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A framework for LCA for Sustainability: comparing different types of boreal forests

The report is financially supported by Borregaard research fund for research in the forestry sector. The objectives of this report are to increase knowledge of woody biomass supply chains in Norway; compare environmental performance of lowland and mountain boreal forests wood fuel supply chains; and scrutinise sustainability concepts linked to life cycle assessment methodology and forestry.
The report is divided in two parts: the first section present results derived by life cycle assessment, while the second part describes the first phases for developing a framework for LCA for sustainability.
The report shows results for five environmental impact categories (climate change, acidification, eutrophication, photo oxidant formation, ozone depletion) related to each stage of the analyzed supply chains. Furthermore, it introduces the concepts of sustainability, sustainability indicators and methodology for assessing sustainability linked to LCA in connection to forest based supply chains.

Results indicate that road transportation and combustion are the stages of the wood fuel supply chains with the highest contributions in all evaluated impact categories. Silviculture and regeneration show small environmental burdens (less than 1.5% compared to the total emissions) with the exception of photochemical oxidation where the associated environmental load is more than 4%. Road transportation to the terminal has a significant contribution for all impact categories, especially for GWP and ODP. The mountain forest supply chain from the forest stand to the terminal has higher GWP than the lowland one, but there are not substantial differences in the other impact categories. Type of transportation from the terminal to the plant can influence the examined impacts. Benefits of using railway for long distance are clearly highlighted in the report. While the relative importance of environmental categories for each supply stage is more homogenously distributed for GWP, ODP and POP (percentage for each impact categories for each stage is between 0 and 30%), for EP and AP the combustion phase contributes with almost half of the overall emissions.

The part II of this project represents a step towards the development of a methodology for assessing sustainability in the forest sector based on the LCA approach, presenting indications and examples of sustainability indicators and methodological approach. However, it is demonstrated that there are not clear answers on which are the best indicators and methodology for sustainability in the bioenergy based on woody biomass and sustainability assessment in the forestry and bioenergy sector is challenging and complicated.

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