Our forests are a key element in fighting climate change. In addition to sequestering carbon, their biomass can be used as a source of energy or raw material and a substitute for fossil fuel-based products. It is therefore not surprising that several projects involving bioenergy, biomaterials or biofuels are now emerging, placing forest biomass at the centre of the bioeconomy.
Significant investments are required to establish a forest biomass supply chain. Any medium or large project needs a feasibility study to address fundamental issues such as long-term supply guarantees, competitive costs and financing considerations. FPInnovations has developed the tools and expertise to conduct this type of study and ensure that projects are viable in the long term.
Feasibility study 101
A forest biomass supply system must ensure not only volumes and quality in the long term, but also efficient production using effective technologies. The feasibility study would help answer the following questions: What volumes are available? Are they accessible? What are their associated costs? What are the market conditions like? What quality criteria are necessary for the raw material? What are the future prospects and vision? Scientific rigour is essential considering the importance of their answers.
Available volumes must be evaluated by species and type (logging residues or low value logs) within a given radius of the processing plant. It is important to keep in mind that biomass transport distance is a key factor since biomass value decreases rapidly when distances increase. The FPInterface software and the BiOS module are perfect tools to evaluate these volumes at a given site. The BiOS application for tablets (iOS/Android) calculates biomass volumes at roadside and the potential benefits when it comes to greenhouse gas. They consider the forest inventory, but also the technical availability, which means what is technically recoverable according to the harvesting system used (short wood, tree-length or full-tree).
The cost of getting the raw material to the mill will be calculated based on the forest supply source. The cost of recovering it in the forest will be calculated according to various scenarios that consider the type of cut (clearcut or partial), the harvesting systems and the cutblock layout.
Will the recovery be integrated into current harvesting operations (preferable) or will it be done separately? How and where will the biomass be conditioned (shredded wood, wood chips, densification, pyrolysis)? Will it be in the forest or at the mill? What are the costs and benefits of each option? Added to these recovery costs are fees, diesel costs, road maintenance, transport logistics, indirect costs, etc.
When recovering biomass, it is important to consider environmental aspects such as soil fertility and biodiversity. Environmental impact assessments must therefore be conducted to determine what percentage can be taken and what mitigation measures are necessary. Furthermore, in a bioeconomy, the carbon footprint must be evaluated. The carbon module, developed by FPInnovations, makes it possible to measure CO2 emissions resulting from forest operations (harvesting, conditioning, transport) and also the carbon delivered to the mill.
Lastly, a market study analyzes potential users, the competition, the prices offered and prospects for the product.
Challenges and success elements
The table below gives a summary of the main challenges and elements that will make a forest biomass project successful for both users and suppliers. Various guides developed by FPInnovations can help meet some of these challenges: 1) Best practices guide for harvesting, conditioning and storing, 2) Pile management guide, 3) Quality control guide.
|Diversify supply sources||Increase supply by expanding the supply chain by investing in the forest sector|
|Establish a long-term partnership strategy with suppliers||Recruit and retain specialized workers. Attract young entrepreneurs|
|Ensure independence and security by owning part of the supply chain||Supply raw material meeting the customer’s quality requirements: Moisture content, particle size, contamination|
|Have storage capacity and be able to support inventory costs||Have a quality control system with clear guidelines, incentives and penalties|
|Use available and affordable quality wood fibre||Provide reliable delivery and raw material at competitive prices|
Call on our experts
The researchers at FPInnovations are experienced and have been involved with major projects such as the BELT project in the Mauricie region and the iHUB project in Nova Scotia. For more information, contact Sylvain Volpé at firstname.lastname@example.org or 514-782-4521.