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Life cycle environmental impact of firewood production – A case study in Italy

Pierobon, Francesca, Zanetti, Michela, Grigolato, Stefano, Sgarbossa, Andrea, Anfodillo, Tommaso, Cavalli, Raffaele
Applied energy 2015 v.150 pp. 185-195
Fagus, carbon dioxide, case studies, energy, environmental impact, environmental performance, forests, fossils, fuelwood, global warming potential, greenhouse gas emissions, humans, life cycle assessment, ozone, ozone depletion, photochemistry, silvicultural practices, supply chain, sustainable forestry, toxicity, transportation, Balkans, Italy
The forestry sector is showing an increasing demand for documentation about its environmental performance. Concerning forest operations, many studies have revealed remarkable differences in environmental impact mainly due to differences in location, forestry practice and technologies. As a consequence, reliable information on environmental performance for forestry operations and wood supply chain is considered to be crucial.This work aims to evaluate the environmental impacts of the firewood supply chain from high stand beech forest in North-Eastern Italy. Two scenarios have been considered: the first scenario investigates the firewood supply chain based on the wood harvested from the local forest, while the second one investigates the supply chain based on wood imported from the Balkans’ area.The differences between the two scenarios are assessed through a “gate to grave” life cycle assessment for the impact categories: Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP); Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP) and Human Toxicity Potential (HTP). The functional unit is 1MJ of energy produced by firewood.The study has shown that there are different critical values of transportation distance for impact categories.Although most of the chemicals emitted in the life cycle of firewood cannot be offset, a sustainable forest management can completely offset the fossil CO2 emissions of the short and the long supply chain by saving less than 10% of the net increment.