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From fuelwood utilization in household stoves to burning lignocelulosic black liquor in pulp industry cogeneration systems, there are many kinds of wood fuels and many situations and technologies for using forest energy. Possibly the same diversity exists in ways to develop studies on wood energy systems and carry out applied research in this appealing field. However, some opportunities are not well known, as in the case of FAO’s Academic Programme with which I have been involved for some months while working with the Wood Energy Group in the Forestry Department. I thought it would be interesting to introduce it and present my personal view about this activity.

The Academic Programme is a component of FAO’s Partnership Programme, created recently to encourage an active cooperation with academic and research institutions worldwide and provide their personnel with an opportunity to work alongside FAO staff in activities of common interest. Many advantages are likely to result for both the visiting scientists and their mother institution, and FAO. This programme offers a good chance for a professional to be involved in international cooperation and to develop a close relationship with a broad group of questions and issues in his or her own field of study and work. Those interested can get more details through the FAO Web site (http://www.fao.org/geninfo/partner/default.htm).

My case is certainly a useful example to show the benefits of the Academic Programme. Since 1979 I have been working in a Brazilian engineering college where I develop lecturing, research and tutoring activities, basically in applied thermodynamics and bioenergy utilization issues. For instance, we have studied wood fuel utilization and cogeneration in the paper industry and sawmills and have developed methodologies to evaluate boilers and furnaces and made several technical-economic feasibility analyses of technologies for electric power production from biomass. I also have some consulting activities in these fields since I am the Coordinator of the Latin American Network on Dendroenergy (which is sponsored by FAO), but my focus has mainly been on Brazilian projects and activities. Last year, I took a sabbatical from my college and, through an agreement between my institution and FAO, was allowed to work in FAO as a Visiting Scientist in the Forestry Department’s Wood Energy Group, where I am working with M.A. Trossero on the Wood Energy Information System (WEIS) and other related issues.

This programme has considerably expanded my view of wood energy features and potential throughout the world. In this sense, this is one of the most interesting jobs I have ever done. The personnel here are friendly and, for someone really interested in research, there is good support. FAO’s staff have introduced me to more global issues and a set of problems that I have never considered before: definitions of wood fuels, harmonization of conversion factors, methodologies for data collection, analysis and presentation, wood energy database organization, etc. Nowadays, I not only have some answers to old questions, but I also have other new and stimulating interrogations. And in science and technology it is perhaps more productive to have a suitable doubt than a simple belief. (Luiz Augusto Horta Nogueira, Escola Federal de Engenharia de Itajubá)


A recent story in the magazine World Coal (July 1997, p. 33) notes that after trials at two coal-fired power plants, the United Kingdom Environment Agency has given its permission to co-fire about 350 000 tonnes of biomass with coal. The biomass wastes have about the same calorific value as coal, are being given away free of charge (about US$1 million worth) and seven companies have applied to take them away from the Ministry of Agriculture.

I wondered if there is some opportunity here for some entrepreneur to set up a carbon offset transaction. One can persuasively argue that, in addition to avoiding carbon emissions from coal combustion, certain methane emissions are also avoided. That is because the biomass wastes are cow carcasses – meat, bone meal, fat, etc. This might be a rare, one-time opportunity – the cows were infected with BSE, and burning them at a temperature of 1 450°C seems to be the only way to destroy the infectious proteins in the wastes. (N.D., USA [name and address supplied])

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