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There are many potential sources of biomass fuel in the UK. Various studies have attempted to assess the potential size of each resource

Assessing the available resource of any given type of biomass is a non-trivial exercise. It is important to distinguish between different interpretations of “availability”. Of the total theoretical quantity available there will be a number of constraints on how much it is realistically, economically and environmentally desirable to make available to energy market. Potential limitations might include:

  • Some material, while potentially suitable for biomass fuel, may be simply too valuable (in economic, and/or environmental terms) for this market. An example might be high quality sawlogs suitable for construction, joinery, etc. Not only are these too valuable to burn, they also perform valuable roles in sequestering carbon, and replacing other, less environmentally friendly alternatives
  • Other markets: there may be alternative markets for some or all of the material. Examples might include pulpwood for panel boards or straw for animal bedding or soil conditioning
  • Harvesting limitations: it may not be either economically or environmentally desirable to harvest all potentially available biomass because of the cost of collecting and processing it or because of poor site access or difficult terrain. Some agricultural and forestry sites may benefit from a proportion of available biomass being left on site to help conserve soil structure and nutrient status
  • Social perceptions and market confidence may also limit the proportion of the available resource that is ultimately used as a fuel source.

Below is a selection of attempts to quantify the available resource of different biomass materials

Forestry studies

(existing forest estate)

National inventory of woodland and trees

Superseded by the National Forest Inventory

A project was undertaken by Forest Research to estimate the potential, operationally available woodfuel resource available from forests, sawmills, urban areas, roadsides, power line routes and short rotation coppice in Britain. Although superseded by NIWT (the National Inventory of Woodland and Trees), and subsequently by the National Forest Inventory, this still contains much valuable information and assessment.

Woodfuel resource in Britain

A report, from 2003, that accompanies the website resource (PDF – 840 kB)

Woodfuel resource in Britain: Appendices

Appendices to the Woodfuel resource in Britain report (PDF – 854 kB)

Estimating the wood fuel potential of Woolhope Dome

This report describes a study carried out by Forest Research as part of the Woolhope Dome Project to estimate the extent of the wood fuel resource available in Woolhope Dome woodlands, and identify physical and environmental constraints on wood fuel production and to quantify their potential influence (PDF – 3.8 MB)

Arboricultural arisings Scotland study

Report to the Forestry Commission Scotland assessing the available woody biomass resource from arboricultural arisings across Scotland. The purpose of the study is to secure accurate estimates of the tonnages of arboricultural arisings in Scotland, and provide information on the extent to which these resources can be used for biomass energy generation, through the recovery of arboricultural waste as logs, wood chips or pellets (PDF – 4.2 MB)

Increasing the supply of wood for renewable energy production in Scotland

The Task Force has looked at resource availability from a wide range of sources – established forests and woodlands, agricultural sources of short rotation coppice, and material broadly classified as waste. These indicate that there is significant potential to increase the amount of material available for the bio-energy sector in Scotland (PDF -1.1 MB)

Wood fibre availability and demand in Britain 2013 to 2035

A report on the availability and demand for wood fibre in Britain. Prepared for the Confederation of Forest Industries (Confor), UK Forest Products Association(UKFPA), and the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF) by John Clegg Consulting Ltd (PDF -1.9 MB)

Combined resource studies

Addressing the land use issues for non-food crops in response to increasing fuel and energy generation opportunities

A detailed study undertaken by ADAS and Forest Research on behalf of the national Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) entitled “Addressing the land use issues for non-food crops, in response to increasing fuel and energy generation opportunities”. Includes current assessments of areas and yields of various forms of biomass (PDF 3.0 MB)

International studies

UK and global bioenergy resource

Report for DECC from AEA, with the Biomass Energy Centre, Forest Research and Oxford Econometrics. Assessing constrained and unconstrained potential availability of biomass resources in the UK and globally, together with assessment of sensitivity to price, time and other constraints (PDF – 1.0 MB)

Energy from biomass: the size of the global resource

An assessment of the evidence that biomass can make a major contribution to future global energy supply from the UKERC (Nov 2011) (PDF – 4.2 MB)

Solid biofuels barometer 2023

Solid biomass leaves the other renewable energy sources standing in terms of use and potential. Primary energy output from solid biomass combustion rose in 2009 yet again to a new height of 72.8 Mtoe, which equates to a 3.6% increase on 2008 (see Table 1 on PDF page 3). The reason for this exploit, which prevailed over the tight economic context, is the resolve made by many countries to rely on this energy to achieve their European electricity or heat production targe levels. Growth of electricity output from solid biomass is particularly steady as it has increased by an average of 14.7% per annum since 2001 rising from 20.8 to 62.2 TWh in 2009, when it posted new growth of 7.4% over its 2008 level (see Table 2 on PDF page 4). Most of this production, 62.5% in 2009, comes from cogeneration plants. First available estimates put solid biomass heat sales to heating networks slightly higher in 2009, at around 5473 ktoe (5434 ktoe in 2008) (see Table 3 on PDF page 5). (PDF – 1.98Mb)

Renewable municipal waste barometer

Renewable waste incineration is the main energy conversion route for the biodegradable fraction of waste. Primary energy production of renewable waste stood at 7.7 million toe in 2009, which is a 3.3% increase compared to 2008 (see Table 1 on PDF page 3). Renewable electricity output from waste incineration in all the EU countries is rising continuously (almost 15.4 TWh in 2009, which is 1.3% up on 2008 (see Table 2 on PDF page 5). The amount of heat from waste conversion sold to heating networks is also rising and reached 1.9 Mtoe in 2009, which is 4.7% up on 2008 (see Table 2 on PDF page 6). The Barometer on Renewable Municipal Waste presents energy statistics per EU Member State for the year 2008 and EurObserv’ER estimates for the year 2009 (PDF – 2.36Mb)

How much bioenergy can Europe produce without harming the environment?

A report from the European Environment Agency. The purpose of this report is to assess how much biomass could technically be available for energy production without increasing pressures on the environment (PDF – 2.4 MB)

The supply of woody biomass from the forests in the EU can be significantly increased

A press briefing by The European Forest Institute and the Finnish Forest Research Institute (PDF – 165 KB)

IEA Bioenergy Task 40

The website of the International Energy Association task addressing sustainable International bioenergy trade

Perennial energy crops studies

(SRC, Miscanthus, SRF)

Assessing the potential for biomass energy to contribute to Scotland’s renewable energy needs

Available for download from Science Direct

Waste stream studies

Waste wood as a biomass fuel

A Defra market report on the use of waste wood as fuel (PDF – 304 kB)

The potential use of waste wood in the North East as an efficient biomass fuel source

A report commissioned by Northwoods looking at the use of waste wood as a fuel (PDF – 219 KB)

Co-firing sewage sludge and biomass

A DTI report, available from BERR (PDF – 5.1 MB)

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