A GIS-based comparison of long-distance supply of energy wood for future needs from young forests to the coast of Finland

With increasing demand and competition for forest biomass, the future will see its transportation distances increase in Finland. The aim of the study was to evaluate long-distance transportation solutions and intermodal handling of energy wood for its journey from young forests to a combined heat and power plant in Kokkola, Finland. Via a case study, the costs of various supply chains were estimated on the basis of spatially explicit data. The potentials were estimated from National Forest Inventory data. With GIS assistance, supply points were determined, and supply costs with nine distinct supply chains were calculated for each point on the basis of transport distances and productivity models. Both whole-tree and delimbed stemwood chains were included. The transport modes considered were trains, traditional 60-tonne trucks, and combinations with new high-capacity transport (HCT) vehicles of 68 and 76 tonnes and train transportation. Whole trees were assumed to be transported either as chips or in uncomminuted form to train terminals, whereas delimbed stemwood remained uncomminuted. Use of interchangeable containers was assumed in two of the whole-tree chains. In our study, the whole-tree supply chains did not prove to be competitive with the stemwood chains. Train-based chains proved to be cost-competitive with the traditional truck chain only in very limited areas around the terminals. The costs of the supply chains based on use of HCT vehicles were always lower than the costs associated with the train-based chains. The greatest barrier in long-distance and intermodal transport of forest chips is the high cost of transport by rail.