Bark beetle infestation in Val Badia, South Tyrol, Italy has caused extensive damage to spruces in the region. To combat this problem, you can either rely in extremely cold winters (which have become rarer due to climate change) or cutting down affected spruce trees.
The infestation does not only kill the trees but also affects the quality of the wood, causing it to crack. This makes the wood unsuitable for use in sawmills, but it can still be used for energy production via pyrolysis, gasification or combustion especially when it is converted into wood chips or pellets.
The forest operator selected in course of the crowdsourcing campaign owns suitable equipment for logging and processing the infested wood. They also own and run CHP gasifiers and produce wood chips themselves. The feedstock has now beed tested in the pilot-scale gasifier available in the Bioenergy & Biofuels lab at UNIBZ.
Considering the Italian Region of South Tyrol, 6,100 hectares of forests have been affected by bark beetles corresponding to 2.4 million m3 of damaged wood. Thus the amount of wood is massive and this increases the valorization potential of this material in the perspective of biochar and energy production.