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 program.

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:

Quick Links

Roundwood Chip Supply Chain

Woodfuel Database

Whole-Tree Chip Supply Chain

Clearfell Residue Bundle Supply Chain

Stump Biomass Supply Chain

Transportation Studies

Wood Fuel Profiles

Wood Fuel Standards

Firewood Storage Trial






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This work is part of the Forest Energy 2010 – 2014 Research Programme funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Competitive Forest Research and Development Programme, supported under the National Development Plan 2007-2013.