Wood - the fuel of the future?

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More than £1 million has been invested in a Barnsley wood fuel business as it seeks to boost production to meet rising demand.

Forest Fuels has invested in storage facilities, processing machinery and delivery equipment at the Brierley depot, near Barnsley which it acquired last year as it gears up to produce 35,000 cubic metres of wood chip by processing 25,000 trees next year.

The business, formerly known as Silvapower, was set up eight years ago with the help of South Yorkshire Forest Partnership, Sheffield City Council, Barnsley Council and the South Yorkshire Investment Fund.

Original founders included Dave Sefton, a former niner at Barnsley Main and Barrow Colliery, who turned to making charcoal at Wentworth Castle before helping to set up Silvapower and stayed on as yard foreman after the acquisition by Forest Fuels, the UK’s leading woodfuel supplier, with 11 depots around the country.

“I didn’t intend it that way, but my whole career has been supplying fuel of one kind or another, finally ending up with the oldest fuel of the lot, wood,” said Dave

“More local supplies are needed, but timber is coming on stream. We want to talk to local woodland owners and estates about purchasing timber - we always need more of it and want to build long term relationships.

“Wood is a growth industry and unlike coal we can keep on growing the stuff. It’s really exciting to be involved in something like this, which is growing fast and also does good for the world.”

Crispin Thorn, Forestry Commission area director for Yorkshire and the North East, said: “Under-management of our woods has been recognised as a lost opportunity for woodland owners for years, but there are encouraging signs that owners are putting their woods back to work.”