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Environmental performance of wood pellets' production through life cycle analysis

Laschi, Andrea, Marchi, Enrico, González-García, Sara
Energy 2016 v.103 pp. 469-480
cradle-to-gate, electricity, environmental assessment, environmental impact, environmental performance, factories, forests, fuels, heat, wood, Central European region, Italy
Forests play a key role as the source of an essential renewable material and/or fuel: wood. The aim of this study was to evaluate the environmental impacts related to high-quality pellet production for domestic heating following the LCA (life cycle assessment) methodology and considering a cradle-to-gate perspective in the Tuscany region. This is representative and interesting for Italian pellet factories and for similar factories located in Central Europe, considering the Italian contribution to the production capacity of that area. All of the activities involved, from wood extraction in no-industrial forests to packed pellet production, ready for delivery to final users, were taken into account. The environmental analysis was performed in terms of seven impact categories. The results showed how the most important environmental burdens are related to the use of electricity during pellet production, being responsible for more than 90% of the total in most of the impact categories. Operations carried out in the forest produce a minor part of the impact (from 1% to less than 10% depending on the category). Four different alternative scenarios for producing and supplying electricity and heat were proposed and investigated. Substitution of the boiler by a co-generation unit showed a substantial improvement in the environmental burdens.