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Background

Soaring energy consumption and increasing greenhouse gas emissions are prompting global changes in the sources from which energy and basic material needs of our society are expected to be derived. With the increasing pressure on forest biomass, a more efficient use of resources is required. One potential avenue to more efficiently utilize forest resources consists of developing fully bio-based materials which can be easily converted into bioenergy at the end of their material lifetime. For highest environmental and economic benefits, such bio-based materials should be derived from currently undervalued forest feedstocks and co-products. Wood bark from European forest species represents one major feedstock that is currently undervalorized. Bark is currently used in niche markets such as agriculture and horticulture or burnt for bioenergy purposes in the mills where logs are debarked. In fact ca. 12 M m³ of bark is currently burnt in Europe to produce bioenergy. With the estimated harvest potential from only Pine and Spruce bark of ca. 38 M m³, it is clear that a valorization of bark from major European forests into useful bio-based materials followed by a conversion at the end of the material life into bioenergy would provide additional value and improved revenues to forest land owners while alleviating environmental problems and the growing pressure on forest biomass.

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