Author: Alice Roberts

What are nature-based solutions?

What are nature-based solutions?

Nature-based solutions are means of removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere by conserving, restoring, or managing physical environments.

These are separate from engineered or technology-based solutions for removing CO2, in that they use natural forest, soil, and coastal ecosystems. A landscape that can absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and trap it there is known as a carbon sink.

How can nature-based solutions help tackle climate change?  

Reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere is key to tackling climate change. The Paris Agreement sets out targets for organisations and nations to reduce their CO2 emissions to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels and avoid “catastrophic” consequences.

However, even as industries strive to decarbonise, some crucial sectors of the economy, such as aviation and agriculture, may prove hugely difficult or even impossible to entirely reduce emissions to zero. Therefore, as well as reducing CO2 emissions, it will be essential to actively remove CO2 that may remain in the economy. This makes nature-based solution’s ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere crucially important.

Nature and carbon sinks have kept Earth’s natural carbon cycle balanced since long before humans even stood upright. And they have a crucial role to play in removing CO2 that remains in the atmosphere even as industries strive to reduce their emissions.

How can forests work as nature-based ways of capturing carbon? 

Forests remove carbon from the atmosphere using photosynthesis to capture CO2, using the carbon as a source of energy while releasing oxygen. A 2014 study found that the world’s forests had absorbed as much as 30% of annual global human-generated CO2 emissions over the previous few decades. Forests are some of the earth’s most important carbon sinks, but face threats such as creeping urbanisation. Protecting and managing forests is an important part of ensuring they continue to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

Afforestation is the establishing of a new forest while reforestation is the restoration of a forest where trees have been lost. Afforestation and reforestation require significant planting and maintenance of trees, but offer additional benefits of reducing the chances of desertification and flooding.

Improved forest management also increases the productivity of forests with activities like thinning diseased or suppressed trees. This is because young trees absorb more CO2 to fuel their growth than more mature forests that do not grow at the same rate.

What other ways can the land capture CO2?

Forests are not the only way land can be used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Soil all over the Earth’s surface is a massive carbon sink. Simple changes in farming methods can better protect soil and enable it to continue serving as a sources of carbon removal and storage. Such methods include rotating crops and reviving grasslands, which create larger volumes of plant biomass that decay and store more carbon in the soil.

The effectiveness of soil as a carbon sink can be enhanced further by using a substance called biochar. Biochar is a high-carbon form of charcoal, made by burning biomass like wood or agricultural waste in a zero-oxygen environment. When this charcoal is added to soil, more of the carbon absorbed will remain locked in it.

And soil isn’t the only earth-based natural substance that absorbs CO2 – rocks can, too. As they are rained on, weather and erode, rocks naturally absorb carbon. The bicarbonate that is produced is washed into the sea and is eventually stored on the seabed. This process can be enhanced by grinding rock into powder and spreading it over a large area.

How can restoring environments remove carbon?  

Mangroves on coasts and riverbanks, as well as salt marshes and sea grasses offer another major source of carbon removal and storage. When protected or restored these coastal ecosystems, which cover 490,000 km2 of the earth, can absorb and store huge amounts of what is referred to as ‘blue carbon’ – in fact, they have the ability to sequester carbon at a faster rate than other types of vegetation.

The regeneration of peatlands, a type of wetland including bogs and swamp forests, is also an important way of creating carbon sinks. Peatlands cover more than 3 million km2 around 3% of the world’s surface, and sequester 0.37 billion gigatonnes of CO2 per year.

What other types of solutions are there?

It’s difficult to predict CO2 levels that will remain in the UK economy. The National Grid’s 2020 Future Energy Scenarios (FES) Report, lays out a Steady Progress scenario in which decarbonisation is slow and limited to power and transport sectors. In this forecast there is still 258 million tonnes of CO2 being emitted in 2050.

Nature-based solutions’ ability to remove CO2 at such a scale can be limited by factors such as the land use needed, which can encroach on food crops for example. Nature based solutions are do not always offer permanent removal of CO2. Forest fires for example would release carbon stored in forests, damaging their ability to remove emissions.

Achieving the levels of carbon capture needed to reach net zero will require a variety of nature-based techniques and technologies are needed, all working in tandem to achieve a net zero future.

Man-made technologies include carbon capture methods such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). But it can also include methods such as using wood or low-carbon concrete in construction There are more ambitious innovations at play too, such as stratospheric aerosols, cloud seeding, space mirrors, and painting surfaces with a reflective coating.

Fast facts

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Button: What is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)?

What is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)?

What is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)? 

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is the process of capturing and permanently storing carbon dioxide (CO2) from biomass (organic matter) energy generation.

Why is BECCS important for decarbonisation? 

When sustainable bioenergy is paired with carbon capture and storage it becomes a source of negative emissions, as CO2 is permanently removed from the carbon cycle.

Experts believe that negative emissions technologies (NETs) are crucial to helping countries meet the long-term goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. As BECCS is the most scalable of these technologies this decade, it has a key role to play in combating climate change.

How is the bioenergy for BECCS generated?

Most bioenergy is produced by combusting biomass as a fuel in boilers or furnaces to produce high-pressure steam that drives electricity-generating turbines. Alternatively, bioenergy generation can use a wide range of organic materials, including crops specifically planted and grown for the purpose, as well as residues from agriculture, forestry and wood products industries. Energy-dense forms of biomass, such as compressed wood pellets, enable bioenergy to be generated on a much larger scale. Fuels like wood pellets can also be used as a substitute for coal in existing power stations.

How is the carbon captured?

BECCS uses a post-combustion carbon capture process, where solvents isolate CO2 from the flue gases produced when the biomass is combusted. The captured CO2 is pressurised and turned into a liquid-like substance so it can then be transported by pipeline.

How is the carbon stored?

Captured CO2 can be safely and permanently injected into naturally occurring porous rock formations, for example unused natural gas reservoirs, coal beds that can’t be mined, or saline aquifers (water permeable rocks saturated with salt water). This process is known as sequestration.

Over time, the sequestered CO2 may react with the minerals, locking it chemically into the surrounding rock through a process called mineral storage.

BECCS fast facts

Is BECCS sustainable?

 Bioenergy can be generated from a range of biomass sources ranging from agricultural by-products to forestry residues to organic municipal waste. During their lifetime plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, this balances out the CO2that is released when the biomass is combusted.

What’s crucial is that the biomass is sustainably sourced, be it from agriculture or forest waste. Responsibly managed sources of biomass are those which naturally regenerate or are replanted and regrown, where there’s a increase of carbon stored in the land and where the natural environment is protected from harm.

Biomass wood pellets used as bioenergy in the UK, for example, are only sustainable when the forests they are sourced from continue to grow. Sourcing decisions must be based on science and not adversely affect the long-term potential of forests to store and sequester carbon.

Biomass pellets can also create a sustainable market for forestry products, which serves to encourage reforestation and afforestation – leading to even more CO2 being absorbed from the atmosphere.

Go deeper:

  • The triple benefits for the environment and economy of deploying BECCS in the UK.
  • How BECCS can offer essential grid stability as the electricity system moves to low- and zero-carbon sources.
  • Producing biomass from sustainable forests is key to ensuring BECCS can deliver negative emissions.
  • 5 innovative projects where carbon capture is already underway around the world
  • 7 places on the path to negative emissions through BECCS

Evaluating regrowth post-harvest with accurate data and satellite imagery

  • Drax has been using effective post-harvest evaluations, which includes remote sensing technology and satellite imagery

  • Alongside sustainable forest management, monitoring can help support rapid regrowth after harvesting

  • Evidence shows healthy managed forests with no signs of deforestation or degradation

As part of Drax’s world-leading programme of demonstrating biomass sustainability, including ongoing work on catchment area analysis (CAA), responsible sourcing policy and healthy forest landscapes (HFL). We have also been trialling the use of high-resolution satellite imagery to monitor forest conditions on specific harvesting sites in the years after harvesting has taken place, in addition to the catchment area level monitoring of trends and data. Post-harvest evaluations (PHE) are an essential part of an ongoing sustainability monitoring process, ensuring that the future forest resource is protected and maintained and that landowners restore forests after harvesting to prevent deforestation or degradation.

The most effective form of PHE is for an experienced local forester to walk and survey the harvesting site to check that new trees are growing and that the health and quality of the young replacement forest is maintained.

Rapid regrowth

The images below show some of the sites surrounding Drax’s Amite Bioenergy pellet plant in Mississippi, with trees at various stages of regrowth in the years after harvesting.

A full site inspection can therefore enable a forester to determine whether the quantity and distribution of healthy trees is sufficient to make a productive forest, equivalent to the area that was harvested. It can also identify if there are any health problems, pest damage or management issues such as  weed growth or water-logging that should be resolved.

Typically, this will be the responsibility of the forest owner or their forest manager and is a regular part of ongoing forest management activity. This degree of survey and assessment is not practical or cost-effective where a third-party consumer of wood fibre purchases a small proportion (typically 20-25 tonnes per acre) of the low-grade fibre produced at a harvest as a one-off transaction for its wood pellet plant..  It is time consuming to walk every acre of restocked forest and it is not always possible to get an owner’s permission to access their land.

Forests from space

Therefore, an alternative methodology is required to make an assessment about the condition of forest lands that have been harvested to supply biomass, without the need to physically inspect each site.  One option is to use remote sensing and satellite imagery to view each harvested site in the years after biomass sourcing, this helps to monitor restocking and new tree growth.

Drax has been testing the remote sensing approach using Maxar’s commercial satellite imagery.  Maxar has four satellites on orbit that collect more than three million square kilometres of high-resolution imagery every day. Drax accesses this imagery through Maxar’s subscription service SecureWatch.

To test the viability of this methodology, Drax has been looking at harvesting sites in Mississippi that supplied biomass to the Amite Bioenergy pellet plant in 2015 and in 2017.  As part of the sustainability checks that are carried out prior to purchasing wood fibre, Drax collects information on each harvesting tract. This includes the location of the site, the type of harvest, the owner’s long-term management intentions and species and volume details.

This data can then be used at a later date to revisit the site and monitor the condition of the area. Third-party auditors, for instance Through Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification, do visit harvesting sites, however this is typically during the year of harvest rather than after restocking. Maxar has historical imagery of this region from 2010, which is prior to any harvesting for wood pellets.  The image below shows a harvesting site near the pellet plant at Gloster, Mississippi, before any harvesting has taken place.

March 2010 (100m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

The image below shows the same site in 2017 immediately following harvesting.

December 2017 (100m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

If we look again at this same site three years after harvesting, we can see the rows of trees that have been planted and the quality of the regrowth. This series of images demonstrates that this harvested area has remained a forest, has not been subject to deforestation and that the regrowth appears to be healthy at this stage.

August 2020 (50m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

Another site in the Amite catchment area is shown below. The image shows a mature forest prior to harvesting, the site has been previously thinned as can be seen from the thinned rows that are evident in the imagery.

May 2010 (200m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

Looking at the same site in the year after harvesting, the clear cut area can be seen clearly. Some green vegetation cover can also be seen on the harvested area, but this is weed growth rather than replanted trees. Some areas of mature trees have been left at the time of harvesting, and are visible as a grey colour in the 2010 image. These are likely to be streamside management zones that have been left to maintain biodiversity and to protect water quality, with the grey winter colouring suggesting that they are hardwoods.

September 2018 (200m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

Three years after the harvest, in a zoomed in view from the previous image, clear rows of replanted trees can be seen in the imagery.  This demonstrates that the owner has successfully restocked the forest area and that the newly planted forest appears healthy and well established.

August 2020 (50m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

While examining different harvesting sites in satellite imagery, Drax noted that not every site had evidence of tree growth, particularly within the first three years after harvesting. Deliberate conversion of land to non-forest use, such as for conversion to pasture, agricultural crops or urban development, is likely to be evident fairly soon after harvesting.

Preparing for planting

Some forest owners like to leave a harvested site unplanted for a couple of years to allow ground vegetation and weed growth to establish, this can then be treated to ensure that trees can be planted and that the weed growth does not impede the establishment of the new forest, this process can mean that trees are not visible in satellite imagery for three to four years after harvesting.

The image below shows a site three years after harvesting with no evidence of tree growth.  Given that no conversion of land use is evident and that the site appears to be clear of weed growth, this is likely to be an example of where the owners have waited to clear the site of weeds prior to replanting.  This site can be monitored in future imagery from the Maxar satellites to ensure that forest regrowth does take place.

November 2020 (100m)

Satellite image © 2021 Maxar Technologies.

Drax will continue to use Maxar’s SecureWatch platform to monitor the regrowth of harvesting sites and will publish more detailed results and analysis when this process has been developed further.  The platform allows ongoing comparison of a site over time and could prove a more efficient method of analysis than ground survey.  In conjunction with the CAA and HFL work, PHE can add remote sensing as a valuable monitoring and evidence-gathering tool to demonstrate robust biomass sustainability standards and a positive environmental impact.

Go deeper: 

Discover the steps we take to ensure our wood pellet supply chain is better for our forests, our planet and our future here, how to plant more trees and better manage them, our responsible sourcing policy for biomass from sustainable forests and a guide to sustainable forest management of the Southern Working Forest.

Satisfaction / waiver of conditions in relation to the proposed acquisition of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc.

RNS Number : 6420U
Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)

On 8 February 2021, Drax announced that it had entered into an agreement to acquire the entire issued share capital of Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. (the “Acquisition”). On 31 March 2021, Drax announced that the Acquisition had been approved by Drax Shareholders at the General Meeting and Pinnacle announced that the Acquisition had been approved by Pinnacle Shareholders.

Drax is pleased to announce that on 6 April 2021 the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted the Final Order. All of the conditions to the Completion of the Acquisition have now been satisfied or waived (other than conditions which can only be satisfied at Completion) and Completion is expected to occur on 13 April 2021.

Capitalised terms used but not defined in this announcement have the meanings given to them in the Circular.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

What is a biomass wood pellet?

However, by compressing organic matter like wood, forest residues and sawdust into energy-dense pellets, biomass can be used for heating or renewable bioenergy generation at a much greater scale.

Why are pellets powerful?

The advantage of using biomass in the form of a pellet is its energy density. This refers to the amount of energy that can be stored in a given amount of a material.

On their own the wood and residues like wood chips and sawdust that make up biomass do not have a high energy density. A kilogram of wood, for example, stores little energy, compared to fuels like coal, diesel or uranium.

However, by compressing forest industry residues into a pellet, biomass becomes significantly more energy dense. Wood pellets can also have very low moisture content, giving them a high combustion efficiency – an important feature in power generation.

How are biomass pellets made?

Biomass pellets are made at a pelletisation plant. Here wood that is unsuitable for other industries like sawmill residues, are brought together.

The wood is chipped, screened for quality, heated to reduce its moisture content to below 12% and then converted into a fine powder. This is then pressed through a grate at high pressure to form the solid, short, dense biomass pellet.

How are pellets used in power generation?

Biomass pellets can be used to generate power in a similar way to coal, allowing existing coal power stations to be transformed to use renewable bioenergy instead.

A conveyor system takes pellets from storage through to pulverising mills, where they are crushed into a fine powder that is then blown into the power station’s boiler. Here the biomass is combusted as fuel, the heat from this combustion is used to make steam which powers the generators that produce electricity.

Biomass pellets’ density and uniform shape also makes them easier to transport and store in large quantities. However, it is essential that they are kept dry while in transit and that when stored in biomass domes the atmospheric conditions are carefully monitored and controlled to prevent unwanted combustion.

Biomass pellet facts

Are biomass pellets renewable? 

When forests are sustainably managed, and trees naturally regenerated or replanted and regrown in a human timeframe, it makes the biomass pellets sourced from them renewable.

It’s vital for the long-term energy generation that biomass pellets are sourced from responsibly managed forests and other industries that protect the environment and do not contribute to deforestation. Sourcing decisions must be science-based and not adversely affect the long-term potential of forests to store and sequester carbon.

Sustainable wood pellets are considered to be carbon neutral at the point of combustion. As they grow, forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere. When a biomass pellet is combusted, the same amount of atmospheric CO2 is released. The overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere remains neutral, unlike with fossil fuels which release ancient carbon that has long fallen out of the natural carbon cycle.

Because sustainable bioenergy is low carbon when its lifecycle emissions, including supply chain CO2, are factored in, it is possible to turn it into a source of negative emissions, with the addition of carbon capture technology.

Go deeper:  

What is renewable energy?

These differ to non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas, of which there is a finite amount available on Earth, meaning if used excessively they could eventually run out.

Renewable resources can provide energy for a variety of applications, including electricity generation, transportation and heating or cooling.

The difference between low-carbon, carbon neutral and renewable energy

Renewables such as wind, solar and hydropower are zero carbon sources of energy because they do not produce any carbon dioxide (CO2) when they generate power. Low-carbon sources might produce someCO2, but much less than fuels like coal.

Bioenergy that uses woody biomass from sustainably managed forests to generate electricity is carbon neutral because forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, meaning the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere remains level. Supply chains that bring bioenergy to power stations commonly use some fossil fuels in manufacturing and transportation. Therefore woody biomass is a low carbon fuel, when its whole lifecycle is considered.

Managing forests in a sustainable way that does not lead to deforestation allows bioenergy to serve as a renewable source of power. Responsible biomass sourcing also helps forests to absorb more carbon while displacing fossil fuel-based energy generation.

Nuclear is an example of a zero carbon source of electricity that is not renewable. It does not produce CO2,but it is dependent on uranium or plutonium, of which there is a finite amount available.

Managing forests in a sustainable way that does not lead to deforestation allows bioenergy to serve as a renewable source of power.

How much renewable energy is used around the world?

Humans have harnessed renewable energy for millions of years in the form of woody biomass to fuel fires, as well as wind to power ships and geothermal hot springs for bathing. Water wheels and windmills are other examples of humans utilising renewable resources, but since the industrial revolution fossil fuels, coal in particular, have been the main source of power.

However, as the effects of air pollution and CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels become increasingly apparent, renewable energy is gradually replacing sources which contribute to climate change.

In the year 2000 renewable energy accounted for 18% of global electricity generation, according to the IEA. By 2019, renewable sources made up 27% of the world’s electrical power.

Why renewable energy is essential to tackling climate change

The single biggest human contribution to climate change is greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2, into the atmosphere. They create an insulating layer around the planet that causes temperatures on Earth to increase, making it less habitable.

Renewable sources of electricity can help to meet the world’s demand for power without contributing to global warming, unlike carbon-intensive fuels like coal, gas and oil.

Bioenergy can also be used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere while delivering renewable electricity through a process called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

Forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, then when the biomass is used to generate electricity the same CO2 is captured and stored permanently underground – reducing the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Humans have used renewable energy for millions for years, from wood for fires to wind powering boats to geothermal hot springs. 

What’s holding renewables back?

The world’s energy systems were built with fossil fuels in mind. This can make converting national grids difficult and installing new renewable energy sources expensive. However, as knowledge grows about how best to manufacture, build and operate renewable systems, the cost of deploying them at scale drops.

There are future changes needed. Renewables such as wind, solar and tidal power are known as intermittent renewables because they can’t generate electricity when there is no sun, wind or the tidal movement. For future energy systems to deliver enough power, large scale energy storage, as well as other flexible, reliable forms of generation will also be needed to meet demand and keep systems stable.

Renewable energy key facts:  

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Burns Lake and Houston pellet plant catchment area analysis

British Columbia, near Barriere, North Thompson River, aspen trees, dead pine trees behind infected with pine bark beetle (aka mountain pine beetle)

The eigth report in a series of catchment area analyses for Drax looks at the fibre sourcing area surrounding two compressed wood pellet plants operated by Pinnacle.

This part of interior British Columbia (BC) is unique in the Drax supply chain. Forest type, character, history, utilisation, natural challenges, logistics, forest management and planning are all very different to the other regions from which Drax sources biomass. Recently devasted by insect pest and fire damage, Arborvitae Environmental Services has produced a fascinating overview of the key issues and challenges that are being experienced in this region.

Figure 1: Catchment area map of the region [Click to view/download]

A positive response to natural disasters

Like the entire BC Interior, the area has suffered a devastating attack of Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) damage over the last 20 years which has completely dominated every forest management decision and action. Within the catchment area, the MPB killed an estimated 157 million cubic metres (m3) between 1999 and 2014, representing 42% of the estimated 377 million m3 of total standing timber in the catchment area in 1999.  In addition, severe wildfires in 2018 burned an estimated 7.1 million m3.

These natural events have had a devastating impact on the forest resource. Harvesting increased significantly to utilise the dead and dying timber as lumber in sawmills whilst it was still viable.

Net carbon emissions in Canada’s managed forest: All areas, 1990–2017; illustrates that the impact of fires and insect damage have been far more significant, by hectares affected, than forestry activity; Chart via Natural Government of Canada

The Pinnacle pellet mills at Burns Lake and Houston were established alongside the sawmills to utilise the sawmill residues as there were no other viable markets for this material. These sawmills draw fibre from a large distance, up to 300 miles away. Therefore, the size of the catchment area in this piece of analysis is determined by the sourcing practices of the sawmills rather than the economic viability of low grade roundwood transport to the pellet mill (see Figure 1).

Damage to pine trees by Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB)

Utilising forest residues

The two mills producing high-density biomass pellets have provided an essential outlet for residue material that would otherwise have no other market and until very recently were supplied almost entirely by mill residuals. As the quantity of dead and dying timber has reduced and sawmill production has declined, the pellet mills are beginning to utilise more low-grade roundwood and forest residues (that are otherwise heaped and burned at roadside following harvest) to supplement the sawmill co-products.

Primarily State owned managed forests

The total land area in the catchment for Burns Lake and Houston is 4.47 million hectares (ha) of which 3.75 million ha is classed as forest land, 94% of the catchment area is public land under provincial jurisdiction. The provincial forest service is responsible for all decisions on land use and forest management on public land, in consultation with communities and indigenous groups, determining which areas are suitable for timber production and which areas require protection. Approximately 34% of the catchment area is not available for commercial timber harvesting because it is either non-forested or it has low productivity, and other operational challenges, or it is protected for ecological and wildlife reasons.

The Chief Forester for the province sets the Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) which determines the quantity of timber that can be harvested each year. Ordinarily this will be based on the sustainable yield capacity of the working forest area, but in recent years the MPB damage has necessitated a significant increase in AAC to facilitate the salvage of areas that have been attacked and damaged (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Changes in Annual Allowable Cut 1980 to 2018 (Source: Nadina District FLNRORD) [Click to view/download]

The catchment area is in the Montane Cordillera ecozone and the Canadian Forest Service reports that between 1980 and 2017, the area of forest in the ecozone declined from 31,181,000 ha to 31,094,000 ha, a decline of 87,000 ha or 0.28 % of the forest area. Deforestation in the catchment area was estimated at 300 ha per year. Most deforestation in the ecozone occurred because of conversion to agriculture, as well as other contributing factors, such as mining, urban expansion and road construction (including forest roads).

The forest area is dominated by coniferous species (see Figure 3) predominantly lodgepole pine, spruce and fir (90% of the total area), with hardwood species (primarily aspen) making up just 8% of the total area.

Figure 3: Species composition of forest land in the catchment area.

Managing beetle damaged areas

The annual harvest volume was at a peak in the early part of the last decade at over 12 million m3 in 2011. This has now declined by around 4.5 million m3 in 2019 (see Figure 4) as the beetle damaged areas are cleared and replanted. The AAC and harvesting levels are expected to be reduced in the future to allow the forest to regrow and recover.

Figure 4: Annual change in harvest volume of major species

Future increases in forest growth rates

Historically, the forest area has naturally regenerated with self-seeded stands reaching a climax of mature pine, spruce, and Abies fir mixtures.  As the forest matured, it would often be subject to natural fires or other disturbance which would cause the cycle to begin again. Following the increase in harvesting of beetle damaged areas, many forests are now replanted with mixtures of spruce and pine rather than naturally regenerated. This is likely to lead to an increase in forest growth rates in the future and a higher volume of timber availability once the areas reach maturity (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Forecast of future volume production

Timber markets in the catchment area are limited in comparison to other regions like the US South.  The scale of the landscape and the inaccessible nature of many of the forest areas limit the viability of access to multiple markets. Sawmills produce the highest value end-product and these markets have driven the harvesting of forest tracts for many years. Concessions to harvest timber are licensed either by volume or for a specific area from the provincial forest service. This comes with a requirement to ensure that the forest regrows and is appropriately managed after harvesting.

There are no pulp mills within the catchment area and limited alternative markets for the lowest grades of roundwood or sawmill residuals other than the pellet mills; consequently, the pellet mills have a close relationship with the sawmills.

Wood price trends

Prices for standing timber on public land are determined by the provincial government using results from public timber sales and set according to the species and quality of timber produced (from the highest-grade logs through to forest residuals). The lack of market diversity and challenging logistics mean that there is little competition for mill residuals and low-grade fibre. The price differential in end-product value between sawtimber and wood pellets ensures that fibre suitable for sawmill utilisation does not get processed by the pellet mill. A very small volume of larger dimension material can end up in a low value market when there are quality issues that limit the value for sawtimber (e.g. rotten core, structural defects) but this represents a very small proportion of the supply volume. There is no evidence that pellet mills have displaced other markets within this catchment area.

Read the full report: Catchment Area Analysis: Pinnacle Renewable Energy’s Burns Lake & Houston Mills.

This is part of a series of catchment area analyses around the forest biomass pellet plants supplying Drax Power Station with renewable fuel. Others in the series can be found here

What is climate change?

Climate change

What is climate change?

Climate change refers to the change in weather patterns and global temperature of the earth over long periods of time. In a modern context, climate change describes the rise of global temperatures that has been occurring since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

What causes climate change?

While there have been natural fluctuations in the earth’s climate over previous millennia, scientists have found that current-day temperatures are rising quicker than ever due to the excessive amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere.

Key climate crisis facts

An excess of CO2 in the atmosphere accentuates something called the ‘greenhouse effect’. As CO2 traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere, it warms the planet and causes a rise in average global temperature. International efforts, such as the Paris Climate Accords, are dedicated to ensuring temperatures do not rise 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which could lead to catastrophic conditions on the planet.

In the modern context, climate change describes the rise of global temperatures occurring since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

How do humans contribute to climate change?  

Industries such as transport, agriculture, energy and manufacturing have traditionally relied on the use of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. These fuels, when combusted or used, emit large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, further advancing the greenhouse effect and contributing to climate change.

Human reliance and consumption of these products mean today CO2 levels are the highest they’ve been in 800,000 years.

Why are rising temperatures harmful to the planet?

Our planet has a history of experiencing periods of extreme weather conditions – for example the last Ice Age, which finished 12,000 years ago. However, the rapid rise in temperatures seen today is harmful because a hotter planet completely affects our natural environment.

A steep rise in global temperature can melt ice sheets and cause higher sea levels which can, in turn, contribute to more extreme storms and even threaten entire islands and coastal communities. As the planet warms, extreme weather events, such as bushfires could become more common, which can destroy homes, impact agriculture and degrade air quality, while entire ecosystems, habitats and animal and insect species could also be threatened by climate change. 

What can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change?

Reducing CO2 emissions is a key way of slowing down the pace of climate change. To do so, industries across the global economy must decarbonise to become less dependent on fossil fuels, such as coal and petrol, and adopt new lower carbon energy sources.

Decarbonisation will rely on a number of factors, including a technological response that sees the development and implementation of carbon neutral and carbon negative ways of creating heat, electricity and fuels, including the use of innovations such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

There is also a need for a policy and governmental response that promotes investment in new cleaner technologies and disincentivises dirtier industries through mechanisms like the carbon tax. Countries and economies will need to work collaboratively to achieve common, climate-oriented goals that will also enable smaller scale action to be taken by individuals around the world. 

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Button: What is the grid?

What is reforestation and afforestation?

Reforestation and afforestation

What is reforestation and afforestation?

Reforestation is the process of planting trees in a forest where the number of trees has been decreasing.

Afforestation is when new trees are planted or seeds are sown in an area where there were no trees before, creating a new forest.

Why carry out reforestation and afforestation?

Reforestation and afforestation are two of the leading nature-based solutions for tackling the effects of climate change. For commercial foresters and landowners, these two practices are essential to ensuring they can grow wood for wood products and continuously meet demand in a sustainable way.

Reforestation is crucial in combating or preventing deforestation or forest degradation, where forests shrink in size or are completely removed. As well as reducing a forest’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), deforestation can destroy wildlife habitats and contribute to the likelihood of flooding in certain areas.

Afforestation can also help avoid desertification, where fertile land turns into a desert as a result of drought or intensive agriculture.

Reforestation is the process of planting native trees in a forest where the number of trees has been decreasing.

How does reforestation and afforestation limit the effects of climate change?

Forests are a natural way of keeping the earth’s CO2 levels in check. The more trees there are, the more CO2 is captured and converted into oxygen through photosynthesis.

By absorbing CO2, forests help to lower the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and reduce the effects of climate change.

Reforestation and afforestation help maximize these abilities of forests by increasing the overall amount of forested land on the planet.

Key forest facts

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Different types of forests, such as tropical, swamps or mangroves, all absorb CO2 at different rates.

The age of a forest also impacts absorption. Young, rapidly growing, trees absorb CO2 at a faster rate than more mature ones, which have large amounts of carbon locked in already.

Afforestation is when new trees are planted or seeds are sown in an area where there were no trees before.

What roles does reforestation play in commercial forestry?

The global wood products industry depends on sustainable forests to supply the wood needed to make furniture, create construction materials and provide fuel for energy.

The supply chain will often start with what’s called a ‘working forest’ – a commercially-run forest which is often privately owned. The landowner will grow a working forest to a certain stage of maturity and then harvest some or all of the trees to sell the wood. Once the wood has been sold for use as lumber, wood products or fuel, the landowner will reforest the areas to regrow the trees.

Foresters will typically do this in stages across their land to ensure there are multiple stands of forest at different stages of growth across their land, which ensures there is consistent, sustainable growth at all times.

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