Carnethy Woodfuel News and Offers

Coffee Logs

attachments Coffee Logs

Carnethy Woodfuel are extremely excited about selling Coffee logs in addition to our traditional hardwood logs and briquettes.

Each log is made from the grounds of approximately 25 cups of coffee which come from coffee shops, restaurants and instant coffee factories in the UK.

The logs smell slightly of coffee when not in use, but when they are burned they smell similar to wood.

They burn 20 per cent hotter and brighter than wood and emit 80 per cent less carbon than burning kiln-dried wood.

By burning waste coffee oil it also reduces the amount of coffee grounds go to landfill where they emit methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Reducing waste and finding ways to be kinder to the environment is a priority for Carnethy Woodfuel, so this pioneering product fits perfectly with our plans for recycling and waste reduction.

Bio-bean, a clean technology company, came up with the idea for the new fuel six years ago, when it was noticed that cold coffee gathered a film of oil.

They’re made from your recycled coffee grounds, and are ideal for use in stoves, open fires, woodburners and chimineas.

The UK produces 500,000 tonnes of waste coffee grounds each year. bio-bean collects this coffee waste from cafes, coffee chains and office blocks all over the UK, and uses it to manufacture Coffee Logs at the world’s first coffee recycling factory in Cambridgeshire. This diverts waste away from landfill, and reduces emissions that contribute to climate change.

So if you’re looking for a fuel that can heat your home while helping the planet, try Coffee Logs this winter.

Each log is made from the grounds of around 25 cups of coffee and are manufactured in the UK.


Best firewood for use in pizza ovens

Impact of the Clean Air Act 2019

In an effort to tackle air pollution, the UK government published its Clean Air Strategy 2019 this January. The document itself is a lengthy pledge to reduce the percentage of airborne pollutants across a variety of sectors by 2020 and 2030. It was inspired by recommendations made by the World Health Organisation and states that air pollution poses one of the greatest current risks to public health, as well as being extremely detrimental to the environment and, by extension, the economy.

Since the Clean Air Strategy 2019 was published, there have been a lot of misconceptions about what the new regulatory framework will mean for those wanting to burn open fires or heat their homes with woodburning stoves. Some media outlets have helped to create the impression that all open fires and stoves will be banned in the coming years. However, this is not the case. The government has absolutely no intention of banning the public from burning wood as part of its new air pollution strategy. It merely wants to restrict the types of fuel used in such situations to reduce the percentage of pollutants in our atmosphere.

According to a BBC report, pollution caused by wood or coal burned in the home contributes over twice as many harmful participates as industrial combustion and three times the volume caused by road transport. It is this excess that the new measures aim to curtail.

As part of the government initiative, only the sale of environmentally sound stoves will be permitted and clean fuel with a moisture content of less than 20 per cent must be burned. There will also be a greater drive to make sure people are only burning smokeless coal and low sulphur fuels.

The Clean Air Strategy identifies sulphur dioxide from coal as being one of the biggest threats to health associated with air pollution. It cites the London smog of 1952, attributing between 8,000 and 12,000 fatalities to the quantity of the pollutant in the metropolis. Whilst the regulations effect on the general fire-burning public will be minimal, the measures will certainly impact the sale of firewood from vendors such as petrol stations – renowned for flogging sacks of damp wood all year round. Instead, those wishing to buy firewood should head to a reputable supplier such as Carnethy Woodfuel for their fuel needs.

Therese Coffey, the UK’s Environment Minister, stated of the strategy prior to the publication of the Clean Air Strategy 2019: “While we will never be able to eliminate all particulate matter, by switching to cleaner fuels, householders can reduce the amount of harmful pollution to which they unwittingly expose themselves, their families and the environment, while still enjoying the warmth and pleasure of a fire.”

Get Ahead of the Game Now

There are loads of things you can do today to get yourself ready for the regulations detailed in the Clean Air Strategy 2019. Follow the guidelines below and the good habits you pick up will make the eventual transition an absolute breeze!

Use Ready-to-Burn Fuel from a Reputable Supplier

Always source your wood from a trusted supplier of firewood. As tempting as it might be to break down that old couch or bookshelf and save a few quid, you will be running foul of Clean Air Strategy regulations by doing so. It should go without saying that plastics should be avoided too. New regulations aside, who would want to sit breathing plastic fumes in their living room!?

Store Your Wood Correctly

It’s no good buying all that beautiful dry, regulatory-compliant wood if you’re not going to store it correctly. The best way to keep your wood in the best, ready-to-burn condition possible is by using a purpose-built log store. Such constructions range from the ultra-compact at £100 or less, right through to the most extravagant and grandiose, costing thousands. Which you go for will ultimately depend on the amount of wood you want to store, your budget, and the space limitations of your property. Of course, if you’re handy in the tool shed, you can always knock one up yourself too.

A great resource for those looking to buy a log store to keep their wood dry year-round is WhatShed. Check out their detailed listings and reviews here

Sweep Your Chimney

Sweeping your chimney at least once a year will prevent the build up of particulates that can contribute to air pollution and, in more extreme situations, chimney fires. Contact a qualified chimney sweep. They’ll not get rid of all that nasty build up but will likely give you other pointers on how to reduce your environmental impact when using your wood burner too.

So, I Can Definitely Still Use My Stove, Right?

Yes, of course you can! You just need to make sure that the wood you burn in it is untreated and has less than 20 per cent moisture content and we all know, this burns best anyway! That said, if you were planning on buying a new wood burning stove, make sure it meets the minimum environmental requirements. The Department of Environmental and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Stove Industry Alliance recommends using SIA Eco design Ready stoves, which are certainly exempt from the regulatory measures. 

What About My Open Indoor Fire?

The government has not commented specifically on open fires. However, DEFRA does acknowledge that they produce much more smoke than an efficient, modern wood burning stove. Until further word is given in relation to open fires, the applicable guidelines above should be followed.

The above information has been prepared by WhatShed who specialise in sheds and garden buildings. If you are looking to purchase a log shed then we would recommend having a look here

Which hardwoods and softwoods to burn

There are a myriad of wood types to choose from, all of which have their own burning qualities and properties and although there are references to burning green wood in this guide, we would stress that for the most efficient and effective burn in your wood burning stove only very dry wood should be used. This is a personal guide, and by no means comprehensive.

AlderProduces poor heat output and it does not last well.Poor
AppleA very good wood that bums slow and steady when dry, it has small flame size, and does not produce sparking or spitting.Good
AshReckoned by many to be one of best woods for burning, it produces a steady flame and good heat output. It can be burnt when green but like all woods, it burns best when dry.Very good
BeechBurns very much like ash, but does not burn well when green.Very good
BirchProduces good heat output but it does burn quickly. It can be burnt unseasoned, however the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use.Good
CedarIs a good burning wood that produces a consistent and long heat output. It burns with a small flame, but does tend to crackle and spit and the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use.Good
CherryIs a slow to burn wood that produces a good heat output. Cherry needs to be seasoned well.Good
ChestnutA poor burning wood that produces a small flame and poor heat output.Poor
Firs (Douglas etc)A poor burning wood that produces a small flame and poor heat output and the sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use.Poor
ElmIs a wood that can follow several burn patterns because of high moisture content, it should be dried for two years for best results. Elm is slow to get going and it may be necessary to use a better burning wood to start it off. Splitting of logs should be done early.Medium
EucalyptusIs a fast burning wood. The sap can cause deposits to form in the flue and can increase the risk of a chimney fire if burned unseasoned.Poor
HawthornIs a good traditional firewood that has a slow burn with good heat output.Very good
HazelIs a good but fast burning wood and produces best results when allowed to season.Good
HollyIs a fast burning wood that produces good flame but poor heat output. Holly will burn green, but best dried for a minimum of a year.Poor
HornbeamA good burning wood that burns similar to beech, slow burn with a good heat output.Good
Horse ChestnutA good wood for burning in wood stoves but not for open fires as it does tend to spit a lot.  It does however produce a good flame and heat output.Good (For stoves only)
LaburnumA very smokey wood with a poor burn.Poor do not use
LarchProduces a reasonable heat output, but it needs to be well seasoned. The sap can cause deposits to form in the flue with prolonged use.Medium
LaurelBurns with a good flame but only reasonable heat output. It needs to be well seasoned.Medium
LilacIts smaller branches are good to use as kindling, the wood itself burns well with a good flame.Good
MapleIs a good burning wood that produces good flame and heat output.Good
OakBecause of its density, oak produces a small flame and very slow burn, it is best when seasoned for a minimum of two years as it is a wood that requires time to season well.Good
PearBurns well with good heat output, however it does need to be seasoned well.Good
Pine(Including Leylandii) Burns with a good flame, but the resin sap can cause deposits to form in the flue and can increase the risk of a chimney fire must be well seasoned.Good (with caution)
PlumA good burning wood that produces good heat output.Good
PoplarA very smokey wood with a poor burn.Very poor
RowanIs a good burning wood that has a slow burn with good heat output.Very good
Robinia (Acacia)Is a good burning wood that has a slow burn with good heat output. It does produce an acrid and dense smoke but this is of course not a problem in a stove.Good  (For Stoves only)
SpruceProduces a poor heat output and it does not last well.Poor
SycamoreProduces a good flame, but with only moderate heat output. Should only be used well-seasoned.Medium
Sweet ChestnutThe wood burns ok when well-seasoned but it does tend to spit a lot. This is of course not a problem in a stove.Medium (For Stoves only)
ThornIs one of the best woods for burning. It produces a steady flame and very good heat output, and produces very little smoke.Very good
WillowA poor fire wood that does not burn well even when seasoned.Poor
YewA good burning wood as it has a slow burn, and produces a very good heat output.Very good

Hardwood Logs versus Softwood logs

Hardwood Logs or Softwood Logs

For the purposes of firewood, hardwoods are most commonly oak, ash, elm, beech, birch, sycamore, aspen, cherry and alder. Of course there are many more hardwood species.

These are broadleaved deciduous trees and they tend to be slower growing and the wood is more dense and heavier than softwoods.

Softwoods used for firewood in the UK are mostly spruce, pine, fir and larch (There are several sub-species of each).

Softwood trees tend to be faster growing and the wood is less dense and lighter than hardwoods. The wood has more resin which may spit when burnt, so it is not really suitable for an open fire, but when dry, is perfect for stoves. The resin adds to the calorific value.

Hardwoods and softwoods have almost identical calorific value for a given moisture content and weight.

The difference to note is weight: the average density of UK hardwoods is about 700kg per solid cubic metre whilst the average density of softwoods is about 500kg per solid cubic metre. This means that you need about 1.35 cubic metres of softwood to be the equivalent of 1.0 cubic metre of hardwood.

So, there is no difference in calorific value (weight for weight, mc for mc) between hardwood and softwood, it’s just that you need about 30% more volume of softwood than hardwood for the same heat output.

Kiln Dried Logs

There are a few businesses kiln drying logs in the UK, but the majority of kiln dried logs sold in the UK are imported from Europe. Some of this is very good and of excellent quality and consistency. Clearly logs of this quality are more expensive than you would be paying your local log supplier.

Seasoned Logs

Trees should be felled over winter whilst the moisture content is lowest. They are then processed into logs and stored in open mesh log bags or wooden crates inside open sided barns where the natural movement of air dries them during summer months ready for use the next winter.

Beware of logs that are being processed on a just-in-time basis for sale immediately. Their moisture content is sure to be between 28% and 50%.

Fresh Felled Timber

Trees are felled over winter when the sap (water) within the tree is at its lowest. The moisture content over winter is usually between 30% and 50% so it is necessary to reduce the moisture content to around 20%.

Recently felled trees are hopeless for burning as the fire has to use lots of energy just to dry the wood before it will burn properly.

Wet firewood can be extremely damaging when mixed with coal. Most coal and smokeless fuel has a high sulphur content. When water from the wood combines with sulphur, then sulphurous acid forms on the cooler surfaces within your system leading to rapid damage of metals.

Damp wood burnt alone leads to soot deposits in the chimney, blackening of the stove glass and much more wood is required for the same level of heat.

Quality Assurance

After 200 years of burning fossil fuels in the UK, wood is at last moving back into mainstream use for space and water heating.

This is greatly encouraged by the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) that pays householders to produce renewable heat.

In order to maximise the calorific value of wood fuel, and therefore its effectiveness, it is essential that the supply is consistent in moisture content and size.

HETAS and Woodsure have just launched a Quality Assurance Scheme for biomass based on the Draft European Standard. Firewood log production can be assessed under this scheme and that will give customers confidence that their HETAS assured supplier consistently produces wood fuel to exacting standards required by modern biomass stoves and their ever more informed and discerning owners.

Burning fuel is all about calorific value, and in particular the cost in terms of pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh). Given this figure you can compare value between fuel products and suppliers.

Wood Briquettes: Modern wood burning stoves and open fires work exceptionally well with wood briquettes. If you can buy good quality briquettes for a similar cost to firewood logs (p/kWh) then briquettes will give a hotter, longer, more controllable burn, be easier and cleaner to handle and will take up less space to store than logs. What’s more, most briquettes are made from softwoods and it is far better for the environment if we burn a sitka spruce tree than an oak tree.

Here are some of the more common sources of confusion:

One tonne builder’s dumpy bag: It’s not a tonne of wood you get, as some suppliers claim, more like 220kg if it’s hardwood dried to 20% moisture content, and it’s not “nearly one cubic metre”, more like 0.56/0.75 cubic metre.

Crate measuring 1m x 1m x 1.9m: That’s the outside measurement but you don’t get 1.9 cubic metres of firewood, more like 1.6 when you measure the internal stack.

Truck, pickup, trailer load: It’s open to interpretation as to how much you’re getting. It may be good value but it’s taking a lot on trust, so assess it carefully. At least there is no packaging, but now you have to carry and stack.

Seasoned for one/two years: Perhaps, but what is the moisture content (mc)? Under 20%mc and it is ready to burn now. Over 25% and the calorific value starts to plummet, and the steam to rise.

Burning damp or green wood is very bad for your stove and can cause the flue to tar up quickly.

Signs of a good briquette

Choosing the right briquette

Different stoves and flue set-ups create different burning characteristics and we have learned it is impossible to guess which briquette is going to suit your stove and your lifestyle.

Compression: The compression used to manufacture a briquette affects how it burns and how much dust and debris might come off as it is handled. Cheap briquettes are almost always made with poor quality machines running at low compression rates. High quality briquettes are made using more complex machinery working to very high compaction rates of over 1,000kg/m3. The result is briquettes of high calorific value that hold their shape and burn long and hot.

Calorific value: We compare calorific value in terms of kilowatt hours per tonne (kWh/tonne) as this enables an easy comparison to be made with other heating fuels such as coal, gas and oil. As rough guide, traditional logs have a calorific value of around 4,100 kWh/tonne (depending on moisture content and tree species) whilst good quality briquettes have a calorific value of between 4,800 and 5,500 kWh/tonne depending on compaction and tree species
(Note: 5,500kWh/tonne is the same as 5.5kWh/kg).

Max. ash content:
The amount of ash left behind after burning is what is left in the ash pan for you to dispose of. Less ash results from virgin timber processed after the tree bark has been removed, however some bark can add to the calorific value and lots of bark (pure bark briquettes as high as 4% ash) can help retain heat in your stove for longer periods and even overnight. Bark contains more silica than clean timber and it is the silica that creates ash.

Max. water content: Wood briquettes generally have a water content (moisture content) of under 10%. Most high quality briquettes are dried down to under 6%. Traditional logs by comparison are considered suitable for burning when below 20% and most winter purchased logs are around 30% moisture content, that’s a lot of water to evaporate. Generally, the drier the better as combustion goes to generate heat rather than to drive off moisture prior to the fuel being able to produce any heat for you.

Product Standards: There are European standards to which best quality briquettes are made. This gives you confidence that the manufacturer is producing a briquette that complies with European standards relating to composition, traceability, environmental sustainability and product quality. The standards to look for are: ÖNORM M7135 (Austria) or DIN51731 (Germany). The EU and British Standard equivalents are BS EN 15210-1 2009 and BS EN 15210-2 2010.

Pack size:  Most pack weights are around 10kg, but some are 12kg, some 15kg and others 20kg. Clearly this needs to be taken into account when comparing prices between products.

UK Government announces plans to extend Renewable Heating Initiative

On Nov. 25, the U.K. government published its spending review, which includes details of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s budget for the next four years. The budget includes seed funding for renewable energy technologies and funding for the Renewable Heat Incentive.

According to information published by the DECC, the government will extend RHI funding to £1.15 billion ($1.74 billion) in 2021 and reform the program to improve value for money. In his spending review and autumn statement of 2015 speech, Chancellor George Osborne indicated reforms to the RHI will deliver £700 million in savings.

Regarding energy, Osborne also noted the U.K. plans to permanently exempt energy intensive industries, like steel and chemicals, from the cost of environmental tariffs. In addition, he said the government will introduce a cheaper energy efficiency scheme to replace the Energy Company Obligation. According to Osborne, the U.K. also intends to exclude energy generation from the venture capital schemes in order to ensure that they remain well targeted at higher risk companies.

While Osborne noted the government will double its spending on energy research, a significant portion of that spending will be directed towards small, modular nuclear reactors. “We’re also supporting the creation of the shale gas industry by ensuring that communities benefit from a Shale Wealth Fund, which could be worth up to £1 [billion],” he said. “Support for low-carbon electricity and renewables will more than double,” he added.

“We support the international efforts to tackle Climate Change, and to show our commitment to the Paris talks next week, we are increasing our support for climate finance by 50 percent over the next five years,” Osborne said. However, he also noted the DECC’s day-to-day resource budget will fall by 22 percent.

“Britain’s new energy scheme will save an average of £30 a year from the energy bills of 24 million households,” Osborne continued.

Information released by the DECC states funding to its innovation program will double, bringing it to £500 million over the next five years. The increase is expected to strengthen the future energy supply, reduce the costs of decarbonization, and boost industrial and research capabilities. According to the DECC, funding to the innovation program is expected to help position the U.K. as an international leader in small, modular nuclear reactors. Funding to the program will also deliver on seed funding for promising renewable energy technologies and smart grids. More than £11 billion will be provided to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to continue its work to clean up historic nuclear sites.

“My priority is to deliver secure, affordable, clean energy supplies that hardworking families and businesses across the country can rely on, now and in the future,” said Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd. “As we transition to a low-carbon economy as cost effectively as possible, finding new sources of energy that are cheap, reliable and clean is essential, which is why we are boosting our spending on innovation and backing the industries of the future.

“We will continue taking action to keep consumer bills down. We will also double our spending on renewable heat and electricity over the next five years as we invest in new infrastructure fit for the 21st century to ensure our long-term energy security,” Rudd continued.

Responding to the release of the spending review, Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the U.K. Renewable Energy Association, said, “We welcome the government’s commitment to renewable heat and pleased they have listened to industry and our members, but the devil will be in the detail.”

“Our members recognized the need to make savings and presented to Treasury and DECC how we could optimize the RHI budget. A £700m cut is large, but we look forward to working with the government on reforming this crucial area,” Skorupska continued. “We still have a large challenge in hitting our renewable heat targets, and the RHI alone won’t achieve it, heat networks, energy efficiency and Green Gas still have a large part to play.”

“We cautiously welcome the announcement on the continuation of the RHI,” said Julian Morgan-Jones, chairman of the Wood Heat Association. “The growth of biomass boilers has pushed out dirty oil and has saved money for off-grid domestic consumers who have limited options for how to heat their homes.”

“Biomass boilers represent one of the most cost-effective routes to our 2020 heat targets,” Morgan-Jones continued. “Since 2011 over 24,700 biomass heating systems have been installed in homes, schools, hospitals, community buildings, and food production. Biomass heat is an outstanding success story for policy intervention in the problematic area of heating. The sector is developing a mature supply chains and requires stability to continue to drive costs down. Doing so can provide low cost, low carbon heating for rural communities alongside jobs and economic benefit.”

Wood briquettes versus Logs

Wood Briquettes versus Logs

They burn hotter and cleaner, are cheaper to buy, and much easier to store and handle – so why do so few people with open fires and wood-burning stoves use recycled wood briquettes to heat their home?

Big in Europe, but still largely untried by many fire users in the UK – particularly in the south – those selling them claim that once you have tried briquettes, you’ll never go back to hauling piles of logs off your drive.

Briquettes deliver around 50% more heat for each pound spent than logs. They also have strong environmental credentials as they are made from waste wood produced as part of the furniture or other wood-related businesses – or in some cases collected from skips. Burning wood is generally considered a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuel because trees absorb carbon as they grow. The Environmental writer Chris Goodal has done the sums and heats his home using wood pellets – similar to briquettes – made from UK wood. The Drax coal power station burns pellets shipped from the US on the basis that the carbon savings are more than 80% once the life cycle of the trees are taken into account.

Briquette producers take sawdust and other shredded wood, apply 10,000psi (pounds per square inch) of pressure, and out pop briquettes. They are almost entirely natural – the lignin molecules in the wood melt under the pressure and bind the wood chip and dust together. They come in a variety of shapes from a number of providers, and in initial tests by Guardian Money they perform fantastically well in wood-burners. One briquette can last up to four hours, and big users will find they save around £150 a year compared to buying conventional logs.

Rowland Parke, director of the Dumfries-based Wood Fuel Co-operative says people in the UK are finally starting to wake up to the benefits of briquettes. “We are selling more and more of them, particularly in the past year or so. Once people try them they soon stop buying logs locally. They are cleaner and easier to store, and take up around half the space of a log pile. Until you have tried one you won’t believe how much heat they can deliver,” he says.

The moisture content of most briquettes is 10% or less, meaning they burn better and cause fewer chimney and flue problems. Logs sold in the UK generally have much higher levels of moisture – 20% in well-seasoned wood, and up to 50% in other cases, Parke says.

The co-op was set up by a group of like-minded people to gain bulk-buy discounts. It started selling briquettes in 2012, and they are now its biggest seller. Parke says some of the briquettes come from the Verdo plant 90 miles away in Grangemouth, but the majority arrive by ship from eastern Europe – particularly Latvia and Estonia.

Stuart Fitzgerald, managing director of online supplier White Horse Energy is another big fan. “Until recently you could draw a line across the UK: southerners all ordered nice-looking kiln-dried wood, while all our briquette orders came from the north. Now that’s changing, partly because of a growing awareness that briquettes can deliver more heat for the money.”

He says you have to keep them in a dry place as if they expand rapidly if they get wet. When they burn they leave around 1% of their original volume as ash, meaning you don’t have to empty the stove as often.

Wood Pellets for Heating

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets can be made from a range of wood biomass materials. Besides wood biomass, other types of pellets (non wood pellets) can be made from paper, cardboard, grain, straw, corn husks, production waste and all manner of things. The process for making biomass wood pellets is principally the same that is used for other materials.

What is a Wood Pellet?

A wood pellet is simply biomass wood materials that have been shredded into sawdust and then highly compressed through a die cast (using hydraulic machines) to create a cylindrical pellet shape (form). The wood pellet is bound together by the naturally occurring lignin in the wood. In the UK, most wood pellets are formed formed in 6mm or 8mm sizes and are generally around a centimeter or two in length.

Wood biomass used in the production of wood pellets can come from virgin or from waste materials used in industry – like sawdust (from processing) or waste off cuts for example in a furniture making factory. Before virgin or waste wood can be made into a wood pellet it is broken down into finer particles. Larger pieces of wood are first run through a chipping machine to break them down into fine particles. The finer the particle the stronger the pellet and the greater the energy it will produce.

Wood pellets are recognised as one of the best sources of sustainable, eco-friendly fuel available. In comparison to the likes of oil and gas, wood pellets are pure, sustainable, and emit considerably less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

How are wood pellets better for the environment?

Wood pellet fuel is considered to be carbon neutral. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during their lifecycle. When the plant is burned, the same amount of carbon dioxide is then released back into the atmosphere. The cycle then begins again when the replacement plants begin to grow.

How much carbon dioxide is produced in comparison with other heating fuels?

Including manufacturing and transportation costs, it is estimated that burning wood pellets produces 34g carbon dioxide per KiloWatt Hour of heat produced (g/kWh).


Local Wood Pellets34
Imported Wood Pellets52
Local Wood Chip64
Ground Source Heat Pumps123

Adapted from “The Carbon Balance of Woodfuel”, Northern Woodheat, 2010.


The process of manufacturing wood pellets is comparatively simple, as it is essentially the compression of sawdust into a pellet. This requires little energy in manufacturing terms and emits minimal carbon dioxide when compared with processes such as oil refining.

With the increase in popularity of wood pellets over recent years it has become necessary to import quantities of wood pellet fuel into the country. Even taking into account the additional transport in this process the amount of embedded carbon dioxide in imported wood pellets is minimal compared to all other popular fuel types – even including locally sourced wood chip.

The newly introduced BSL (Biomass Suppliers List) standards ensure that wood pellets produce two thirds less CO₂ than fossil fuels.

Using wood pellets and biomass as your primary source of fuel has many advantages, from the reduced C02 emissions to the price stability of this type of fuel.

Advantages of using wood pellets

  • Reduced carbon emissions – much less than oil, log, coal or gas-fired boilers
  • Equivalent heat to traditional fossil fuels
  • Wood pellets are much more price stable than many other forms of fuel
  • Available on demand and are now extensively produced within the UK
  • Wood pellet boilers are now extremely advanced and can operate up to a 95% efficiency rate
  • Pellet boilers are widely used across Europe as a favourable alternative to gas or oil
  • Wood pellets can be used by those who are not currently on the national grid
  • Easy to switch to wood pellets as boilers are similar to oil-fired boilers
  • Boilers are low maintenance and easy to control, through automatic settings
  • Wood pellets burn cleanly and are more convenient than logs or wood chip
  • Wood pellets fall under the Renewable Heating Initiative meaning that users can receive payments for the energy they produce

Scotland’s Forest and Timber Strategy

Scotland’s Forest and Timber Strategy

Current Forest & Timber industries in Scotland include the following activities:

Nurseries, Forestry, Timber Processing, Engineered Timber Products, Pulp & Paper, Fibre & Particleboard, Furniture & finished products, Wood Energy (biomass) and Forest Tourism.

These naturally low-carbon industries play an important role in the Construction, Renewable Energy and Tourism industries that capitalise on the inherent sustainability strengths of timber.

Employment: 19,000 direct and 38,500 indirect.

GVA: £1bn direct and 1.67bn indirect. Approx £0.5bn is generated by the growth & processing of home-grown timber.

Potential GVA in 2025: £2.1bn (Growth from 1995 – 2010: 4% per annum).

Investment in Processing 2000-2010: £0.5bn – world class, modern and efficient facilities.

Trees absorb substantial amounts of carbon, and wood products from forests store carbon and reduce the impact of climate change. Forests are unique in having this double benefit: the more economic activity, the greater the environmental benefit.

Forests cover 17% of Scotland’s Land area. (Government target: 25% by 2050). Accelerating new planting could mean that Scotland delivers more than half of the UK’s total forest industry carbon absorption (7.7 MTCo2 per year).

56% of Britain’s trees are in Scotland. In 2008/9 13,000 ha was planted but most of this was re-stocking and only 3,400 ha was new planting of which only 1,200 ha was of commercial species.

2.7m green tonnes were processed by Scottish sawmills in 2009.

Key Facts

Forests provide an accessible natural environment and tourism amenity for activities such as walking and mountain biking. In addition, the increasing use of sustainable, environmentally friendly materials like timber, both for renewable energy production, and in sustainable construction, has the potential to make a significant contribution and impact.

More importantly, carbon captured by trees as they grow is subsequently locked up for the lifetime of any timber product, whatever use it is put to. Scotland’s forest & timber industries have the capacity to grow by 30% during the next decade.

Scottish Ministers recognise the potential of this sector and will continue to encourage innovation in the use of timber and timber products from Scotland. We will continue to bring businesses together with research, processors and consumer bodies to explore what is technically possible, and to answer the needs of consumers and end-users.

Scotland’s forest and timber industries are one of Scotland’s “hidden assets”. Employing around 40,000 people, and generating £1.7 billion for the economy, these industries play a very important role not just in Scotland’s rural areas, but also to a number of key supply chains in the transition to a Low Carbon economy, thus contributing to sustainable economic growth.

Spanning the complete lifecycle of wood, the industries encompass the growing of tree seedlings, the planting, managing and harvesting of forests, manufacturing activities such as sawmilling, pulp and paper production, panel and board manufacturing, and the development and production of higher value goods such as engineered wood products, as well as renewable energy production from forest and processing co-products, wood chips and pellets.

Timber has over 5,000 uses, with each of us using the equivalent of 12 trees a year in our everyday lives. Products include paper & packaging, furniture, sustainable construction materials and even clothing.

Wood energy is the largest renewable energy sector in the EU providing 66% of all the renewables used. In Scotland, 90% of our renewable heat comes from wood energy. In the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 we set ourselves the objective of reducing CO2 emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

The Forest and Timber industries make a significant contribution to Scotland, and they have done so throughout history. Scotland was once a densely forested country whose forests had grown up naturally over many years. The agricultural revolution saw the clearance of many wooded areas in favour of crops and livestock; and the wood was used for construction, fuel, and to supply emerging industries of the industrial revolution, such as mining and the railways. Such has been the demand for timber that Scotland’s forests diminished to only a small area of land.

In 1919, the Government established the Forestry Commission to plant large areas of woodlands across the UK to replenish the depleted forests. This first initiative was followed after the Second World War by a further wave of private as well as public sector planting.

Fast growing conifers were the favoured species in the new plantations. As a result, Scotland subsequently developed a wood processing industry based on the harvest of this conifer crop. Pulp and panel industries followed, developing a range of products for the paper, packaging, furniture and construction industries – and our modern forest and timber industries were born.

However, despite these waves of new forest creation, only 12% of UK land is currently used for forests and woodlands, whilst across Europe the average is 37%.

Scotland fares slightly better at 17% coverage, but even if doubled, this figure would still be lower than the European average. Woodlands, by their very existence, provide multiple benefits; they create places for recreation, help to promote

health through cleaner air, and provide good habitats in which wildlife can thrive and a diverse environment can flourish.

Perhaps most importantly of all, our forests absorb much of the carbon generated in other parts of the economy and so provide an increasingly important way of mitigating climate change. A larger forest industry offers a big opportunity to support climate change mitigation – indeed, recent research shows that as much as 10% of all carbon emissions in the UK could be absorbed through an expanded forest industry based on more wooded and forested areas.

The Scottish Forest Industries Cluster, now known as Scottish Forest & Timber Technologies, was set up in 2000 with the aim of improving the competitiveness of the industry and increasing the market demand for wood products. Thanks to the planting programmes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the forest industries faced

what was then described as a “wall of wood”. The chief concern therefore was to increase the processing capacity to utilise the predicted high volumes of timber that would shortly be available.

The UK is ranked second in Europe for paper and wood product consumption and is therefore an attractive and important export market for forest product manufacturers throughout the world. The market has the potential for continued growth over the coming decades, particularly in relation to timber based in low-carbon and sustainable construction, and renewable energy opportunities. The Scottish industry therefore needs to be clearly market focussed, and alert to new opportunities. It must also be competitive, innovative and have a supply chain fit to maintain, and grow, market share.

Today, we benefit from a modern, growing industry with sustainability at its core. It has the potential to double it’s economic and environmental contribution to Scotland within a generation.

Home grown Scottish timber 

The use of home grown timber has been increasing steadily. This comes from sustainably managed forests with around 80% able to carry internationally recognised labels of environmental sustainability such as the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification PEFC.

This certification means that forests have been carefully planted, maintained and harvested according to exacting standards that have been independently set and monitored. These standards ensure that new trees are planted to replace those that are removed for manufacturing. They also include a certified chain of custody that tracks the timber through every stage in the supply chain from the forest to the final user. Using home grown timber is environmentally friendly, keeping to a minimum the embodied energy of transport and distribution. Home grown forest products are now produced – and value added – in world class manufacturing facilities.

The Economic Contribution. 

Forests and woodlands play an increasingly important role in our communities and society. It is estimated that over £1bn of social and environmental benefits are generated by the UK’s forests and woodlands, and the use of forests for recreation is worth around £400m to the UK per annum. Recent performance statistics of the Forest & Timber industries indicate economic growth. The sector encompasses a wide range of business’s that use both imported and home grown timber and include sawmilling, wood panels, pulp and paper, pallets, bioenergy (firewood, biomass, and pellets), furniture, construction, crafts, garden and home improvement, and recovered wood and fibre.

The forest and timber industries contribute to the economy both directly and indirectly. The direct economic impact of the forest industries has seen considerable growth over the past decade. The Gross Value Added (GVA) of the forestry & timber industries in Scotland has risen robustly, growing by an average of 4% per cent annually to stand at £1bn, or 1.1 per cent of the Scottish economy.

Whilst employment in the industry has fallen, this is a direct consequence of the significant capital investment that the entire supply chain has made in highly efficient, automated machinery and processing lines. Employment now stands at around 19,000.

In terms of the indirect impact (upon suppliers, downstream industry and expenditure by those employed within the industry itself) there has been a similar annual growth. The total economic impact of the forest industries upon the Scottish economy represents GVA of £1.67 bn and accounts for around 38,500 jobs.

Our vision to 2025, in which we double the size of the industry, would see continued growth of 4% per annum over the next fifteen years. In economic terms, doubling the size of the forest and timber industries in Scotland could add more than £1.1bn to GVA and create a further 10,000 jobs. This sector has been a traditionally strong contributor to the Scottish economy and has evolved, developed and invested significantly over the past century, particularly in the past two decades.

Given the past rate of growth, we consider it to be achievable with the right level of support and enthusiasm from within the sector, Government and its agencies. 

Environmental Factors 

Woodland creation has the potential to provide highly cost-effective and achievable abatement of greenhouse gas emissions compared with potential options in other sectors.

Carbon storage in UK forests has been declining as a result of new-planting rates falling and younger forests, which sequester more carbon than older forests, maturing. Stepping up the new woodland planting rate would help to reverse this decline.

Creating new forests would help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in other ways, for example, by reducing the use of nitrogen fertilisers, which require a high fossil fuel input in their manufacture, and by reducing the emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from the land.

If the market for wood construction products continues to grow at its current rate over the next 10 years, there is the potential to store an estimated additional 10 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon (equivalent to 36.7 Mt Co2) in new and refurbished homes by 2019.

Within the next five years, sustainably produced woodfuel has the potential to save the equivalent of approximately seven million tonnes of Co2 emissions per year by replacing fossil fuels. The report says the use of biomass for heating provides one of the most cost-effective and environmentally acceptable ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Low-Carbon Contribution 

The climate change agenda provides a major opportunity to enhance the contribution that trees and timber make towards the low carbon economy, energy security and the environment. Growing forests absorb substantial amounts of carbon and their wood products continue to store carbon for their lifetime. This is a unique industry: the more economic activity, the greater the environmental benefit. Forests are unique in having this double benefit – in contrast with other land uses or alternative industrial products.

Compared to agriculture, trees require minimal amounts of energy and nutrients to grow – rainfall and sunlight being the main requirements. Compared to most alternative materials, timber contains low embodied energy and offers low carbon solutions for a wide range of needs.

If we are to deal with climate change we will need to use all avenues open to us. It is clear that a new wave of planting of 10,000 ha per annum of productive forest and woodland creation would help a great deal through increased carbon sequestration. In Scotland Co2 removal by forests currently accounts for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions. Such an improved rate of planting could see this rise substantially. In addition, this level of planting could help lock up twice as much carbon in wood-based materials – equivalent to 70MtCo2 in Scotland alone.

How much carbon is in a tree?

Based on Sitka spruce timber, the following comparisons show how much carbon we can store in wood to balance out the carbon emitted by energy usage:

  • A 5 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm block of wood contains the same amount of carbon as would be emitted by boiling a kettle of water or driving a moped 1 km.
  • One cubic metre of timber compares to two return flights to the Mediterranean or driving an HGV from London to Edinburgh.
  • Six cubic metres of timber (i.e. a timber-framed house) is equivalent to driving an average petrol car for a year (11,000 miles).

These examples show how forestry can help mitigate climate change by storing the same amount of carbon in trees as is emitted through energy usage.

Demand for Timber

Today, in the UK, demand for timber and wood products continues to grow, but the rate of new planting has fallen to historically low levels (by more than 75% over the past 20 years).

If domestic sources of timber are not maintained and expanded not only will the contribution of the forest industries be reduced but also, the substantial investment that has been made in wood processing, as well as the downstream industries that use timber products, could be under threat.

The key issue facing the industry over the next decade or two will therefore be to secure the growth, continuity, and predictability of productive timber supply.

Our aim is to achieve the planting of 10,000 ha of new productive forests each year for the next fifteen years. This aim is supportive of the aim expressed in the government’s forestry strategy to achieve 25% land cover by forests in the second half of this century (“Scottish Forestry Strategy”).

This increase in forest cover equates to an additional 650,000 ha of forest. Together with 5000 ha per year of non-productive forest planting this amounts to around 45 years of planting at the increased rate. Land analysis shows that around 33% of the land area of Scotland is relatively unconstrained and could allow forest planting – and in the past as much as 30,000 ha planting per year has been achieved and sustained. The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Delivery Plan endorses the Scottish Forestry Strategy objective of increasing planting.

Ministers have endorsed the Scottish Forestry Strategy target to increase woodland cover to 25% of Scottish land area (by the second half of the century). This will require additional planting levels of up to 15,000 ha/yr, compared with the current average rates of 4,000-5,000 ha/yr. Grant aid under the Scotland Rural Development Programme has not proved a sufficient incentive, and therefore Forestry Commission Scotland is considering alternative approaches to increase afforestation rates.

The key milestone for forestry is to increase planting rates to 10,000 -15,000 hectares/yr by 2015 and to sustain that rate thereafter to maintain the levels of carbon sequestered annually in trees and soils and to support the rapidly growing wood-fuel industry. There is likely to be a need for new models to finance the higher planting rates required.

Future Growth

These figures suggest that our target is realistic, achievable and in line with government policy. The existence of an active wood fuel market means that there is likely to be value from early thinning – and this would improve the quality of the timber at maturity. Forests could provide crops at, for example, fifteen to twenty years (well before maturity) as well as at maturity at around forty to fifty years. There is also a role for the introduction of new, fast growing species. Removing barriers to growth – in particular, streamlining of planning processes to facilitate resource, site and sector development – would accelerate investment and innovation.

The widespread benefits of forestry are such as to merit a presumption in its favour, based on consensus that new planting is beneficial to all. If such a presumption existed, achieving consents and support would be more straightforward, particularly for smaller sites say up to 50 ha. More specifically, the sector needs prioritization and access to the right sort of land that will produce high yields for the trees planted. New forms of leasing arrangements, industry sponsoring, fiscal measures and grower’s organizations are required to stimulate resource development and remove the barriers to growth. An important step has recently been taken through an agreement between the Confederation of Forest Industries ConFor, and the National Farmers Union for Scotland NFUS, that it would be appropriate for up to 1.5% of land use to change from agricultural to forestry.

Paper and wood products lock up carbon, and are recyclable at the end of life. Even wood fuel from sustainable resources is carbon neutral and therefore far greener than many alternative fuels. Moreover, wood used for heat generation is around 90% efficient compared to around 30% for electricity generation.

Government financial support has been crucially important in the past in delivering new forest planting thus enabling the forest industries to become established successfully in Scotland. All society will benefit from the increased mitigation of the effects of climate change and all will benefit from the forest products that will come from these new forests. In contrast to many of the alternative land uses, these forests will be highly productive and will not rely on large inputs of fertilizers and chemicals for their establishment and maintenance.

Streamlining the regulatory and approvals process would speed up the delivery of new planting schemes and bring forward the benefits that flow from them. This is especially important in the context of climate change where every year of inaction will result in grave environmental cost in the near future.

Future Growth 

The UK is ranked second in Europe for paper and wood product consumption and is therefore an attractive and important export market for forest product manufacturers throughout the world. The UK market is the key and dominant target for Scottish timber resource and processing. The Scottish industry therefore needs to be clearly market focussed, and alert to new opportunities. It must also be competitive, innovative and have a supply chain fit to defend, and grow market share. 

To achieve this: 

  • Product innovation, development and differentiation must be a priority. The industry needs to anticipate market opportunities, to understand its ultimate customer’s needs, and add value to the basic sawn product.
  • Processing needs to be seen as part of an inclusive route to market – large to small enterprises, primary and secondary processing, logistics, retail and recovery.

Significant efficiency gains have been made by the processing industry in the application of information technology. The collection, analysis and utilisation of data offer huge opportunities to promote optimisation and encourage lean manufacturing. In sawmilling, for example, the X-ray scanning of logs can present the opportunity to optimise cutting patterns and match log characteristics to products that have greatest market value.

  • Reducing transport and logistics costs is crucially important to the competitiveness of the industry.

These costs form a relatively high proportion of total costs when compared with other industries, and indeed with overseas competitors. There are good reasons for this and they are not easy to tackle. (These include the relative remoteness of Scottish resources, and the often difficult terrain and weather conditions). One avenue that has proved beneficial is the application of e-business throughout the supply chain.

  • Great strides have been taken by Scotland’s timber producers to increase the demand for and market penetration of home grown timber products. The increased use of timber in sustainable construction has been an important driver of this and domestic industry has been very successful in competing against imported timber in many market segments.

The “wood for good” campaign, a generic promotional and marketing campaign, continues to raise awareness in government and amongst architects, engineers and their clients of the value of wood in construction – not just for its beauty, sustainability but also its functionality.

  • Presenting the industry, through marketing and promotion, to the public and other more specialised audiences is vital. The sector needs to clarify the messages to get across, and to target these effectively. The identity or “brand” of home grown timber and forest products is potentially a strong one, and can be linked to green credentials and the climate change agenda. There is a major opportunity to promote the contribution of timber based products to the development of a low carbon economy through wood fuel and biomass for renewable heat and power, and timber for construction (low in embodied energy and high carbon sequestration).

Timber- a sustainable construction material

Using wood instead of other building materials saves on average 0.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per cubic metre. 3 tonnes of CO2 can be saved by using timber frame from the 20 tonne CO2 footprint of a typical 3 bedroom detached house.

Increasing the timber content, including softwood cladding, can reduce the footprint to 2.4 tonnes – a total reduction of 17.6 tonnes CO2.

Source: Edinburgh Centre for Carbon

Management Report 196, Carbon benefits

of Timber in Construction, 2006 

Wood has the lowest embodied energy of any mainstream building material. A tonne of brick requires four times the amount of energy to produce sawn softwood, concrete five times, glass six times, steel 24 times and aluminium 126 times. Wood has the best thermal insulation properties of any mainstream construction material.

  • 5 times better than concrete
  • 10 times better than brick
  • 350 times better than steel


People and skills 

The forest & timber industry faces big challenges over the next 5 – 10 years if it is to have the labour force available to meet the planting targets and the predicted increase in timber harvesting.

To reach its full potential, the industry must ensure that it has a workforce which can rise to these challenges. The workforce is an ageing and reducing one. Measures are needed to both increase the attractiveness of the sector to new entrants and to retain and develop those already working within it. The industry has identified three key areas in which actions are needed:

Career Pathways & Recruitment


  • Promoting the industry as an attractive career choice is vital. This will require quality information to promote its benefits, its career opportunities and routes for entry and progression.
  • Customised teaching and support materials will be required – not only for students, but also to support teachers and careers advisors.
  • Industry engagement will also be required in the provision of “exciting” and motivational work-experience placements and in-forest/factory visits. 
  • Skills requirements for entry into the industry 

It is widely recognised that the forest industry needs to attract new technical entrants into the workforce. Recent research has suggested that there is a need for significant new recruitment into forest harvesting, establishment and maintenance and ground preparation.


  • Retaining and developing the existing workforce 


The forest industry workforce is dominated by small businesses. 83% employing between 1 and 4 employees with 93% employing less than 10 individuals. At 44%, the forest industry also has a significant number of self employed, the national average being just 13%. As a result of these workforce characteristics, there is a strong desire to develop technical skills within these businesses.

There is however, an increasing awareness that business management skills – i.e. those skills which could help the development of more robust and sustainable businesses – should be incorporated into training support programmes; thereby enabling businesses to become more active in developing both the current and future workforce.

The timber industry workforce has a different employment profile. Whilst 83% of employers employ between 1 and 10 people and only 4% of companies employ 50+ employees, those individuals working in smaller companies only account for 30% of the overall workforce. 

Education and Research 

The creation of the Centre for Timber Engineering at Edinburgh Napier University provided a much needed focus for increasing the capacity and capability of research and education institutions to meet the needs of the forest industry. It is one of very few sector innovation, training and skills development centres across the UK.


 Our objectives need to be clear and reviewed regularly. These are set out in the Strategic Plans for each of the focus areas.

The Plan is as follows:

Grow and communicate the industry’s contribution to Scotland by: 

Making a definitive and comparable quantification of all the main environmental benefits of forestry and timber, especially those relating to climate change and carbon capture.

Ensuring the clarity of messages and the most effective communication to the right target audiences.

Supporting measures that will enhance the contribution of the forest industries to the economy, society and the environment.

Grow the area of new productive forest planting by: 

  • Assuring levels of new productive timber planting of at least 10,000 ha per annum, in line with the Scottish Forestry Strategy.
  • Improving the quality and resistance to climate change of the resource through plant breeding and the introduction of new species.
  • Improving the engagement of forest owners with industry.
  • Promoting the management of the resource in ways that are both sustainable and will improve timber quality and output.

Grow the market share and value added of Scotland’s forest products by: 

  • Improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the timber processing supply chain and enterprises within it.
  • Developing existing and new markets suitable for supply by home grown timber and timber products.
  • Creating new and innovative wood based value added products and services.
  • Work with the construction industry to identify and remove barriers to the increased use of timber in construction. 

Grow the skills and capacity of our people by: 

  • Creating a higher profile of the skills needs of forest industries
  • Improving the identification, articulation and review of training and qualification needs of forest industries.
  • Increasing interest in and recruitment of new entrants into forest industries business environment.

Published by Scottish Enterprise and Forestry Scotland.