THE CLAIM “BURNING WOOD IS CO2 NEUTRAL” IS FAR FROM THE TRUTH

Vermont’s wood burning harvest was 354,462 cords, or 886,155 green ton for firewood + 347,342 green ton for electrical generation = 1,233,497 green ton in 2014. See URL.

http://fpr.vermont.gov/sites/fpr/files/Forest_and_Forestry/Forest_B...

 

About 347,342/719,033 = 48% of total electrical tonnage was harvested in Vermont. See below table and URLs.

 

NOTE: A standard ton of green wood is 45% H2O, and dry wood is 50% carbon. Burning one ton of green wood creates 2000 x (1- 0.45) x 0.5 x (44/12)/2000 = 1.00833 ton of CO2 emissions.

 

 

VT Harvest

 Space heating

 Electrical

 Electrical

 Total Electrical

Total burning 

 

Fuel

 

In-state

 Out-of-state

 

In Vermont

 

ton

 ton

 ton

 ton

 ton

ton

Wood

1,233,497

 886,155

 347,342

 371,691

 719,033

1,605,188

CO2

1,243,776

893,540

350,237

374,789

725,025

1,618,565

 

NOTE: Below are listed the wood tonnage and combustion CO2 tonnage of Vermont’s wood chip power plants in 2015.

 

Vermont Wood Power Plants

 

 McNeil

Ryegate

 Total

 

 

 ton

ton

ton

Electrical, wood consumption

2015, McNeil

469,190.0

249,843

719,033 

Electrical, combustion CO2*

EPA, McNeil

473,100.4

251,925

725,025

 

* On an A to Z basis, there is about 25% more CO2 not related to combustion, such as logging, chipping, transport, ash disposal, waste disposal, O&M of the plant, etc.

 

http://www.maforests.org/McNeil Emissions 2015.pdf

http://www.maforests.org/RYEGATE TECHNICAL.pdf

http://fpr.vermont.gov/sites/fpr/files/About_the_Department/Library... 

http://fpr.vermont.gov/sites/fpr/files/Forest_and_Forestry/Forest_B...

http://www.maforests.org/VermontBiomassBiomess.pdf

 

CO2/MWh of Power Plants: The Vermont McNeal and Ryegate wood-chip power plants have CO2 emissions/MWh 4 times greater than a gas-fired combined-cycle gas turbine, CCGT, plant. Example: 3412000 Btu/MWh/0.55 x 117/1000000 = 727 lb CO2/MWh. The other pollutants of wood per MWh are about 4/2.4 = 1.67 greater than of coal.

https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=73&t=11

 

Table 1/Fuel

 lb/million Btu

 Plant efficiency, %

 lb CO2/MWh

CO2 Ratio

Wood chip; McNeal/Ryegate

213

25

2907

4.0

Wood chip; Denmark

213

30

2423

3.3

Bituminous coal

206

41

1712

2.4

No. 2 fuel oil

161

35

1572

2.2

Natural gas, CCGT

117

55

726

1.0

Plus about 15%, if wood chips, plus about 30%, if wood pellets

Sequestering Combustion CO2: Logging proponents claim “burning wood is CO2 neutral”, because the regrowth of the forest reabsorbs the CO2.  They do not mention the other 25% of CO2 not related to combustion.

 

However, the CO2 of a wood power plant gets released over a year, but, in New England, the CO2 is reabsorbed by regrowth over a period of about 40 years. In Georgia, with fast-growing Georgia pines in planted, fertilized forests, the CO2 is reabsorbed over a period of about 20 to 25 years.

 

The accumulation and reabsorption of the CO2 of the Vermont McNeil and Ryegate wood-chip fired power plants over a period of 40 years is shown in below table. Only the first 5 years are shown. The absorption rate is assumed at a constant 18126 ton/y to simplify calculations.

 

The cumulative CO2 continues to increase each year until year 40. See bold value in table. The CO2 of year 40 would be entirely reabsorbed in year 80. The claim “burning wood is CO2 neutral” is far from the truth.

The above is for just two wood-burning power plants. But throughout the world there are thousands of wood-burning power plants, plus wood-burning heating plants. Their combustion CO2 is sequestered in the same manner provided there is enough remaining healthy forest area. Thus, a permanent fraction of the CO2 in the atmosphere is due to 1) wood burning plants, 2) other wood burning and 3) worldwide forest fires.

 

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

Year 1 - 5

CO2

CO2

CO2

CO2

CO2

CO2

725025

725025

706899

725025

1431924

688773

706899

725025

2120697

670647

688773

706899

725015

2791334

652521

670647

688773

706889

725025

3443855

634395

652521

670647

688763

706899

3353225

616269

634395

652521

670637

688773

3262595

598143

616269

634395

652511

670647

3171965

580017

598143

616269

634385

652521

3081335

561891

580017

598143

616259

634395

2990705

543765

561891

580017

598133

616269

2900075

525639

543765

561891

580007

598143

2809445

507513

525639

543765

561881

580017

2718815

489387

507513

525639

543755

561891

2628185

471261

489387

507513

525629

543765

2537555

453135

471261

489387

507503

525639

2446925

435009

453135

471261

489377

507513

2356295

416883

435009

453135

471251

489387

2265665

398757

416883

435009

453125

471261

2175035

380631

398757

416883

434999

453135

2084405

362505

380631

398757

416873

435009

1993775

344379

362505

380631

398747

416883

1903145

326253

344379

362505

380621

398757

1812515

308127

326253

344379

362495

380631

1721885

290001

308127

326253

344369

362505

1631255

271875

290001

308127

326243

344379

1540625

253749

271875

290001

308117

326253

1449995

235623

253749

271875

289991

308127

1359365

217497

235623

253749

271865

290001

1268735

199371

217497

235623

253739

271875

1178105

181245

199371

217497

235613

253749

1087475

163119

181245

199371

217487

235623

996845

144993

163119

181245

199361

217497

906215

126867

144993

163119

181235

199371

815585

108741

126867

144993

163109

181245

724955

90615

108741

126867

144983

163119

634325

72489

90615

108741

126857

144993

543695

54363

72489

90615

108731

126867

453065

36237

54363

72489

90605

108741

362435

18111

36237

54363

72479

90615

271805

18111

36237

54353

72489

181190

18111

36227

54363

108701

18101

36237

54338

18111

18111

 

APPENDIX 1

Here are some URLs regarding wood burning.

 

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/is-burning-wood-co-2-ne...

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/wood-for-fuel-logging-i...

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/a-comparison-of-wood-ch...

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/more-realistic-energy-s...

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/dismal-economics-and-in...

http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/is-wood-burning-carbon-...

APPENDIX 2
Ideally, NO wood should be removed from NE forests, because of clearcutting in the 1800s that killed the below-ground biomass causing runoffs and leaching out of tree growing minerals. 
Those soils STILL have not recovered, as evidenced by about 45% of live trees being spindly and of low quality. 
Pro-logging folks seize on that by claiming those trees are suitable for burning.
Acid rain since the 1950s further damages tree growth, due to year-round acid rainfall and spring snow melt.
Forest soils are in separate need of replenishment.

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