Study: Biomass pellets effectively reduce carbon dioxide

By Kris Bevill
In response to rising concerns about the security of energy supplies for present and future generations of Canadians, nonprofit BioCap Canada conducted a study to determine the best biofuel options for Ontario. The report, titled "Analyzing Ontario Biofuel Options" and published by Resource Efficient Agricultural Production-Canada, showed that biomass pellets are the most cost-effective way for government incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.

"This study demonstrates how an incentive program for the large-scale production and use of solid biofuels for commercial and industrial applications could be an effective and sustainable way to grow our economy," said David Layzell, president and chief executive officer of BioCap. "The use of biomass pellets would not only create new market opportunities for the forest and agricultural industries, it would reduce dependence on coal, as well as the greenhouse gas emissions associated with coal use."

Roger Samson, lead author of the report and executive director of REAP-Canada, said the report was consistent with other research and was significant because it was the first Canadian study to look at carbon dioxide mitigation costs. "That was the unique part," he said. "No one had really put a price on [carbon dioxide] by government incentives."

The study concluded that if government subsidies were applied to large-scale solid biofuels, those fuels would surpass wind power-currently No. 1 in Canada-as most effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If a subsidy of $4 per gigajoule was implemented for biomass pellets, carbon dioxide emission offsets would be created at less than $50 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions abated when displacing coal. Current ethanol programs cost eight times the amount of carbon dioxide emissions avoided per ton than potential solid biofuel subsidies. Current biodiesel incentives cost twice as much as biomass incentives.

Samson said policy, not technology, is why governments are unwilling to subsidize solid biofuels. There are 442 pellet plants in Europe, and solid biomass production is recognized as a leading technology, which according to Samson and Layzell is due to the European government's willingness to provide incentives and enforce carbon dioxide taxes. He hopes North American politicians will embrace this new study, and begin to pass carbon dioxide taxes and greenhouse gas mitigation incentives.