Biomass from trees provides energy to run Georgia-Pacific plants and mills.
If you ask a random group of people what fossil fuels are, many will probably know. The same is true for renewable energy such as solar and wind. But what about biomass? This renewable plant-based fuel might not be as well-known as other energy sources, but it’s becoming increasingly important in the conversation about where our energy comes from, how efficiently it’s generated, and what its environmental impact is.
It’s important to Georgia-Pacific because biomass makes up about 60 percent of the energy we use to run our plants and mills. Recently, a group of trade associations representing the forestry and forest products industries launched Biomass101.org
. The new website explains the role of woody biomass in energy generation, as well as biomass’s unique benefit of being carbon neutral throughout its life cycle. It also takes on many of the misperceptions about biomass as an energy source.
For example, our Alabama River Cellulose (ARC) facility and others use biomass because it’s sustainable – it’s a renewable, efficient and cost effective fuel. As whole trees come into the site, bark (an example of biomass) is removed from logs before they go into the chipper to be digested into pulp. Bark is used for fuel, as is the black liquor (biomass) that is a byproduct of the pulping process.
“Once the black liquor is concentrated, it makes an excellent fuel for the boilers that make the steam that turns the turbines, which then spins the generators,” explains ARC Public Affairs Manager Rick Kimble. “We also purchase bark from other facilities that don’t use it for energy production.”
By utilizing every part of the tree, ARC generates more than 90 percent of the electricity needed to run the site and is a frequent seller of electricity to the grid. Of course, how we use biomass at our mills is just one aspect of what makes it an efficient, sustainable and renewable resource. Georgia-Pacific and the landowners who grow and sell us their timber are committed to responsible forestry practices to help ensure that we will have abundant healthy forests in the future.
And the good news is the commitment is paying off: In the United States, twice as much wood is grown than is harvested, and carbon dioxide (CO2) storage in U.S. forests continues to increase, offsetting about 15 percent of the country’s total CO2 emissions – further proof that biomass is an environmentally efficient and responsible energy source.