According to the applied research centre CentAR`s socio-economic impact assessment, a biorefinery could be established in Estonia both if the current prescribed cut is maintained or significantly decreased.
If the prescribed cut is lowered, the volume of imported raw material would increase and the volume of exported raw material would decrease. Member of the Management Board of Est-For Invest, Aadu Polli, confirmed that decreasing the prescribed cut does not influence the establishment of the refinery. The planned biorefinery is not dependent on prescribed cut due to its vicinity to the railway, making it possible to increase the proportion of raw material imported from Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus if necessary.
“We would like to say it again to all people of Estonia – not one tree above the national strategy needs to be felled because of the biorefinery. How forest owners feel about lowering the prescribed cut is another matter. The current age structure of forest stands does not support lowering the volume. It is reasonable to adjust the prescribed cut over time based on how forest stands fall into age categories,” he said.
According to the Environment Agency`s 2016 data, the average age of Estonian forest stands is 55 years. 27 per cent of Estonian stands were considered mature. 12 per cent of Estonian forest will become mature by 2026.
“A disproportionally large volume of Estonian forest will be mature or reach a mature age during the next decade. This also applies to the raw material needed in a biorefinery, i.e. pine, spruce and birch. If the average age of these species were ten years younger for example, then Est-For Invest would stand for lowering the prescribed cut. Currently, however, the situation is contrary. It would be in the interests of the forest owners to maintain the current level. At the same time, I repeat, from the point of view of the biorefinery, it does not make much of a difference whether the prescribed cut stays as is or decreases. If the prescribed cut were to decrease in Estonia, then it would be the Latvian forest owners who would gain the most from the situation. They would surely welcome such a decision,” said Polli.
The planned biorefinery`s raw material demand is up to 3.3 million cubic metres of wood raw material a year. One million would come from Estonian and Latvian sawmills` by-products i.e. wood chips and 2.3 million from pulpwood from Estonia and Latvia and to a lesser extent, also Lithuania and Belarus. 7.7 million cubic metres of raw material suited for a biorefinery is currently exported from our region to Scandinavia every year. So, the volume of suitable raw material circulating in the region is more than double what the refinery would use. Long-term availability of raw material analysis is one of the many studies carried out during the spatial planning and the research that will be completed will give full confidence regarding availability of raw material.
In March of 2017, Est-For Invest introduced the socio-economic impact study conducted by the applied research centre CentAR. The study is available here. Data from the Environmental Agency is used for Estonian forest stands` age structure, which is available here.