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2. ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY
The Irish Government has recently introduced a series of capital grants to boost the uptake of domestic wood-pellet technologies in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These have proved popular and have encouraged a significant number of people to switch from gas- and oil-fired boilers to the cleaner fuel. The demand for wood-pellets has, however, greatly exceeded the national capacity for production. The market for wood pellets elsewhere in Europe is also tight and, consequently, a large proportion of Irish pellets are sourced in Canada. This presents possible problems: the carbon emissions associated with long-distance transport may significantly offset the expected environmental benefits; and the resulting need to purchase carbon credits may impact on the Irish Government’s rationale for promoting the technology. This paper describes a process-based embodied energy analysis which indicates that the difference in transport embodied energy and CO2 emissions between imported and domestically produced wood pellets is up to 1,403MJ/tonne and 108kg/tonne respectively. Imported pellets have up to four times more embodied energy than those that are domestically-produced. Although this erodes their environmental credentials, it is still a significant improvement when compared to displaced conventional fuels; for example, it is equivalent to 22% of natural gas CO2 emissions. An economic analysis of present value indicates that the short-term cost to the Irish exchequer of these increased emissions is small.
Duffy, A., Conroy, M. (2007). The Embodied Transport Energy Analysis of Imported Wood Pellets. Energy and Sustainability (eds. C. Brebbia and V. Popov). Wessex Institute of Technology, UK, pp 299-308.