An international team of researchers has been studying how an expanding Swedish biorefinery industry will affect the availability and price of wood. The large-scale implementation of biorefineries to produce biofuel is a key element of the country’s plans to expand their bio-economy.
Biorefineries are able to produce biofuels and chemicals from biomass such as wood and bark. These products can be used as an alternative to fossil fuel products and can utilise waste products, or feedstocks, like bark, tree stumps, woodchips and sawdust. The efficient utilisation of these by-products will be important as the demand for biofuel increases in Sweden.
The team of researchers consisted of individuals from the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Luleå University of Technology (LTU) and Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and utilised three interlinked models to assess the effect of increased demand on the price and availability of wood and feedstocks. The Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM), BeWhere model and the Spatial Price Determination Model (SpPDM) were developed at IIASA, IIASA & LTU and LTU, respectively. GLOBIOM, modelling wood demand scenarios, fed into BeWhere which in turn provided biomass demand to SpPDM which then calculated the biomass prices in the different scenarios.
The results indicated that there would be an increased demand on forests in the EU and also an increase in price of forest feedstocks. However, the effect is likely to be limited and would not result in a price spike in the medium term. This small increase will not affect the profitability of biorefineries. By-products are likely to be the most economical biomass as they are not associated with extra transportation costs. The authors suggested that biorefineries should be situated within a short distance of biomass producers where it does not have a significant effect on the distance to the consumer.
The authors suggested that the study could help policymakers to better understand the markets and prepare for implementing biorefineries. This includes setting biofuel targets, the impact on forest demands, where to construct biorefineries and using the right technology.