Faced with the challenge of climate changes, all areas of activity are being called upon to do their share to cut down on CO2 emissions. And the same applies to forest activities. The various forest operations research groups at FPInnovations have turned their attention to this matter and are proposing various mitigation options. This includes the adoption of more energy-efficient methods of operating machinery, the use of bio-fuels and the reduction of logging residues left in the forest. But since we can only have good control over what we can measure, they first developed tools to make it possible to calculate the carbon emissions from forest operations.
The starting point
Everything got under way in 2009 with the launch of FPInterface, a tool to simulate forest supply activities that includes various analysis, modelling and optimization tools. FPInterface includes a database containing input from over 35 years of productivity and cost studies for various types of machines under a number of different conditions. Lumber revenues can also be simulated with the aid of Optitek—a software developed by FPInnovations that makes it possible to simulate the sawing process of softwood and to increase the economic profitability of the process—and the price list provided by product type, making it possible to simulate the net value of the cut blocks. The BiOS module, added to this software, enables a spatial evaluation of the available volumes of biomass.
A question of emissions and conversion
Carbon emissions are mainly produced through the consumption of fossil fuel by harvesting and transportation machinery. As for the wood delivered to the processing plants, it can represent either a carbon sink (if the carbon it contains is captured within finished products) or a source of renewable energy (if the biomass is converted).
Calculation of the emissions is based on: 1) the harvested merchantable volume, 2) the biomass recovered, 3) the productivity of the machines, and 4) the consumption of fuel through harvesting and transportation activities. The productivity of equipment depends on several factors and varies from one machine to another. In general, it depends on the type of forest stands and the conditions at the site. Fuel consumption depends on the type of vehicle and also on the road class, transport speed and distance to be covered. All this data is collected in the FPInterface database and is updated on a regular basis.
The Carbon Module
To facilitate carbon emission and delivery calculations, the Carbon Module was added to FPInterface in 2010. This tool makes it possible to determine a carbon ratio by comparing the emissions produced by various harvesting scenarios as opposed to the carbon delivered to the plants. With all the data contained in FPInterface, it can calculate the carbon emissions by surface area harvested (kg/ha), by volume harvested (kg/m3) or by ton of roundwood and biomass (kg/tma) delivered.
In the example in Figure 1, the delivery of 42 tons of wood at the plant required the emission of a ton of carbon.
Figure 1: Example of carbon ratio calculation
FPInnovations plans on developing, in cooperation with the British Columbia’s ministry responsible for forests, a mobile app that would make it possible to determine, in real time, the environmental benefits associated with the use of biomass in order to set up an incentive to convert biomass instead of burning it by the roadside. This application, based on the BiOS and Carbon modules, would provide a credible and inexpensive calculation of the advantages related to the recovery of piles of harvest residues, based on their destination and their use (wood pellets, forestry chips for boilers, pyrolytic oil, biochar or biodiesel).
In short, knowing the carbon ratio of forest operations may be very useful for managing the carbon footprint, identifying the least polluting harvesting and recovery scenarios and providing figures within a carbon market context. However, the related calculations are complex and must take into account a lot of different factors. Fortunately, there are tools such as FPInterface, with its BiOS and Carbon modules, to make the task easier for those who are interested in this topic.
For more information, please contact Sylvain Volpé, Senior Scientist in FPInnovations’ Fibre Supply group at email@example.com.