The biomass data dilemma

It’s a good week to be in biomass. In the past few days we’ve seen a raft of major announcements. The Government of Ontario is investing more than $9.4 million in 14 research, innovation and modernization initiatives to develop the untapped economic potential and environmental benefits of new and emerging uses of underutilised wood and mill by-products, collectively known as forest biomass.

Meanwhile, Finnish process technologies provider Valmet Oyj has received an order to deliver a biomass-fired boiler plant for Brazilian paper and cellulose maker Suzano Papel e Celulose.

And In the UK, Peel Ports Logistics has signed a deal to become renewable energy specialist Drax’s new shipping agency service provider for vessels importing biomass into Liverpool, North West England.The shipping and freight forwarder will support the arrival of all Drax’s ships from locations such as North America into the Port of Liverpool’s £100 million (€117 million) biomass terminal.

Forest biomass is used in everything from food additives to building materials. It also has many emerging uses, including renewable natural gas, bioplastics and hydrogen – responsible alternatives to carbon-intensive products.

Yet biomass is not without its problems. As we report this week, the UK government should review how it monitors the carbon footprint of biomass power plants because it “cannot show that its current arrangements are good enough”, according to parliament’s spending watchdog.   The National Audit Office said the government currently relies on certified information on the sustainability of biomass supply chains supplied by the generators but the government failed to evaluate the data.

Tut tut! Perhaps the government could have a word with the (re)insurance market, which has been at the forefront of writing and evaluating biomass risks for some time now…

Marcus Alcock,

Editor, Emerging Risks