Biomass loads carried on waterways: cleaner and cheaper


Luke Geiver, Associate Editor of Biomass Power & Thermal, records that there have been an increasing number of inquiries from energy developers who want to transport biomass via barge on the country’s inland waterways.

Traditionally barges on British waterways have carried steel, timber, aggregates, oil, bricks, coal and, more recently, waste and recycling materials.

In many instances, according to David Lowe of the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA), moving biomass on a canal or river system can save time and money. This creates a competitive advantage for product which can be sourced and processed in close proximity to the waterway – “waterside to waterside,” as Stuart McKenzie, freight operations manager of British Waterways says.

Environmental benefits

McKenzie adds that waterway transport provides environmental benefits – according to Lowe, water freight produces just 20% of the greenhouse gases emitted by road transportation.

Commercial advantage

a barge carrying biomass

The biggest commercial advantage is linked to savings in fuel and labour. The Freight Transport Association estimates that fuel accounts for 40% of the costs associated with truck transport but only 20% for water transport systems. Lowe points out that one or two men working a barge can move more product than one or two men driving a truck.

Dalkia has acquired the necessary planning permits to use the Aire & Calder navigational canal network to transport 360,000 metric tons of wood waste annually for use at a 53 MW power facility currently under development. They will use shipping containers to ensure time-saving and efficient loading and unloading processes.

As the costs of traditional roadway transport are closely tied to rising diesel fuel costs, there might be increasing interest in canal freight.

To read the full article, which adds news about American operations, go to


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