Biomass: France experiencing supply chain difficulties


68 Mtoe: according to EurObserv’ER Institute, this is the consumption of heat from biomass in the EU. Wood, the main component of biomass, is a credible renewable energy as part of the European-wide policy of responsible energy consumption through district heating networks. Except that supplying this valuable resource is not proving to be as as easy as expected.

1000 heat biomass networks

Wood is the most common form of renewable thermal energy France, with biomass feeding many heating networks. District heating networks have become much more common and developed after 2003, due to a favorable economic and political context, marked by the rising price of oil and a clear political will to promote the commodity.

Thus, according to the latest estimates of CIBE (Interprofessional Committee for Wood Energy), about 1 000 installations – delivering a power greater than 1 MW, thus able to feed a group of buildings – are fueled by wood. They are found in all regions of the country. In Metz, for example, district heating is supplied by a biomass plant, which produces energy 100% Lorraine generated annually by 100 000 tonnes of platelets from the surrounding forests! And Dalkia has recently inaugurated a new biomass plant in Sevran, in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Uneven wood quality and quantity

Except that the example of Metz can not hide the reality: today, it has become difficult to source wood for operating a facility as a heat network. Many criteria play into effect on the establishment of contracts:

– The quantity and the selected unit (tonnes MWh input, output … MWh);

– Fuel characteristics (moisture, particle size, ash content, dust levels …);

– The origin and traceability of materials;

– The recovery or not ash

The sector still pays his immaturity. Some sites, such as wood boiler Defence & Space Airbus group, face maintenance costs and operations much higher than expected. They must sometimes be stopped for days! In question ? Inadequate supplies and poor quality.

The difficulties of biomass can not be reduced to problems of quality wood. In 2003, its main advantage was its cost, much lower than that of oil. Now it is no longer the same. The financial attractiveness of biomass compared to gas and oil is no longer the same!

One solution, abroad?

How to fix this? The solution could come from a biomass supply from abroad. European supplies may in fact not alone satisfy the requirements of the market, both in terms of availability or price. Turn to foreign countries may thus be a solution in order to obtain wood for cheaper rates.

Remains an imperative in this kind of approach: ensuring that this biomass has been produced in a responsible and sustainable manner, and it corresponds to the European requirements for reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. The European Union could decide to establish binding sustainability criteria as regards the entry into the European market.

Of such initiatives appear anyway, a sign that demand is there: in Wallonia, a platform for buying and selling biomass comes eg to be put online!

Biomass she remains a “future energy”? Are sector procurement problems structural or occasional? Give your opinion in the comments! And not to forget anything timeliness of heat networks, subscribe to our newsletter.

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