Green Plans to Burn Wood in Alberta Instead of Coal

The green lobbyists have big plans for some of the coal power plants Rachel Notley and the NDP plant to close down.

The are going to convert them to burn trees. And quadruple the price of electricity.

There is more than enough fibre both in Alberta and Canada to fuel a major expansion in pellet production to feed one or two large Alberta coal-fired plants without much of an impact in overall fibre availability. Presenter Jamie Stephen of Torchlight Bioresources estimates a gap between AAC and actual harvest of over 39 million bone dry tonnes (BDT) across Canada, as well as the availability of residues topping 30 million BDT.

AAC is Annual Allowable Cut.

The technology and processes are proven and expertise widely available to convert coal-fired plants to biomass. Presentations by Bill Strauss of FutureMetrics, Brent Boyko of OPG and Brian Moran of U.K. bioenergy giant Drax made that abundantly clear.

Burning trees instead of coal is the future because government lobbyists can make people do stupid things.

The execution gap is economic, something outlined with some precision all day, but driven home by Mark Mackay of Transalta, Corp. Transalta is one of the three major power generators in Alberta with coal fired assets on hand. “If we say the current power market in Alberta is paying roughly $22/Mwh, and biomass is looking like $85/Mwh, somehow we have to think that equation through. I think government policy will be a big part of getting this started.”

More lobbying to take an abundant resource (coal) and replace it with forests and charge consumers 4 times as much.

The bulk of available biomass in Alberta and neighbouring B.C. is controlled by the major forest tenure holders, and so any solution will have to include them. Several speakers and attendees suggest the provinces could adopt a ‘use it or lose it” approach like Ontario.

Burn trees or else.

The next step is to build off the momentum created by this gathering of varied interests in Edmonton. In the closing chat, both WPAC executive director Gord Murray and Transalta’s Mark Mackay agreed that parties should work together to get this viable peak option in front of policy makers in Alberta. “It’s clear to me from this meeting that biomass is an option worth looking into, and that the will is there in this group to make it work,” Mackay concluded. “But time is of the essence. We have to get in front of government with this, and soon.”

Lobby politicians with huge amounts of money and be quick about it! Or those idiots building windmills will get all the government subsidies.

CO2: Wood versus Coal

How much CO2 does wood produce versus coal?

The results of our analysis shows that wood is generally about the same 
or slightly lower in CO2 emissions on a dry basis, 
but both wood and coal do not naturally have zero moisture content (MC).

The typical moisture content of coal is:
  • Anthracite Coal : 2.8% - 16.3% by weight
  • Bituminous Coal : 2.2% - 15.9% by weight
  • Lignite Coal : 39% or more by weight
It is the water that causes CO2 emissions to increase over the dry weight. 
The underlying cause that drives this is “the enthalpy of vaporization.” 
In simple terms, it takes energy to evaporate the water in wood or coal 
and convert it to vapor, and all of that energy is sent out the chimney 
and into the atmosphere in the form of water vapor, unless a condensing 
boiler is used which may claim part of the escaping energy. 
To get a million BTUs of useful energy from the fuel, 
a larger mass of wood or coal is necessary to compensate for the losses 
from vaporizing all that water. And more wood/coal burned means more CO2 produced. 

With coal, the higher water content grades also have lower carbon content 
and higher volatiles. The net effect of this is that, on average, CO2 
outputs are relatively consistent across grades (see Table 2). 

At 45 percent, the combustion of wood yields about 9.0 percent 
more CO2 per unit of useful energy than an average of the coal 
grades’ outputs. 

Wood Pellets are 3x to 4x More Expensive Than Coal And Produce More CO2.

UPDATE: See 1.5 year old numbers for coal versus wood in USA at bottom

I’m not a big fan of coal. But I do oppose stupidity. Switching from coal (which produces CO2 and particulate matter when burned) with wood pellets (which produces CO2 and particulate matter when burned) that kill forests seems kind of dumb.

How much CO2 and particulate matter is hard to find out. This post suggests wood pellets produce more CO2 than coal when you account for all of the transportation costs.

This article suggests wood pellets costs 150 to 200 a ton when coal is going for 51$ a ton.

“Wood pellets are much more expensive, about $150 to $210 a ton, compared to about $51 for coal in Newcastle, Australia, the global benchmark. Lyra wouldn’t provide a price for sugar-cane pellets, though he said they’re “competitive” with wood.

These products don’t compete on price,” said Lyra. “Companies that are looking to use renewables as a replacement have assets fueled by coal that has a deadline to disappear.”

It would make sense ( in the green stupidity way) to replace coal with trees and then pay 4x the cost and still produce lots of CO2.

As for CO2, the above referenced article says:

“Bagasse pellets emit about one-16th the carbon dioxide of coal, when burned in Brazil

That is the key. If you transport the pellets (whether wood or sugar cane) it produces a lot more CO2.

This article is interesting.

“Burning wood pellets releases as much or even more carbon dioxide per unit of energy as burning coal, so in order for burning pellets to be carbon-neutral the carbon emitted into the atmosphere has to be recaptured in regenerated forests, Abt says. Residual wood, such as tree thinnings and unused tree parts left over at timber mills, is the best material for wood pellets, says Abt. But he and others say that not enough of such waste wood exists to feed the growing demand for wood pellets.

So the industry has turned to whole trees.”


“The accounting now used for assessing compliance with carbon limits in the Kyoto Protocol and in climate legislation contains a far-reaching but fixable flaw that will severely undermine greenhouse gas reduction goals (1). It does not count CO2 emitted from tailpipes and smokestacks when bioenergy is being used, but it also does not count changes in emissions from land use when biomass for energy is harvested or grown. This accounting erroneously treats all bioenergy as carbon neutral regardless of the source of the biomass, which may cause large differences in net emissions. For example, the clearing of long-established forests to burn wood or to grow energy crops is counted as a 100% reduction in energy emissions despite causing large releases of carbon.”


“The cost of a unit of electricity consumed within the U.S. ranged between $171 and $175.40 per MWh, depending upon the pine rotation age. The cost of pulpwood procurement (stumpage, logging, and pulpwood transportation) was about 26 percent of the overall cost across rotation ages. Manufacturing of wood pellets and generation of electricity at the power plant contributed about 30 and 40 percent, respectively, toward the overall cost of a unit of electricity across rotation ages. The average unit cost was $173 per MWh, which was 73 percent and 157 percent higher than the average obtained from coal, at $100 per MWh, and natural gas, at $67 per MWh, respectively.

This cost differential is the main reason U.S. electric utilities show little interest in utilizing wood pellets. Therefore, special policy incentives will be needed to promote wood pellets as a potential feedstock, instead of coal and natural gas.”






Another UK Coal Power Plant Converted To Burn US Wood

This is just insane.

Burning wood pellets releases as much or even more carbon dioxide per unit of energy as burning coal.


“One of Britain’s dozen remaining coal-fired power plants is to be converted to burn wood pellets shipped in from North America, after the European Commission approved a £1bn subsidy contract for the project.

RWE’s Lynemouth power station in Northumberland is due to close by the end of this year under environmental rules, but will now be resurrected as a biomass plant following EU state aid approval for the consumer-funded subsidies.

The 420 megawatt plant, which produces enough electricity to power 450,000 homes, could be up and running again within 18 months, subject to a final investment decision early next year, RWE said.

The decision also boosted Drax, the Yorkshire coal plant that is awaiting state aid approval of a similar subsidy contract for the conversion of one of its units to burn biomass.”


DRAX – Grotesque Environmental Charade

The Big Crazy Forest killing DRAX is still destroying the environment.

Drax’s conversion to run half of its output on biomass means it will have to rely on wood from trees cut down in forests in America. The Sixties power station’s giant furnaces are being loaded with wood pellets carried 3,800 miles across the Atlantic in diesel-guzzling ships.

This grotesque environmental charade is being funded by government subsidies for the conversion of its coal-burning furnaces to biomass ones, which will put an estimated £23 on every family’s annual household energy bills for the next 13 years.

The vast generators of Drax are now living, humming, forest-destroying symbols of the shameful absurdity of European energy policies, and an extraordinary rebuke to this Coalition government, which claims, ever more ludicrously, to be saving the planet.

Already, the power station imports more than one million metric tons of wood pellets from the U.S. Much of this is derived from ancient deciduous trees in North Carolina.

Three months ago, 60 eminent American scientists wrote to Ed Davey pleading with him to stop ignoring the basic science and pressing on with a policy that was denuding their glorious forests.

They wrote: ‘Recent advances in science and accounting for pollution from different types of woody biomass have clarified that burning trees to produce electricity actually increases carbon emissions compared with fossil fuels for many decades and contributes to other air pollution problems.’

Read more:


US Scientists Beg UK To Stop Killing Trees For High CO2 Power Plants

What an insane world we live in. Did you know that burning wood pellets in power plant produces twice as much CO2 (or more) per unit of electricity as burning natural gas does?

“Some of the most distinguished scientists in the US have written to UK energy secretary Ed Davey, urging him to abandon the government’s “misguided” subsidies for companies burning wood pellets to generate electricity, such as the Drax plant in Yorkshire”

The letter is here:

“Mounting demand for wood pellets in the UK and Europe has led to an explosive growth in facilities
across the Southern US that are manufacturing wood pellets for export to supply the European
electricity market. In 2012, the Southeastern US emerged as the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets
for biomass electricity generation. With continued investments throughout the southern US, export
volumes reached an estimated 1.75 million tons in 2012 and are expected to jump to 5.7 million tons in
2015, according to the North American Wood Fiber Review.

Demand for wood pellets in the UK and Europe is fueled by misguided energy policies, which
incorrectly assume that burning wood will lower carbon emissions and help address climate change.
These policies appear to subscribe to the wood pellet and power industry claim that burning wood is a
carbon neutral process because new trees will eventually absorb and store the carbon that was released
when wood is burned. In addition, industry claims of sustainability are often based on citing positive
growth to harvest rates in the South. We dispute these claims for the following reasons:

First, a growing body of evidence suggests that trees rather than wood waste are the primary source of
the wood pellets exported to the UK from the Southern US. Recent advances in science and accounting
for pollution from different types of woody biomass have clarified that burning trees to produce
electricity actually increases carbon emissions compared with fossil fuels for many decades and
contributes to other air pollution problems.

etc etc

DRAX is spending  £700 million to kill trees and produce more CO2 all because of EU directives claiming wood is “carbon neutral” and therefore eligible for green subsidies.

What an insane world.


Wood-burning power plants emit more pollution per megawatt than coal plants

This is a total tragedy caused by environmentalists who are dangerously stupid.

“Power plants that burn wood to produce electricity emit comparatively more pollution than modern coal-fired power plants, according to a group that advocates tougher rules on the growing biomass-power industry.

The issue is relevant in Kentucky because of a proposed wood-burning power plant near Hazard, called ecoPower Generation, the state’s first.

In a study released early Wednesday, the Massachusetts-based Partnership for Policy Integrity said wood-fired plants are not as clean as advocates claim, putting more carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the atmosphere than coal or natural-gas plants when judged on the ratio of pollution to energy produced.

For example, biomass plants emit nearly 50 percent more carbon dioxide — which traps heat in the atmosphere — per megawatt hour of electricity produced than coal plants, the study concluded. “

“”What emerges from our analysis is a picture of an industry that despite loudly and continually proclaiming itself clean and green, is in many respects still one of the dirtiest corners of the energy industry, an industry where avoidance of pollution restrictions is tolerated, and even encouraged, by state and federal regulators,” the report said.”

Despite industry “standards” that “underestimates hydrochloric acid emissions” the company went ahead and made up their own.

” ecoPower went a step further — that it “invented” its own standards to estimate total emissions of hazardous pollutants. Its level of emissions would have been higher even using the suspect industry standards, the report said”   (h/t Marc Morano)