SIG worked with the Northern Forest Center based in Maine, through an independent third-party study to determine the greenhouse impacts of heating buildings with state-of-the-art wood pellet boilers. The Spatial Informatics Group-Natural Assets Laboratory (SIG-NAL) used data specific to the region’s forest composition and harvest practices, and the pellet sourcing and manufacturing of 9 out of 10 Northern Forest pellet mills, all of which produce pellets exclusively for thermal (heat) generation.
SIG did a detailed a life-cycle analysis, which accounts for all greenhouse gas emissions from sourcing, processing, and transporting fuels. The analysis included: the mix of energy sources used in pellet production, the composition of the pellets (the ratio of sawdust and mill residuals to low-grade wood affects the greenhouse gas impact of pellets), tree regrowth rates, the efficiency of the heat generation system being used, and more.
Overall, they found that on day one of using wood pellets for heat greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 54% compared to oil and 59% to natural gas. And, after 50 years, greenhouse gas emissions from pellets drop to 62% less than oil, 67% less than natural gas, and 56% less than propane.
Additional information can be found here, at the Northern Forest Centers’ project site