BIOMASS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

ABOUT THE SUSTAINABILITY OF BIOMASS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

No. Our biomass only comes from waste resources.

Our wood pellets are manufactured from the sawdust and offcuts that are a by-product of commercial lumber mill operations. The lumber mills we are associated with only use wood from FSC-approved sustainably-managed commercial plantations, not wood from natural forests.

Our wood chips are produced from harvested alien vegetation resources, not indigenous forests.

The removal of alien vegetation has many environmental benefits: it increases water runoff, decreases risk of bush fires, and allows the indigenous vegetation to return, restoring the natural ecosystem balance. For every hectare of land cleared from alien vegetation and rehabilitated to indigenous vegetation, 2.5 million litres of water per year is released back into the river catchment system.

The photographs below show a site of a natural river ecosystem before and after the clearing of invasive alien trees. Notice how the natural Renosterveld vegetation has been restored to original condition.

The clearing of alien vegetation from around river ecosystems is mandatory by legislation. Orders to clear and dispose of the vegetation are issued by the government.

Yes. Woody biomass can be replenished, or renewed, within a relatively short amount of time through the planting of new organic matter. Biomass can be differentiated from non-renewable sources of energy – fossil fuels like coal and natural gas – that are formed over hundreds of thousands of years.

Yes. Our biomass comes from waste resources, which means that the biomass is available, and must be disposed of if we do not make use of it. Rather than to dispose of the biomass inefficiently in landfills or through open field burning, it is better to use the biomass effectively by burning it in an efficient, controlled process, and to use the generated thermal energy productively. No additional greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by using waste biomass.

The fuel that Calore supplies is sourced from waste wood. The process of combusting this fuel generates no net greenhouse gases, because the original trees sequestered carbon from the atmosphere whilst growing. As such, our fuel is considered to be carbon neutral and attracts near-zero carbon tax.

One of the main benefits that biomass fuel has over other sources of renewable energy is that it is inherently dispatchable. Biomass is a baseload fuel and can supply energy on demand, whereas solar photovoltaic and wind energy are both intermittent sources. These sources require battery energy storage in order to achieve some level of dispatchability.

Yes!

Although sustainable biomass is not an infinite resource, the supply of waste wood far exceeds the current demand for it. A study that was audited by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) confirms this.

When we offer clients biomass, we can do so through a long-term (e.g. 10 years) fuel supply contract, in which we guarantee that we will be able to reliably supply biomass on specification for the duration of the contract. This gives our clients peace-of-mind about the security of their fuel supply.

Our wood pellet factory is located in the commercial pine plantations of the Tsitsikamma region in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

Our wood chips do not come from a single source. Alien and invasive vegetation is spread across many geographical areas and are cleared at various rates. Agricultural waste wood is seasonal and we get access to this wood throughout the year at different times. We typically blend a number of different sources from the local area to meet a client’s needs for order quantity and moisture content. For large fuel supply contracts, we often dedicate a particular source of biomass to that client. We also keep a reasonable stockpile of biomass in log format on hand which is ready to be chipped as required.

GLOBAL WARMING AND THE NATURAL CARBON CYCLE

The natural carbon cycle
The natural carbon cycle

A fixed amount of carbon exists on earth and is constantly recycled through a number of carbon sinks, where carbon is stored for a period of time. For example, photosynthesis allows plants to absorb carbon out of the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide; then animals consume this carbon when they eat plants or other animals. As plants and animals die and decay, the carbon is slowly released back into the atmosphere from which it came. The carbon cycle maintains a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

The use of fossil fuels disturbs the natural carbon cycle, because more carbon is released into the atmosphere than what is absorbed. This increase of carbon in the atmosphere (mostly in the form of carbon dioxide and methane) traps heat and causes global warming.

On the other hand, the use of biomass from waste resources as a fuel is carbon neutral, because no additional carbon is released into the atmosphere compared to disposing of the biomass waste on landfills or through open field burning. Therefore, biomass from waste resources does not contribute to global warming. In fact, burning the biomass only releases carbon dioxide, while leaving the biomass to decay anaerobically produces methane gas as well, and methane gas is about 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The amount of biomass available from cleared alien vegetation in South Africa is very significant. Often waste biomass is piled up and burnt as a cheap way of disposal. Clearly this is an extremely wasteful practice, because the thermal energy released during the combustion of the biomass resource could have been effectively utilised as part of a productive heating process elsewhere. Moreover, often such heating then takes place using fossil fuels.

Calore works to match the supply of biomass with the demand for heat. In so doing we aim to minimise the wasting of resources and energy, and to reduce the usage of unsustainable fuels for heating applications. Calore and our clients therefore actively participate in building a more sustainable world.

LOW ENERGY COST
NEAR-ZERO CARBON TAX
LONG-TERM SECURITY OF SUPPLY
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
GRID-INDEPENDENT ENERGY