Potential opportunities to utilize mountain pine beetle-killed biomass as wood pellet feedstock in British Columbia
Journal article, 2014
The use of renewable forms of energy, such as bioenergy produced from wood pellets, can serve to offset fossil fuel use and, hence, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union is the world's largest user of wood pellets and British Columbia has been one of its largest external suppliers. British Columbia is currently grappling with the largest mountain pine beetle outbreak in its history. While this outbreak is expected to decrease the future timber supply in the Province, it has been suggested that one potential benefit of the mountain pine beetle outbreak is that it may provide a large amount of biomass that can be used for bioenergy production. Here we evaluate estimates of the amount of biomass available for bioenergy production in British Columbia and quantify the effects of the mountain pine beetle infestation on wood pellet feedstock supply chains. Our results, though subject to significant uncertainties, suggest that mountain pine beetle-killed wood is unlikely to be a substantial constituent of wood pellet feedstocks unless substantial subsidies are provided to offset higher harvesting costs. Even if such subsidies are implemented, it is likely that harvest residues will constitute an increasing proportion of wood pellet feedstocks as the volume of beetle-killed wood becomes depleted. Therefore, it is imperative that wood pellet producers improve the cost efficiency of harvest residue collection if they are to remain competitive in the European marketplace.
Biomass Crop Assistance Program
mountain pine beetle
greenhouse gas emissions