The greenhouse effects of peat production and use compared with coal, oil, natural gas and wood

Kari Hillebrand

Research output: Book/ReportReport


As a result of man's activities, gases which contribute to intensifying the earth's natural greenhouse effect are released into the atmosphere. From a global point of view, the most important sector that is a source of these gases is energy production and use. This paper examines the effects of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) arising from certain chains of peat production and use and compares them with the corresponding effects due to the chains of energy production and use for coal, oil, natural gas and wood. In order to estimate the greenhouse effects of the chains of peat production and use, the factors studied were the initial state of the peat bog together with the instantaneous and cumulative greenhouse effects associated with the production and burning of peat as well as subsequent use of the production area. The burning of peat, like other fuels, brings about a strong instantaneous greenhouse effect which diminishes in accordance with the extent to which the greenhouse gases generated by combustion are removed from the atmosphere. Utilizing a forest drained bog or cultivated peatland for peat production purposes as well as afforestation, turning a production area back into a bog or creating a lake may compensate for part of the greenhouse effect caused by burning peat. In the short term the smallest cumulative greenhouse effect is caused by the chain of natural gas production and use. At the hundred year mark the chains of natural gas and wood production and use lead to a greenhouse effect of equal size. The short term cumulative greenhouse effect brought about by the chain of peat production and use is equal in size to that associated with coal and oil, amounting to about 1.5 times the size of the cumulative greenhouse effect produced by wood and natural gas. In the long term the cumulative greenhouse effects of wood and, in certain chains under examination, of peat too start to diminish, while those brought about by the chains of coal, oil and natural gas production and use continue to increase. At the 500 year mark the cumulative greenhouse effect associated with the chains of peat production and use is 2 +15 times the cumulative greenhouse effect of wood, the corresponding figure for coal being roughly +14, for oil approximately +12 and for natural gas about +8. Here the cumulative greenhouse effect of wood has been calculated on the basis that the wood is first burnt and the area then reforested. If forest residue, waste wood or short rotation wood are used for energy production, the cumulative greenhouse effect can be considered zero. By choosing cultivated peatland which would anyway function as a strong long term source of carbon dioxide as the peat production area, and by making the production area into a bog again when production has ended, the cumulative greenhouse effect brought about by producing and burning peat can be compensated in full. In this way producing and burning peat also generates a smaller greenhouse effect than if the cultivated peatland is left in its original condition.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationEspoo
PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
Number of pages59
ISBN (Print)951-38-4428-5
Publication statusPublished - 1993
MoE publication typeNot Eligible

Publication series

SeriesVTT Tiedotteita - Meddelanden - Research Notes


  • peat
  • production
  • environmental impacts
  • gases
  • methane
  • carbon dioxide
  • nitrogen oxides
  • emissions
  • greenhouse effect
  • coal
  • natural gas
  • wood
  • combustion


Dive into the research topics of 'The greenhouse effects of peat production and use compared with coal, oil, natural gas and wood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this