Heating With Wood - Pt 2

Posted on 21st December, 2010

For those of you who like figures to back up the facts .... here you are. For those who don't, read it anyway - I kept it simple! You might also like to remind yourself of the first part in this series - 'Heating With Wood - Pt 1'

 

Using Wood Fuel to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The actual reduction in household CO2 emissions by using wood instead of fossil fuels cannot easily be estimated with precision. However, a rough estimate can be made in the case of wood substituting for the use of fuel oil. The emission factor for fuel oil is 2.512 kg of CO2 per litre of fuel oil burned*. So, for every standard 1350 litre (approx 300 Gal) tank of fuel oil burned, 3391 kg (or about 3.4 tonnes) of CO2, is released. The combustion of wood fuel is not completely CO2 neutral considering there are fossil-fuel inputs to firewood production (chainsaws, log splitters, hauling machinery & lorries), and the combustion of wood releases some methane, which is a greenhouse gas but which is not absorbed by trees as they grow. One sample calculation of these CO2-equivalent emissions found that the fossil-fuel inputs reduced CO2 neutrality by 6 percent and methane emissions reduced it by 15.2 percent, making efficient wood combustion 78.8 percent carbon neutral. To account for fossil fuel inputs and other greenhouse-gas emissions, assume that wood is only roughly about 75 percent CO2 neutral. The reduction in CO2 emissions when wood displaces a 1350 tank of oil is 3391 x 75 percent equals 2543 kg. That would mean if the owners of an average family home located in Northern Ireland (who might burn about two tanks of fuel oil each year for heating - depending on the weather), would switch completely to wood heating, they could cut their annual CO2 emissions by at least 5 tonnes.

Making big reductions in a household’s carbon footprints is not easy, and usually involves major changes in lifestyle, such as using public transport instead of a car, eating less meat, using a clothesline instead of a dryer and so on. Switching fully to wood heating is also a big lifestyle change, but the rewards are generous. Trading some labour and spare time for deep engagement in one of life’s necessities is satisfying, and being completely in control of providing secure heating for one’s family is perhaps more fulfilling than other lifestyle changes.

 

* (Defra, 2007)

 

 

Any queries, suggestions or comments? – Please let me know.

‘Bye for now,

Les O’Donnell.

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