A new report from the University of Copenhagen shows that the burning of wood is significantly more climate friendly than coal and slightly more climate friendly than natural gas over the long run. For the first time, researchers quantified what the conversion of 10 Danish cogeneration plants from coal or natural gas to biomass has meant for their greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy production is responsible for a large part of Danish greenhouse gas emissions. In 2018, more than 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions were released as a result of heat and electricity production (9.4 out of 48 million tonnes of CO2).
A conversion to wood biomass (wood chips and pellets) by Danish district heating plants has benefited the climate and is the more climate-friendly option compared to coal and natural gas. These are the findings of a new report from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management.
The study is the first retrospective investigation by researchers of what a conversion to wood biomass has meant for greenhouse gas emissions at ten Danish cogeneration plants -- and thereby the climate impact of replacing either coal or natural gas in favour of wood biomass.
Among other things, researchers calculated the so-called carbon payback period for each plant, i.e. how long it takes for the conversion to wood biomass to elicit a positive climate effect.
"Our results demonstrate that the transition from coal to wood biomass has had a positive effect on CO2 emissions after an average of six years. When it comes to the transition from natural gas, it has in most cases taken between 9 and 22 years, and in one case 37 years before CO2 emissions were reduced," says Associate Professor Niclas Scott Bentsen of the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, who is one of the authors of the report.