What is Biomass Carbon Neutrality in the Wood Products Industry ?

September 24th, 2019
Today we learn more about the concept of Biomass energy and wood products from the American Wood Council's working articles. 
Wood products manufacturers use biomass from manufacturing and sustainable forestry operations to produce energy, providing significant carbon-reducing benefits to the environment. In fact, on average, over 75 percent of the energy from AWC member facilities is generated from carbon-neutral biomass. Congress has passed legislation to provide regulatory certainty regarding the carbon neutrality of forest-derived biomass, and in April 2018, EPA issued a policy to treat biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the combustion of forest biomass at stationary sources as carbon neutral.
Science of the Natural Carbon Cycle
As forests grow, carbon dioxide (CO2) is removed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and converted into organic carbon that is absorbed by trees that store it as wood (biomass). Trees then return oxygen to the atmosphere. Stored carbon is released from trees as a number of compounds, including that same CO2, when they die, decay or are combusted, completing the carbon cycle. As noted, carbon in biomass returns to the atmosphere in some form regardless of whether it is burned for energy, allowed to biodegrade naturally or lost in a forest fire.
The greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits of biomass harvested from sustainably managed forests has been recognized repeatedly by an abundance of studies, agencies, institutions, legislation and rules around the world, including guidance from the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the reporting protocols of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. 
History of Accounting for CO2 in Biomass Energy
In 2010, for the first time, EPA announced it would regulate biogenic emissions under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review program. EPA issued a rule to defer the regulations for three years (which expired in July 2014) and proposed an Accounting Framework for Biogenic CO2 Emissions From Stationary Sources (Accounting Framework), which recognized the GHG reduction benefits of energy produced from forest product mill residuals and byproducts.

 Industry’s Responsible and Efficient Biomass Use

The broad forest products industry is the largest producer and user of bioenergy (energy from biomass) of any industrial sector and has long-standing operations in the United States. The creation and use of biomass energy in wood products mills is integral to the manufacture of everyday products such as lumber, wood panels and engineered wood products. These mills convert biomass residuals to energy while manufacturing carbon-sequestering biobased products that are useful to society. Carbon benefits from the forest products industry include:

  • providing biomass power by utilizing forest and mill residuals;
  • reducing the industry’s and our nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and reducing GHG emissions while simultaneously meeting society’s needs for forest products;
  • reducing harmful GHG emissions that otherwise would result from residual disposal (e.g., methane from decomposition); and
  • reducing GHG emissions through replacement of alternative fossil-fuel-produced products that have significantly higher GHG emissions.

These carbon benefits are perpetuated as forests remain abundant and well managed. 

Source : AWC https://awc.org/publicpolicy/biomass


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