Forest in Stor-Elvdal municipality (photo: John Y. Larsson, Skog og landskap)

The Norwegian Centre for Bioenergy Research: Use forests to achieve climate goals

Bioenergy will be one of the most important future sources of energy. “For this reason it is important to have standards to measure CO2 emissions at every stage of the bioenergy chain,” says Odd Jarle Skjelhaugen, Professor and Director of the Norwegian Centre for Bioenergy Research.

Skjelhaugen heads the Bioenergy Committee at Standards Norway. Among other things, he has contributed on the development of standards from the European Committee for Standardization CEN/TC 383 relating to sustainably produced biomass for energy applications. NS-EN 16214 is a series of several standards that help enterprises establish accounts for energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions.

“All parties in the production process enter their climate accounts in the chain. This allows for the calculation and documentation of greenhouse gas emissions for the final products. This is important in order to reach Norway's climate goals,” Skjelhaugen says.

Standards Norway's Bioenergy Committee has also contributed to develop technical standards for wood used for heating. The standards help simplify trade in wood pellets, chips and wood, because all parties are aware of the product's quality. By setting requirements for combustion value, the district heating sector, for example, can achieve very high energy efficiency and thus high CO2 gains. The same applies to the trade in wood, so new and efficient ovens are utilized as well as possible.

The contribution of forests
The forests in Norway bind half of our CO2 emissions. Biomass from forests is currently used for heating, fuel, chemicals and a number of other useful products. The forest replaces fossil products and makes a strong contribution to the country's climate accounts.

The forest is Norway's CO2 inventory and a very important source of climate-friendly products.

It may seem contradictory to fell forest when it binds half of Norway's CO2 emissions. Skjelhaugen responds:

“Norway is overgrowing. We harvest only 40 per cent of growth. Old forests have lower growth rates and bind less CO2 than younger forests. This is why sustainable felling is good climate policy. The concept of sustainability includes considerations towards forests worthy of preservation, biodiversity and economy. We should also avoid felling more than what our children may fell without reducing the amount of forest in Norway.

Product diversity
Skjelhaugen believes it's important to ask: What's the best use of the forest? As we can harvest biomass of varying qualities from the forest, one of the answers is to use a certain quality for what it most suitable. Another response is to base it on documented climate impact. Sustainability standards are useful in such assessments.

Skjelhaugen points to one of the world's most advanced biorefineries, Borregaard in Sarpsborg, that produces valuable chemicals from forest.

“We should be proud to have such a business in Norway. Borregaard has come a long way with regard to efficient exploitation of biomass, and is a good example of what forest can be used for.

Borregaard produces alternatives to petroleum-based products, including lignin-based products, special cellulose, bioethanol and vanillin. In other words, biomass from Borregaard can be found in everything from chocolate and ice cream to perfume and textiles.

“The forest makes a strong contribution to reduce greenhouse gas problems. It's all about replacing the use of fossil energy. Bioenergy from forests is well-suited to applications such as heating and fuel, and can be combined with other energy carriers,” Skjelhaugen claims.

(Text and small photo: Siv Ellen Omland, Empower Communication)


The Norwegian Centre for Bioenergy Research coordinates research on renewable energy between the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research, the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) at Campus Ås. The centre contributes to teaching at the Master and PhD levels, and collaborates with industry on the development of sustainable production and use of bioenergy.

Odd Jarle Skjelhaugen

Odd Jarle Skjelhaugen

Last updated: 2016-11-09