13,500,000m3 of solid fuel or 25TWh,’ said Alakangas.

In addition to exploring the biofuel potential of the EU and its sufficiency, the project studied sustainable development criteria for solid biofuels, generated information for use in standardisation and monitored biofuel price development since 1999.

The project yielded information useful for new quality standards for solid biofuels, and a price index for international trade was developed together with businesses.