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    GPB-Keith, Reference query on emissions awareness, it was the odour, a quick glance at the chimney and wind direction made the source obvious. The chimney was complete with suitable stainless steel liner and the distance between stove and stack exit compliant with regs. The problem I suspect is local trees excacerbating problems with inherent inversion characteristics of biomass emissions. I note an application for a biomass energy plant with 65m fluestack detailed the emissions would mainly ground within 3km of site under certain meteoriological conditions a problem they stated would occur irrespective of any increase in fluestack height . Pass thro' a community and the presence of a woodburner becomes obvious due to smell which confirms you are breathing in pollution.
    There appears to be a general problem with biomass emissions buoyancy, could it be due to lower exit temperature, high water content or high solids content ? Agreed downdraught is a problem which adds to concerns regarding sites chosen for biomass combustion. I note a highly subsidised biomass installation adjacent to a hospital ignoring structural impact and with knowledge that the recommendation is biomass combustion should be remote from sensitive receptors.
    GPB-Keith Humble apologies if I have in any way shown disrespect to your position of authority. I came into forum via link, following prompt by steamy tea have checked other forums and realised my error. Again sorry but I do have very deep concerns about combustion processes that create avoidable pollution and feel joined up thinking could protect air quality for future generations.
    Brian W
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2010
    I am also a 4/5, not a 1 as I plan to have a wood stove when retired
    • CommentAuthorGBP-Keith
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2010
    No disrespect has been assumed Brian. My 'authority' as you call it is just practical experience. I have no scientific background but I do hold a great deal of respect for my own intuition and, my intuition says biomass is good. However, I also recognise that there are so very many variables that can come into play causing the issues to be far from clear cut.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010
    "However, I also recognise that there are so very many variables that can come into play causing the issues to be far from clear cut."

    Leaving a big gap for the sceptics to step into.

    This has been one of the most interesting and informative debates of recent weeks, prompting me to look further into the "facts" to inform my own opinions. What's emerged is the growing suspicion that one of the reasons the green lobby finds itself sailing into the wind is that it supports its arguments with factual, numerical evidence which is countered by an opposition armed with what appear to be equally compelling statistics, and we all know what they say about statistics. Just ask the University of East Anglia.

    As a reasonably informed civilian stuck in no-man's land I'm having a problem convincing those less-well-informed non-combatants around me not to worry about half the shells landing around us because they're coming from the side which actually has our best interests at heart.

    If I relied on stastistics to support my convictions I'd have become an anorak ages ago, instead I use the other side of my brain which registers the evidence gathered with my eyes which informs whatever it is that, like you Keith, gives me an intuitive understanding of something being very wrong that needs to be put right. You don't need to be a scientist to apply deductive reasoning, all you need is a pair of eyes to see with, a nose to smell with and half a brain to put the lot together. All you need then is a finger to point out the obvious. It's the process Brian used to good effect.

    I have a sneaking feeling that you number-crunchers are poised to counter the expected deluge of counter-statistics from the other side whenever you go to press. Does that ever beg the question? (Not being facetious here. I am GENUINELY interested to know.)

    And which side was the first to base their arguments on statistics?
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010 edited

    Statistics are used to back up anecdotal evidence and experiments helping making them empirical evidence.
    Statistics have clearly defined rules, limitations and interpretations. There is no mystery to them (though there are a lot of rules to remember). Where people tend to get concerned is with transforming the data, again there are rules to do this that should be adhered to.
    Data collection methods are very important otherwise there is no control, you cannot really, in this context, take samples of flue gasses from a random selection of gas fired heaters and wood burners and hope to get sensible results, rubbish in rubbish out.
    Statistical techniques are used to describe, within bounds, what has happened and can, in some situations, be used as a predictive tool, again with limitation.
    The most important thing to remember is that you cannot apply averages to individuals, the arguments become invalid then. This is why 'best practice' gets applied to processes, which is very apt here.

    But I would say all that as I lecture in statistics (including in the social sciences, a very tricky area).

    Posted By: Joinernon-combatants around me not to worry about half the shells landing around us

    Excellent description of what is going on and I would add that the ones landing around us are the ones that have missed the target.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010 edited
    Trouble is, I know. I fought my way through the module as part of a business degree so know how valuable they can be in the business world, especially when applied to the final semester's major of Strategic Marketing. But business is as dry as dust and the mechanics virtually invisible beyond the shop window, whereas "environmental concerns" are emotive and rouse passions - or should do. Trouble is they don't, well, beyond complaints about our "apparently changing weather patterns" but what's new?

    Warnings about climate change are treated in the same way as warnings about refined flour and burnt toast. Climate change = dietary advice. Droughts = obesity. Floods = continued cancer deaths from tobacco. "Yeah, yeah, I hear you, but I haven't got time to cook fresh foods and my only pleasure is the occasional fag, and 15 stone is the new size 10 and if I didn't smoke I'd be even bigger."

    Bear with me on this parable (and I've got my steel hat on ready for the brickbats)...

    There is a planned wind turbine on the cards for a local site to pump water from a reservoir in Shropshire to that particular water company's customers in South Staffordshire. It's a significant area of natural beauty (aren't they all?) and the turbine will be smack bang in the middle of "the view". When it was mooted (the company citing their green concerns, playing down the financial savings and potential income from feeding excess into the grid) there was considerable opposition from those destined to be its immediate neighbours for no other reason than its being 'unsightly and inappropriate'. The test mast still went up. Local councillors objected and our MP made a token visit. The sun rises directly across the valley from the houses that objected. I sent my MP the link to the 'turbine flicker' video on YouTube. In his letter back he said: "I very much hope that this particular 'by-product' is carefully considered in respect of the proposed turbine at Chelmarsh." On the bottom of the letter he'd written: "I was appalled by the impact of shadow flicker on the property in the you-tube clip." He'll be there at the next objector's meeting. (Oh, and there is no evidence that pv was ever considered.)

    Moral? A picture is worth a million statistics, it's emotive and rouses passions. Statistics are, almost by definition (and you'll have empirical evidence of this - although more to do with the subject than the delivery :wink:) soporific and wide open to spin. It's their fundamental weakness, and you really can't expect much structural support from something with a fundamental weakness.
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010
    50% of the time the turbine will not be visible to the residence as it will be dark.
    Now take into account that some of those residents (a number to be determined) will not be at home 5/7th of the week during the hours of daylight for 6 months of the year and the nuisance value becomes very small to a very small number of people.
    Light flicker only happens on about 30% of the days and only inn a very small time window.
    Add to this that there is the opportunity for the residents to move location (something that is not always possible in other countries) and the 'problem' can almost vanish.

    The flip side to this is the alternatives. 'Business as usual' (coal, gas nuclear, MSW, hydro) or a large PV farm. These have their own issues for local residents.

    Is the proposed turbine near the water works? It does not need to be, and as mentioned on R4 this morning, yet again, the water companies are not doing enough to stop leaks. Could investment on leak control save them an equivalent amount of energy/CO2. Does the CRC rules work against them in this particular case.

    Playing Devil's Advocate a bit here as I would not want a turbine close to my house, the telegraph post outside my house blocks my view, and my view is not a pretty one.
    I am quite happy to analyse data but when it comes to making big decisions on the results it becomes a different matter.

    I still think that statistics play a vital role, but as you point out the environment is an emotive subject and the link between humans and hard science/facts is a hard one to marry.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010
    "I still think that statistics play a vital role, but as you point out the environment is an emotive subject and the link between humans and hard science/facts is a hard one to marry. "

    Nice one. I bet the lecture theatre is full when you're delivering.

    As to the flicker... The sun RISES over the ridge directly opposite the houses, so apparent at the time most people are still around throughout the year. Difficult to pace it out because of access to the fields between, but the turbine will be about 400 yards distance. They could have located it in a far less 'obvious' place behind the village on a site more open to the prevailing winds and which could have given the turbine the status of "landmark" almost on a par with The Angel Of The North (!!), but that would mean a run of cable and negotiations with the landowner concerned, whereas they'd prefer to put it on land they already own - regardless. But perhaps any local difficulties might prompt a rethink.
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010
    Posted By: JoinerNice one. I bet the lecture theatre is full when you're delivering.

    I try and put them off as fast as possible to keep the myths alive :devil:
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010
    As you say ST, they, statistics, are required to form a rounded opinion, trouble is, who's got the time to check them all out. Unscroupulous industry cherry picks the pertinent bits just to promote sales, or destroy competition. To cynical me, I think a several of the "green" measures regularly touted really need careful scrutiny.
    Back to wood burning, I burn wood because, presently I've got a local supply, so not many fuel miles. 25 years ago I planted a selection of native hardwoods, so security for the future, as well as wildlife habitat. I live in the country, so local air quality is not really affected, probably agricultural spray presents a greater threat. I use a highly efficient machine and accompanying store, so comparitively few burns per year. The alternatives for me were LPG, coal, oil, or electricity, unless I wanted to rip the house apart to virtually rebuild, and make it compatible with other modern technology.
    As with most things the answer isn't black or white, it's all the shades of grey. Biomass isn't all bad, some is questionable. Domestic wood stoves perhaps need redesigning, and their use in inner cities curbed. That goes for urban sited large plants too. But would urban dwellers forsake their cars, or park out of town in an effort to improve their air quality, I think not. So why pick on biomass. Think of all that lovely CO, NOx, UFPs and black carbon you're inhaling 24/7 from exhaust fumes. Still don't want to ban the automobile though, still like that out of town hypermarket, off season fruit and veg, and "the Mall". Campaign to shut them instead that would probaly improve air quality more.
    I'll join you if I may, in the dugout Joiner.:wink:
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010
    Whey Ay man, bunk up a bit.
    It is the myths and spin surrounding so-called low carbon energy sources that create concerns.The large subsidies offered appear to obscure the truth. Biomass combustion is a particular concern due to lack of quality control on feedstock and emissions with oportunity for serious abuse creating health and environmental impact.
    The assurances on impact tend to rely on computer modelling which in reality can display serious flaws. Having been involved in scrutinising application data for a biomass project with promise of no local impact then note operational data shows 50% increase in hazardous air pollution and with promise of no noise beyond site boundary becoming a damage limitation exercise.
    My biomass combustion concerns were triggered by being asked to scrutinise a project to burn 72,000 tonnes of timber with 2million tonnes of diesel to produce bio-oil for firing a powerplant with projected 1.8MW output. The EIA justifying the plant was sadly full of holes with local impact far higher than displayed. The proposal included Gov financial input and as I crossed swords with Gov Minister it became obvious they were poorly advised . The characteristics of the oil indicated ph 2.2 with s.g. greater than 1 which would present operational problems especially with chosen site. There were many aspects that displayed impact on health and environment were being ignored.
    The regulatory Authorities appear to lack control on emissions impact, I have studied a number of proposals and they display emissions volume from 4-30,000 cubic metres per MWh all within prescribed limits because chosen control method is concentration of pollutant per cubic metre.
    I note on another forum recommendatios to burn scavenged timber on woodburners and another recommendation is to compress newspapers for burning. It is understood this not only brings carcinogen problems but ignores the knowledge recycling paper saves 70% more energy than burning.
    Biomass is known to produce far higher volumes of the most hazardous air pollution than combustion alternatives( except coal).Straw combustion detailed to produce .78lb/ MMBTU of fine particles, natural gas .00002lb/MMBTU a 39,000 times difference, yes the emissions impact will be subject to reduction in industrial installations but we are not employing best available technique to minimise impact. Why? because it apparently is not considered to be economically viable in UK.
    Owlman- we demonise the car but a quick check on data for a 36MW straw combustion plant details 340 tonnes of NOX pollution/yr. The EU directive for car exhaust emissions likely to be applicable when this plant is onstream shows .06/.08 gms NOX for petrol/diesel car per km. According to my arithmetic the plant pollution equates to 4.857 billion km or 485,700 cars each travelling 10,000 km/yr. Other plants burning waste wood display even greater pollution per MWh.
    I had better stop before proving to be a complete anorak!
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2010 edited
    I am so confused by people building homes of clean "non-toxic" materials, then heating them by methods which emit noxious exhaust gases.

    www.burningissues.org has some interesting North American details. The examples of litigation against persistent wood burners is quite striking - damages awards are up to a few $100,000s.

    So do the people on this forum who burn wood at small scale deny the EU and DEFRA statistics on the harm caused by particulates, and DEFRA's 2007 strategy to reduce the levels? Or do they deny the research showing that older woodstobves and boilers emit extra GHGs, apart from the CO2?
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    I don't think there is any evidence of denial on this forum, certainly not in any of the posts above, David.

    One can find a certain note of despair at having to come to terms with what one has done in ignorance of emerging evidence, unable (as yet) to rectify that error because finances don't allow on the one hand, and on the other an even deeper note of despair at having to go with the lesser of two evils because of the impracticability of installing a greener alternative.

    It's more a sin of omission ('oops') than one of commission ('up yours').

    All of my arguments, perhaps not expressed as clearly as they ought to have been, have been towards trying to advance the idea that the green case could perhaps be more effectively got across to we Joe Public by altering the factors in the equation eco=good to eco=good. Nonsensical until you define the term eco and shift things about a bit.



    Eco_logical=Eco_nomic therefore good.

    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    'The road to ruin is paved with good intentions' :bigsmile:
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    Is that a road well travelled ST ??
    Joiner- you put your argument very well. Unfortunately I think the CO2 argument/media publicity together with substantial Gov/taxpayer funding has pushed the public towards embracing certain technologies that require in depth scrutiny in order to establish full impact . I have researched combustion technologies over recent years but have not unearthed hard facts that support our investment in biomass, in fact each new research paper adds to concerns. What I have found is aggressive support for biomass burning but when challenged to provide independently audited evidence to support their claim of clean emissions they fail to do so or have been known to issue me with the threat "back off or we will arrange to have you sorted out, you are damaging our business" my reply " please provide evidence to back-up your claims because children deserve clean air".
    It is a complex subject and I hope any further investment in combustion technology will only progress after full knowledge based scrutiny, the evidence is available although it requires you to sift through the myths plus there are currently many pressures to ignore what we do not wish to know.
    It is hoped common sense will prevail with the priority being to minimise further degradation of air quality.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    It certainly is :devil:

    I have to agree with Brian about the issues and conflicts in pushing forward this technology. This does not mean that I want to promote the burning of fossil fuels as the only solution, just that the concept of new growth biomass absorbing all the pollutants from biomass combustion is flawed. I wish it was otherwise, but the evidence that my brief research has found is that the negative short term effects of particulates far outweigh the negative long term effects of reduced CO2. I think Keith had a thread about CO2 fatigue on here.

    Whatever stance one takes on an issue, will be countered with very valid arguments against it, that is human nature. It is only by gathering all the relevant evidence together and producing meaningful results that can have real effects and promote change.
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010 edited
    [Sorry ST, our posts have crossed.)

    A few weeks back there was this thread…


    …in which these two posts appeared, saying it far better than I have…

    Tuna: The article may be using some rather poor research, but would anyone claim that the general public have a good understanding of saving energy and resources? The vast majority of people do 'green' things because they have some vague belief that it will do some good. On the whole they don't understand what good, and the relative merits of different actions. The media as a whole encourages this - articles on putting your TV on standby are given as much 'importance' as replacing inefficient boilers, or the possibility of a new power station.

    JTGreen: If you have a limited amount of money, then spending it on insulation versus microgeneration kit may have be set one against the other. But turning off appliances/lights, and replacing boilers and appliances with more energy efficient models, are completely different things and are not counterposed. That is what is so idiotic about this article. Turning off appliances and lights is behavioural change that people can practice immediately and permanently, replacing a boiler is a one off event that may require borrowing, saving and certainly a longer decision-making process to contract . The two go together - if you care enough turn off lights (being mindful of your energy use on a daily basis) then you are more easily persuaded that you should also invest in a new boiler/insulation/microgeneration. On the other hand, if you believe that turning off light and appliances is so fantastically onerous that it is better to waste the energy....what chance of doing something that is more disruptive and actually costs you something, like changing your boiler.

    …It’s that ‘behavioural change’ and the manner in which it might more easily be achieved that JTGreen refers to that is the holy grail. Carrots do have a tendency to attract, whereas sticks provoke not just a flinching reaction which takes the eye off the stick but a resentment which hangs around for quite a while, often leading to a rejection of what's sought. And a 'while' isn’t a timescale anyone can really afford.

    I hate to say this, but I’ve realised that probably the most successful advocates of energy saving are the upvc window salesmen. Doing some of the right things for the wrong reason - money? Is it wrong as long as it works to encourage/increase awareness? They make money by saving people money on their energy bills. Too simple? Does that make it simplistic? Is it really necessary for people to understand what’s needed if they can be encouraged to do what’s needed by appealing to their self-interest and leaving them in ignorance?

    [And Brian, I was sitting in the reading room finishing off a Tom Clancy book and all your travails came to mind (necessitating a re-reading of half a bloody page). This is absolutely true - my wife came in to clean her teeth and asked me why I was chuckling to myself. I said: “There’s a guy on one of the forums whose experiences with the vested interests of the energy companies would make a good sub-plot in one of Clancy’s novels.” What you’ve just said, thanks to Clancy et al I have this distinct mental image of the scene in my head. Do you now avoid dark alleys? Perhaps we should set up a rota to keep watch. I joke, but it ain‘t funny!]
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010 edited
    Ah, vested and self interest, was that not what Adam Smith said in Wealth of Nations.

    “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”

    He also defended smuggling as a legitimate activity in the face of “unnatural” legislation. Smacks of FITs/RHI
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010 edited
    Mutual self-interest:bigsmile:=:bigsmile:
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    "Reading room? " "Wife brushing teeth? " Is that the little room I thinking Joiner? Promise me you'll not call me again fom there, I can't get the picture of where that laptop is resting out of my head?:shocked:
    • CommentAuthorJoiner
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    • CommentAuthoradwindrum
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010
    The problem with this debate is that it is far too complex. People are sitting on wood burning chimney stacks and collecting particle pollution and saying "Ha pollution!".....others are managing ancient woodlands to maximise wildlife and burning some of the spare wood removed from the habitat to keep thier houses warm as they are poor and maybe think that they are doing more good than burning fossil fuels which they believe lead to global impacts beyond their local environs.

    Statistics are being used often without back up references, those that are backed up are snatched from specific research that doesnt take into account many other factors. (scientific papers are open to manipulation due to their specific nature).

    eg Brianwilson selects NOXs to compare cars emisions and a straw burner.

    I think we all agree that pollution is emitted from burning of wood and the evidence is there. Consequently governing bodies will have restrictions and recomendations in place but that doesnt mean it should stop.

    Is the debate about small scale or large scale biomass burning?

    Efficient stoves or inefficient ones?
    The use of grant money?

    Grants given for biomass burners do specify that the burners have to be efficent ones and often fitted by specific companies to maximise efficiency.
    Joiner- Calculating fuel cost in 5 yrs time could possibly cure constipation if that is the problem.
    I heard today Scottish & Southern have announced a 9% plus increase in gas price which is interesting when last week the industry announced they were abandoning gas storage because there is an abundance of gas, wholesale prices are weak and likely to fall. How will they spin this one?
    Biomass combustion concept was founded on use of locally sourced feedstock but add CO2 claims, grants and ROCs and now I understand the bulk of biomass is imported to fulfill demand especially pellets. With the big boys predicting a need for 50 million tonnes/yr to be imported will the speculators move in and cause price havoc ?
    Working in the garden this morning I was cursing emissions impact from near neighbours woodburner but this afternoon wind change so problem goes elsewhere. Where do we go on domestic energy provision?
    • CommentAuthorowlman
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2010 edited
    Posted By: adwindrum
    Is the debate about small scale or large scale biomass burning?
    Efficient stoves or inefficient ones?
    The use of grant money?

    LIke you I'm not clear, Brianwilson it would appear is against ALL woodburning with a particular disike of particulates. 20% of particulate matter I understand comes from transport. 20% from homes, thats ALL homes not just the very few who burn wood. Globally, most NOx comes from natural sources, with man's contribution coming mainly from power generation and transport. SO2 mainly comes from fossil fuels and industrial processes, with coal burning the largest single source. These two combine to produce the majority of secondary particulates in an urban environment. A 2 minute search revealed that lot, I'm no scietist, like you say, and others too, you can skew statistics any which way.
    adwindrum- e.g. Brianwilson selects NOx to compare cars emissions to strawburner. I chose this to illustrate comparitive emissions impact in response to owlman detail on use of cars. NOx is of special concern as it is a precursor to tropospheric ozone, creation of secondary particulates and acid rain.
    Small or large biomass combustion systems create far higher volumes of hazardous pollution than equivalent gas fired systems. Example of reference data can be found in UK.Gov report on comparative emissions published Sep 06. The UK Gov confirmed health impact of biomass combustion in renewables report published 2009.
    Efficient biomass combustion systems still produce far higher fine particle pollution than gas and fine particles are now known as the silent killer and the most hazardous air pollutant with reduction the urgent priority. There is considerable work being done into perfecting an economical filter for smallscale systems but many other concerns surround use of biomass combustion.
    My concern is relative pollution compared with alternative energy sources and need for due diligence in use and siting of combustion systems to minimise impact. Should you feel I have failed to justify concerns please say and will attempt to provide further info.
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