The interest in forest-based bioenergy


Narrator: As countries, industries and communities seek ways to reduce or offset greenhouse gas emissions, in order to address climate change, there has been increasing interest in the use of bioenergy.

Bioenergy offers a renewable energy option, which, in many cases, can be used as a substitute for coal or fossil fuels.

Bioenergy is produced from biomass; organic materials such as plants, or trees.

In Canada, a key source of biomass is left over bark, chips and sawdust. These waste products, known as residues, are byproducts from the production of lumber, and pulp and paper.

Darcie Booth: The forest industry, for example, has been using bioenergy from waste products for many years. They burn it in their boilers and that creates energy that they use for their own heat and power purposes.

Narrator: Many new technologies have been, and continue to be, developed for efficiently producing bioenergy from forest-based biomass.

Darcie Booth: For the most part, companies just burn the biomass for energy at this point, but there are technologies that allow it to be developed into gas or oil like pyrolysis or gasification.

Narrator: Canadian forest companies are looking to the production of bioenergy and other bioproducts to improve their competitiveness and reduce their environmental footprint.

Combating climate change is one of the key reasons for the increasing interest in forest-based bioenergy, as in many cases, using bioenergy can produce a smaller net carbon footprint than the use of fossil-based energy sources.

Another key reason is economic; forest-based bioenergy is becoming more financially attractive as fossil fuel prices rise. Additionally, high-value chemicals and materials can now be produced through some of the conversion processes, which can further improve the industry’s bottom line.

Darcie Booth: The production of bioenergy and various chemical byproducts from bioenergy offers an opportunity for them for expanding their product mix and potentially becoming more economically viable.

We’ve largely been using the waste products from the production of other sort of lumber and pulp and paper and using those waste products in the production of bioenergy.

Narrator: In some countries, where energy costs are much higher than in Canada, additional biomass–such as the twigs, branches and stumps left behind after harvesting, and in some cases whole trees–are collected for producing bioenergy.

While there is currently little pressure to do this in Canada, the Canadian Forest Service is undertaking research to determine how much of this material can be removed without impacting the ability of the forest to regenerate. This research will help ensure that Canada’s forests continue to be managed sustainably well into the future.

As the interest in this renewable energy source continues to grow, Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service will continue to research both the sustainability and economic considerations of forest-based bioenergy, and how they will impact a changing forest sector.