Forest Energy Research Programme 2010-1014

Harvesting & Processing Forest Biomass for Energy Production in Ireland


Concerns over climate change, security of energy supplies and sustainable forest management have directed international policy towards supporting the development of renewable energy from wood fuel. The EU plans to produce 20% of energy requirements from renewable sources, with Ireland's overall target 16% by 2020. At a European level, it is expected that almost 65% of the renewable energy target will come from biomass, most in the form of wood. The Irish Energy White Paper and Bioenergy Action Plan for Ireland set out the framework for meeting these targets in Ireland. Sustainable Energy Ireland has mounted a successful campaign to encourage private individuals and commercial firms to install wood fuel boilers, thus creating a demand for wood fuel in the form of wood pellets and dry wood chip.

Three peat-fired power stations are gearing up to fulfill their obligation to co-fire peat with 30% biomass by the year 2015. The Forest Service has had two calls for grants for companies to buy wood chipping equipment.

Wood for energy is a relatively new assortment in Irish forestry and much knowledge remains to be gained. Ireland has a ready-made wood fuel resource in the large areas of farm forests planted over the last 25 years, which now require thinning to achieve production potential. Forest ownership is fragmented and knowledge of harvesting and storing wood for energy limited. The Forest Energy project, commenced in 2006, and renewed annually, aims to develop cost-effective supply chains by adapting commercially used methods from Europe to Irish conditions.

Project Objectives

  • Demonstration of harvesting, extraction and wood fuel processing equipment in Ireland
  • Production and quality assessment of both wood chip and firewood products
  • Assessment of optimum storage systems to promote maximum seasoning at lowest cost
  • Investigation into moisture content/climate relationships with the view to developing a moisture content reduction model based on simple climatic indicators
  • Chemical composition of wood samples
  • Organisation of dissemination activities including public demonstrations, articles, workshops, presentation of results and display of wood fuel sample materials

Project Team

Tom Kent (overall coordinator) is the course leader of the BSc. in Forestry at Waterford Institute of Technology and has participated in several EU projects. He was the project co-ordinator of the EU Leonardo da Vinci funded pilot project WESST – Wood Energy Supply Systems Training, where on-line teaching materials on wood for energy were developed and translated in several languages. Tom has published several popular scientific articles and has held many presentations. He also developed the theoretical part of the COFORD workshop series “The wood energy supply chain”, which has been held 29 times in two languages in three countries. Part of his job is to guide students during their work placement jobs. Several students have been engaged in the Forestenergy program. This has lead to one student completinig a Ph.D., and three other students doing masters degrees by research in the field of wood for energy. He has also set up a practical laboratory to measure quality parameters of wood fuels to CEN Solid Biofuel specifications and this is only one of two laboratories on the SEI/COFORD register of wood fuel testing laboratories.

Pieter D. Kofman, ING, senior consultant wood for energy, Danish Forestry Extension, (harvesting and storage trials coordinator) is a Dutch citizen, living in Denmark. He has a bachelor degree in Forestry. He has +25 years of experience from research (6 years in Holland, +20 years in Denmark), 2 years as the division director for wood for energy in a supply company and +5 years as an independent consultant on wood for energy. He has managed many European research projects, also as coordinator and has been the coordinator of several IEA Bioenergy projects as well as of the IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organisations). He has managed many harvesting and storage trials in Denmark as well as the harvesting and storage trials of the ForestEnergy programme. He has written a host of popular scientific articles, COFORD Connects Notes, as well as several articles with peer review. He has presented papers at numerous scientific meetings, conferences and workshops all over the world. He has developed the practical information on the COFORD wood energy supply chain courses “From Forest to Gate” and “From Gate to Grate”, which have been held respectively 29 and 11 times in two languages and three countries.

Dr. Ger Devlin, Parsons Research Fellow, Bioresources Research Centre, UCD and in charge of all studies on logistics during the program. He completed in 2007 his PhD from Department of Biosystems Engineering, University College Dublin with the title: “The Development of a Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS) using GIS and GPS for Route Costing Calculations of Articulated Trucks travelling on public roads for use within the Timber Haulage Sector.”

Dr. Eleanor Owens (nee Cockburn), lecturer in chemistry at WIT, in charge of all chemical analysis of wood fuels as well as ash content and heating values. Graduated from City University (1991), London with a Ph. D. in polymer chemistry and subsequently worked in industry as a senior research chemist. Since joining WIT, her research interests have moved from the chemical characterization of polymers to include the chemical characterization of biofuels. She was involved in the Forestenergy 2007 and Forestenergy 2008 programmes and currently has two funded masters students working in this area. Is the Head of Delegation (Ireland) on the CEN/TS Solid Biofuel Technical Committee and a member of working group 5 (chemical analysis) of the CEN programme.

Work Programmes

Work Package 1

Studies on cost effective methods of securing quality wood fuel from Irish forestry


  • To describe cost effective supply chains from forest to end-user.
  • To investigate different storage options on the reduction in moisture content of wood fuels.
  • To carry out studies on the economic optimisation of road transportation of wood fuels.

Work Package 2

New Systems for Controlling Transportation Costs in Ireland’s Forest Energy Supply Chain


  • To develop a truck productivity and costing model
  • To link the model to a GIS-based Irish road transportation network.
  • To gather travel time data, by road type, from GPS instrumented trucks.
  • To gather payload data for a range of product types.
  • To develop a forest energy route scheduling transportation optimization model.
  • To identify economic biomass supply chains from forested areas.

Work Package 3

Development of Database on the Properties of Six Irish Tree Species for Wood Energy


  • To characterise six Irish tree species for use as wood fuel.
  • To assess variations in each species for: moisture content, basic density, and chemical composition.
  • To investigate faster and cheaper methods and field techniques for moisture content (and other properties).
  • To develop above ground biomass expansion factors.


The Forest Energy Research Programme has involved collaboration and co-operation with the following institutes and companies:

Waterford Institute of Technology

WIT Logo

The Department of Chemical and Life Sciences has as its mission the provision of undergraduate programmes and postgraduate research activities in the area of Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Science, Biology, Biotechnology, Forestry, Agicultural Science, Agriculture, Hortculture and Good Manufacturing Practice and Technology.

WIT has developed all of these discipline areas to Bachelor of Science level and has Bachelor of Sciences Honours level programmes in Applied Chemistry and Applied Biology. The development and running of these programmes has been done in close conjunction with its external partners, which, includes Teagasc, Coillte, and the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnological sectors of industry both regionally and nationally.

University College Dublin

UCD Logo The Bioresources Research Centre (BRC) has a portfolio of research projects in sustainable biomass-to-energy (B2E) systems spanning modelling of biomass-to-energy conversion systems sensing technologies for integrated biomass management systems; GIS feedstock energy mapping; biological media for carbon sequestration; biofuels from microalgal hydrocarbons and biomass; pyrolysis and co-pyrolysis of biomass and waste plastics for liquid transport fuels; integrated transport systems and emissions modelling; energy audits of biogas systems for co-digestion feedstock scenarios; optimisation of gasification/co-gasification of willow, miscanthus, cereal straw and peat; Bioresource and product traceability; and anaerobic digestion of animal slurries, grass and maize silage.


Coillte Logo

Coillte's core purpose is to enrich lives locally, nationally and globally through the innovative and sustainable management of natural resources. Coillte is a commercial company operating in forestry, land based businesses, renewable energy and panel products.

The company employs approx 1,000 people and was established in 1988. It owns over 445,000 hectares of land, about 7% of the land cover of Ireland.


Medite Logo

Medite is arguably Europe’s most recognised brand of MDF; available in Europe since 1976 we were the pioneers in introducing MDF to European markets. That has allowed Medite products to now be recognised as the benchmark for quality, consistency and performance in the MDF market.

From our production and research plant in Clonmel, Ireland, we supply a wide range of MDF products to meet the diverse needs of users, specifiers and designers across Europe and beyond.

Danish Forestry Extension

DFE Logo

The Danish Forestry Extension works in partnership with local communities and local and international organisations to support the development of sustainable forest and natural resource management across the globe.

DFE's vision is to be a recognized international forestry organization, which, through land-use-related initiatives, promotes self-governance and empowerment while contributing to sustainable development.

Transportation Studies

For the wood energy sector in Ireland to be competitive, biomass must be delivered to the energy plant or end user at the lowest cost possible, and transport plays an important role along the forest supply chain.

Several modes of transportation are used in the forestry sector and truck transportation is and will remain the most important mode of timber transport in Ireland, forming a substantial part of the industry's raw material cost and having a major influence on the sector's overall economic performance and competitiveness.

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Felled trees drying in the forest

Irish Wood Fuel Database

Updated 2017

The database has been compiled using the results of field-work carried out by Waterford Institute of Technology forest research department. The data has been collected during numerous studies which have been conducted as part of the Forest Energy Research Programme 2010-2014 and the Shortfor Project.

Parameters in the database are those related to wood fuel quality, including moisture content, energy content and wood density. The species chosen for trial studies are those of interest to the wood energy sector in Ireland.

Learn more

Wood fuel database