The EU has set three strategic goals for climate change and energy to be achieved by 2020: a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; 20% of energy to come from renewable sources; and a 20% increase in energy efficiency.
Wood from well-managed sources is a natural, renewable material and its use can help to address global environmental problems such as climate change, ecosystem destruction and landscape deterioration. As well as forming a natural ecological habitat, forests serve as an important carbon sink, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Combining carbon storage and substitution, 1 m³ of wood stores about 0.9 tonnes and substitutes 1.1 tonnes of CO2. An annual 4% increase in Europe’s wood product consumption would sequester an additional 150 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
Responsible management suggests that as much wood as possible should be harvested for the production of durable products such as furniture or building materials. These wooden products act as additional carbon stores, while providing the forest with the opportunity to regenerate and produce new biomass (acting as a new carbon sink).
The project beneficiary has developed an environmental friendly technology – wood acetylation – for the modification of fast-growing softwoods. This technology will significantly enhance the durability and dimensional stability of residual wood, from abundantly available certified wood species. It will facilitate the production of a more resilient material that could be a viable alternative to the carbon-intensive materials (e.g. aluminium and steel) that are currently used in applications such as façade cladding/siding, window and door components, and wall and ceiling lining in wet environments indoors.
The final product will be a Medium Density Fibreboard (MFD) wood, the production of which has already been proven on a laboratory scale. The LIFEWOOD project will demonstrate the economic viability of a small-scale production plant. If this demonstration plant is successful, the process design package for the acetylation of wood chips into acetylated MDF panels could then be applied to any existing MDF production line.
The specific objectives are to:
Expected results: The project will build an acetylation demonstration plant in Ireland with the capacity to produce over 3.75 metric tonnes per hour (i.e. more than 33 000 metric tonnes per annum), which is the minimum amount to ensure economic viability.
The project will also carry out a Lifecycle Analysis of the demonstration facility in order to compare the eco-profile of the production of acetylated MDF wood panels with the eco-profile of alternative production processes (e.g. PVC, aluminium and tropical hardwood).