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The potential for bioenergy production from Australian forests, its contribution to national greenhouse targets and recent developments in conversion processes

Australia is highly dependent on cheap fossil fuels for energy generation and under the Kyoto Protocol was one of only three industrialised nations to be granted an increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions target. To help meet an effective GHG reduction of at least 20% below expected growth rates for GHG so that there is an increase of only 8% above 1990 levels by 2010, Australia has implemented a mandatory target for electricity retailers to obtain an additional 9.5 TWh/yr of electricity from renewable sources by 2010. Forest biomass could be a significant and effective renewable energy source. There is a potentially large supply of low-cost residual woody biomass from sawlog-driven harvesting, thinnings, and wood processing. There are also abundant land-clearing residues available, but these sources are not sustainable. Various technologies for the conversion of woody biomass to fuels for heat and power generation are outlined: combustion, gasification, carbonisation, densified fuels manufacture, and biochemical conversion. Examples are given of current development and implementation of these technologies in Australia. The establishment of new plantation forests can create carbon sinks that are potentially tradeable. Electricity utilities and large power consumers are being encouraged to invest in reforestation and afforestation to offset their carbon emissions. A plan to treble the commercial plantation forest estate by 2020 is currently being implemented, and would offset up to 6% of Australia's GHG emissions during the first Kyoto commitment period (2008-12).

Fung, P.Y.H., M.U.F. Kirschbaum, R.J. Raison and C. Stucley, 2002: The potential for bioenergy production from Australian forests, its contribution to national greenhouse targets and recent developments in conversion processes. Biomass and Bioenergy, 22, 223-236.

Anticipating long term climate change

Strong link made by authors

Strong link made by authors

Climate event

Global

Large number

Consensus

Legal

Policy

Requires large investment

National

Multipliers could be significant

Long term (20 or more years)

Managed resource

Neutral or ambiguous effect

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