Dry Matter Losses and Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Outside Storage of Short Rotation Coppice Willow Chip


This study examined the dry matter losses and the greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations within two short rotation coppice (SRC) willow wood chip storage heaps. One heap was built on a grassland area (East Midlands) and the other (Rothamsted) on a concrete hard standing. A series of 1- and 3-m probes were embedded in the heaps in order to retrieve gas samples for analysis, and pre-weighed net bags were positioned in the core of the heap to detect dry matter losses. The bagged samples showed dry matter losses of 18 and 19 % in the East Midlands and Rothamsted heaps after 210 and 97 days storage, respectively. The Rothamsted heap showed a whole-heap dry matter loss of 21 %. During this time, the wood chips dried from 54 to 39 % moisture content in the East Midlands heap and 50 to 43 % at Rothamsted. The results from analysing the whole Rothamsted heap indicated an overall loss of 1.5 GJ per tonne stored, although measurements from bagged samples in the core suggested that the chips dried sufficiently to have a minimal energy loss from storage. The process of mixing the heap, however, led to incorporation of wet outer layers and hence the average moisture content was higher in an average sample of chip. After establishment of the heaps, the temperature rose rapidly and this correlated with a peak in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration within the heap. A peak in methane (CH4) concentration was also detected in both heaps, though more noticeably in the East Midlands heap after around 55 days. In both instances, the peak CH4 concentration occurred as CO2 concentrations dropped, suggesting that after an active period of aerobic decomposition in the first 2 months of storage, the conditions in the heap became anaerobic. The results from this study suggest that outside wood chip storage is not an efficient method of storing biomass, though this may be location-specific as there are some studies showing lower dry matter losses. It is necessary to explore other methods of harvesting SRC to minimise losses and optimise land use efficiency. Further research is required to detect whether there are fugitive emissions of CH4 from wood chip heaps, as this will compromise the net GHG savings from utilising the biomass stored in this way.

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