Assessing the sensitivity of the UK biomass value chain model to Imports

Dr Zoe M Harris has been employed at Imperial college to work on the UK Biomass Value Chain Model. Here Zoe has given an update on her first couple of months on the project.

Posted on 17 July 2017.

The UK currently imports over one third of the global trade of wood pellets (7 Million tonnes in 2016), the majority coming from North America. With the likelihood that imports will increase due to interest in technologies such as BECCS, it is important to increase our understanding of the emissions associated with imports, and their effect on the UK bioenergy supply chain.

The Biomass Value Chain Model is a flexible toolkit that allows modelling and optimisation of the UK bioenergy supply chain. BVCM was commissioned by the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), and was designed to answer variants of the following question: “What is the most effective way of delivering a particular bioenergy outcome in the UK, taking into account the available biomass resources, the geography of the UK, time, technology options and logistics networks?”.

The aim of the work undertaken by Dr Zoe M Harris at Imperial College London is to gain a better understanding of the actual emissions associated with imported feedstocks. Dr Harris is focussing on wood pellets from forestry imported from North America, as this is currently where the majority of the supply to the UK is coming from. Dr Harris has undertaken a full systematic review and extracted data, predominantly from LCA studies, of the emissions associated with wood pellets from North America. This data is then used within BVCM to look at how the UK bioenergy system responds to actual emissions factors for imported wood pellets, as the model is currently optimised using generic calculator data. The model is run with an energy target that it must meet, an emissions target which must not be exceeded, whilst keeping the costs to a minimum. Therefore the model must make decisions about infrastructure and supply based on meeting these targets.

Initial optimisation runs of the model have been conducted, and now Dr Harris must assess and interpret the results. This work will be helpful in informing the sensitivity of the UK bioenergy supply to varying levels of emissions associated with imported feedstocks.



FAOSTAT. UN Food and Agriculture Organization

ETI. Bioenergy Insights into the future UK Bioenergy Sector, gained using the ETI’s Bioenergy Value Chain Model (BVCM).


By Zoe M Harris, Imperial College London

Subscribe to our news feed