The use of pyrolysis-based wood conservation is a good alternative for the use of fossil-based creosotes. BTG, in cooperation with FH Munster and Saxion Hogeschool as co-authors, has published a life cycle assessment (LCA) in which the environmental impact of pyrolysis oil from forestry residues or maize digestate and its application as wood modification treatment is determined. In an LCA, the full environmental impacts of entire value chains are investigated. This means that not only greenhouse gases, but also all other impacts such as toxicity, land use, and fine particulate matter are taken into account.
The biorefinery approach of using pyrolysis oil as wood modification treatment shows significantly lower environmental impacts than the fossil-based creosotes, regardless of the selected end of life scenario, due to a high toxicity of creosotes and by a reduction of 82% of greenhouse gases for pyrolysis oil. This shows that in addition to energy production, pyrolysis oil can – for this application – be applied as sustainable biobased chemical or material, which could lead to the development of a sustainable platform based on pyrolysis oil.
Creosote is widely used as a wood preservative for railroad ties, telephone poles and bridge timbers and is produced by the fractional distillation of crude coal tars. Due to environmental risks, the European Parliament has restricted the use of creosote since April 1st, 2013. In spite of this, the demand for wood preservation remains enormous, necessitating the development of alternative methods of environmentally acceptable preservation technologies. This is one of the many promising applications of pyrolysis oil for a more sustainable future.