Smart Peat Production Benefits the Climate
Allocating production to previously ditched peatlands is a good solution from the climate change perspective. Peat in ditched peatlands gradually oxidizes, releasing greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When used for energy, the same carbon dioxide is released in boilers when peat is extracted from those drained areas. Peat is used for electricity and/or heat production instead of simply escaping into the air.
Moreover, if peat is used in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant and co-fueled with wood fuels, then the use of wood fuels becomes more efficient. This is because of the different properties of the fuels.
The land area underneath peatland is available for other uses after peat is extracted. Those areas are typically reforested, used for agriculture or rewetted. New vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide and a carbon sink is formed again on the former peatland site.
Life-cycle assessments indicate that peat produced under these principles may be superior to coal from the climate perspective: the carbon dioxide emissions, based on measurements taken at the top of the boiler chimney, are similar, but when you account for peat production areas turning into carbon sinks, the peat’s CO2 emissions lifecycle can be lower than coal’s.
Studies on the subject include the PhD thesis of Dr. Sanni Väisänen, Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland. According to comparison of the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of different energy sources, the climate impact of energy peat extracted from previously dried eutrophic peatland rich in nutrients is 72.7 g CO2-eq/MJ based on a lifecycle analysis (LCA), which contrasts with the combustion emission figure of 107.5. For reference, the LCA value for coal is 111 g CO2-eq/MJ. Swedish studies show even lower results for peat taken from forestry drained peatlands.
Peat extraction is operated under strict environmental licences issued by national environmental authorities. New environmental protection methods are continuously being researched and developed together with environmental authorities, research institutions and universities.