Global Peat Resources by Country
The Country Notes on peat have been compiled by the editors, drawing principally upon the following publications:
Lappalainen, E. (editor); 1996; Global Peat Resources; International Peat Society, Finland
Couch, G.R.; 1993; Fuel peat - world resources and utilisation; IEA Coal Research, London
Information provided by WEC Member Committees and from other sources has been incorporated when available.
There are some 500 km2 of peat bogs on the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of the republic. These deposits constitute some 95% of Argentina’s peatlands: other peat bogs exist in the highland valleys of the Andean Cordillera and in other areas. However, economic exploitation of peat is almost entirely confined to Tierra del Fuego, where relatively small amounts (circa 3 000 m3 per annum) are extracted, almost entirely for use as a soil-improvement agent. Consumption of peat for fuel is currently negligible.
Proved recoverable reserves of peat are reported by the Argentinian Member Committee to be 80 million tonnes, within a total proved amount in place of some 90 million tonnes. A further 50 million tonnes of (unproved) resources is estimated to be present, of which some 15 million tonnes is deemed to be recoverable.
The peatlands of Belarus are by far the most extensive in Eastern Europe (excluding the Russian Federation), amounting to 24 000 km2. The largest areas of peat formation are in the Pripyat Marshes in the south and in the central area around Minsk. Peat has been used as a fuel for many years, with the highest consumption during the 1970’s and 1980’s. The use of peat as a power station fuel ceased in 1986; fuel output in recent years has been largely confined to the production of peat briquettes, mainly for household use.
Out of a total fuel peat production of around 3 million tonnes per annum, deliveries to briquetting plants account for about 2 million tonnes. Consumption of peat by heat plants amounts to about 300 000 tpa, with the balance of peat supply either being exported or consumed by a variety of small-scale consumers. Current annual output of peat briquettes is approximately 1.7 million tonnes, of which about 78% is consumed by residential users.
The area of peatland has not been precisely established but it is believed to be at least 15 000 km2, which makes it the largest in any South American country. There are extensive deposits in the Middle Amazon and in a large marshy plain (Pantanal) near the Bolivian border. Smaller areas of peatland exist in some coastal locations; those in the industrialised south-east of Brazil (in the states of Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo), and further north in Bahia state, have attracted interest as potential sites for the production of peat for energy purposes. The Irish peat authority Bord na Móna carried out preliminary surveys in Brazil in the early 1980’s but no production of peat for fuel has yet been developed.
The total amount of peat in situ has been estimated as 25 billion tonnes. According to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, measured/indicated/inventoried resources of peat amounted to just over 129 million tonnes at end-1999, with an inferred/estimated additional amount of almost 358 million tonnes.
There are appreciable areas of peatland, totalling about 140 km2. The principal known deposits lie beneath the Akanyaru swamp complex in northern Burundi: these cover about 123 km2 and are estimated to contain 1.42 billion cubic metres of peat in situ. The proved amount in place (expressed in terms of recoverable dry peat) was reported in 1992 to be 56 million tonnes.
Peat has been proposed as an alternative fuel to wood, in order to reduce deforestation, and a number of surveys have been conducted. Fuel peat is currently produced by semi-manual methods at four locations, but usage of the resource remains predominantly for agricultural purposes. The United Nations estimates annual production and consumption of fuel peat as 12 000 tonnes.
The total area of peatland, reported by the Canadian WEC Member Committee to be more than 1.1 million km2, is greater than that of any other country. Deposits of peat are widely distributed, with the largest areas in the Northwest Territories (23% of the Canadian total), Ontario (20%) and Manitoba (19%). The reported amounts of peat in place are enormous, with over a billion tonnes classified as proved and an additional 300+ billion tonnes as indicated or inferred.
There have been a number of assessments of the potential for using peat as a fuel (including for power generation) but at present there is virtually no use of peat for energy purposes and none is likely in the immediate future. Canada is, however, a major producer (and exporter) of peat for horticultural applications.
Peatlands are quite widely distributed but do not have a high overall significance in China’s topography, accounting for only about 0.1% of the country’s land area. The principal peat areas are located in the region of the Qingzang Plateau in the south-west, in the north-east mountains and in the lower Yangtze plain in the east.
Peat has been harvested for a variety of purposes, including fuel use, since the 1970’s. Some is used in industry (e.g. brick-making), but the major part of consumption is as a household fuel. Peat has been reported to be sometimes mixed with animal dung as input to biogas plants. No information is available on the current level of peat consumption for fuel. The Chinese WEC Member Committee reported production and consumption of 600 000 tonnes in 1990 for an earlier Survey.
Human activities, chiefly cultivation and drainage operations, have reduced Denmark’s originally extensive areas of peatland from some 20-25% of its land area to not much more than 3%. Out of a total existing mire area of some 1 420 km2, freshwater peatland accounts for about 1 000 km2, the remainder consisting of salt marsh and coastal meadow. Commercial exploitation of peat resources is at a low level: in 1995 the area utilised was some 1 200 hectares, producing about 100 000 tonnes per annum. Almost all the peat produced is used in horticulture; fuel use is negligible.
Peatlands are a major feature of the topography of Estonia, occupying about 22% of its territory. They are distributed throughout the country, with the largest mires being located on the plains. The Estonian WEC Member Committee reports a proved amount of peat in place of 2.37 billion tonnes, of which just over 1.5 billion tonnes is classed as proved recoverable reserves.
Out of a total peatland area of over 9 000 km2, commercial extraction of peat takes place on about 160 km2. More than half of the output is used for horticultural purposes: the use of peat for fuel is currently in the order of 350 000 tonnes per annum, cut from about 60 km2 of peat bogs. Most of the peat is consumed in the form of briquettes – there are three briquetting plants, each with an output capacity of 120 000 tonnes/year. In 1999 briquette production totaled 106 000 tonnes, down from 162 000 tonnes in 1996; 64 000 tonnes of briquettes were exported, the balance being very largely consumed in the residential sector. Most of the consumption of un-briquetted peat is accounted for by district heating and electricity generation. Some sod peat (31 000 tonnes in 1999) is exported.
With their total area of some 89 000 km2, the Finnish peatlands are some of the most important in Europe and indeed globally – Finland has the highest proportion of wetlands of any nation in the world. Peat deposits are found throughout Finland, with a greater density to the west and north of the country.
The Finnish WEC Member Committee reports that as at end-1999 the proved amount in place was 850 million tonnes, of which 420 million tonnes is regarded as proved recoverable reserves. Additional amounts of 2.2 billion tonnes in place, with 1.0 billion tonnes recoverable, are also reported for the present Survey.
The area of peat potentially suitable for commercial extraction is 6 220 km2, of which about 22% contains high-grade peat suitable for horticulture and soil improvement. The remaining 78% (together with other deposits from which the surface layers have been harvested for horticultural use) is suitable for fuel peat production. In 1995, the total area used for peat production was only 530 km2, from which 25.8 million m3 were extracted for fuel use and 2.1 million m3 for non-energy uses.
In 1998, CHP plants accounted for 48%, and power stations 22%, of the total national consumption of fuel peat; industrial users consumed 25%, the balance being used in heat plants (4%), and directly in the residential and agricultural sector (1%).
The majority of the peatlands are in the northern länder of Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Brandenburg. Most of Germany’s fens have been drained, the land being used for agriculture, mainly grassland farming. The German WEC Member Committee reports that in a total peatland area of some 14 000 km2 the proved amount of peat in place is 157 million tonnes, of which about 23% is considered to be recoverable.
Out of the total area covered by raised bogs, approximately 60% is farmed, with only a small proportion (less than 10%) exploited for peat production. Energy use of peat is reported to be very limited at present, virtually all production being destined for agricultural/horticultural uses or for the manufacture of activated carbon. A small amount of energy-grade peat is exported.
Despite the drainage of large stretches of former fenland, and the loss of much peat through oxidation and self-ignition, peat resources in Greece are still quite considerable. The largest deposits are in the north of the country, at Philippi in eastern Macedonia and Nissi in western Macedonia. The Philippi peatland covers about 55 km2 and is nearly 190 metres deep – the thickest known peat deposit in the world.
Fuel Peat: World Resources and Utilisation quotes total reserves as 4 billion tonnes: the proportion of this amount that might be suitable for fuel use is indeterminate.
Peat resources in Greece have not so far been commercially exploited, either for use as fuel or for agricultural, horticultural or other purposes. Schemes for peat-fired electricity generation at Philippi and Nissi have been proposed in the past, but have subsequently been abandoned.
Peatlands cover some 10 000 km2 or about 10% of Iceland’s surface area; the ash content of the peat is usually high (10-35%), owing to the frequent deposition of volcanic ash. Although peat has traditionally been used as a fuel in Iceland, present-day consumption is reported as zero. In the past, an important non-energy application of peat consisted of the use of "peat bricks" in the construction of buildings.
The peatlands are by far the most extensive in the tropical zone and rank as the fourth largest in the world: they are located largely in the sub-coastal lowlands of Irian Jaya, Kalimantan and Sumatra. A feasibility study was carried out in 1985-1989 regarding the use of peat for electricity generation in central Kalimantan; no project resulted, but a small peat-fired power plant has operated in southern Sumatra. For the 1998 Survey, the Indonesian WEC Member Committee reported a proved amount in place of 49 billion tonnes and that 1996 consumption of peat for energy purposes was 520 000 tonnes.
There are significant resources of peat in Italy, mostly in Piedmont, Lombardia and Venezia in the north of the country. Fuel Peat: World Resources and Utilisation gives the estimated reserves as 2.5 billion tonnes: the proportion of this amount that might be suitable for fuel use is indeterminate.
Although peat has been used for fuel during the past, notably in the context of wartime shortages of other sources of energy, no present-day usage has been reported.
Peatlands cover about 6 400 km2, or almost 10% of Latvia’s territory, with the major deposits being located in the eastern plains and in the vicinity of Riga. "Explored deposits" of peat (reported by the Latvian WEC Member Committee as the proved amount in place) are 473 million tonnes, of which 190 million tonnes are classed as proved recoverable reserves. "Evaluated deposits" provide an additional amount in place of 324 million tonnes, of which 194 million tonnes is regarded as recoverable.
Peat has been used in agriculture and as a fuel for several hundred years: output peaked in 1973, when fuel use amounted to 2 million tonnes. By 1990, the tonnage of peat extracted had fallen by 45% and fuel use was down to only about 300 000 tonnes. Consumption has tended to decline in recent years, with deliveries to CHP plants accounting for about two-thirds of the total. Relatively small tonnages of peat are consumed by heat plants and in the production of peat briquettes (mostly for household use).
Peatlands are widespread, with the larger accumulations tending to be in the west and south-east of the country. Fuel use of peat fell from 1.5 million tonnes in 1960 to 1 million tonnes in 1975 and to only about 0.1 million tonnes in 1985, since when consumption has remained at approximately the same level. The principal peat consumers are heat plants, briquetting plants and households; the last-named also account for virtually all Lithuania’s consumption of peat briquettes.
Although there are extensive areas of essentially undisturbed peatland, amounting to nearly 24 000 km2, peat extraction (almost all for horticultural purposes) has been at a relatively low level in recent years.
Peat had traditionally been used as a fuel in coastal parts of the country; unrestrained cutting led to considerable damage to the peatland, which in 1949 resulted in legislation to control extraction.
The area of peatland is some 12 000 km2, with most deposits in the northern and eastern parts of the country. For the present Survey, the Polish WEC Member Committee has reported the proved amount of peat in place as 40 million tonnes, with 17 billion m3 (approximately 5.4 billion tonnes) as the estimated additional amount in place. No recoverable tonnages are given.
Much use was made of peat as a fuel in the years immediately after World War II, with some production of peat briquettes and peat coke; by the mid-1960’s fuel use had, however, considerably diminished. Current consumption of peat is virtually all for agricultural or horticultural purposes.
There are just over 70 km2 of peatlands: the proved amount of peat in place is reported by the Romanian WEC Member Committee to be 25 million tonnes, of which just over half is deemed to be economically recoverable. An additional 10 million tonnes of recoverable peat is estimated to be in place. Peat production for energy purposes has been only a few thousand tonnes per annum in recent years, with consumption confined to the residential and agricultural sectors.
According to Global Peat Resources, the total area of peatlands is some 568 000 km2: the deposits are widely but unevenly distributed throughout the Federation. The principal peat areas are located in the north-western parts of European Russian, in West Siberia, near the western coast of Kamchatka and in several other far-eastern regions. The Siberian peatlands account for nearly 75% of the Federation total.
Total peat resources are quoted in Global Peat Resources as 186 billion tonnes, second only to Canada’s in world terms. Of the total, 11.5 billion tonnes have been the subject of detailed surveys and a further 6.1 billion tonnes have been preliminarily surveyed.
The bulk of current peat production is used for agricultural/horticultural purposes. Peat deposits have been exploited in Russia as a source of industrial fuel for well over a hundred years. During the 1920’s the use of peat for power generation expanded rapidly, such that by 1928 over 40% of Soviet electric power was derived from peat. Peat’s share of power generation has been in long-term decline, and since 1980 has amounted to less than 1%.
Approximately 5% of the exploitable peat deposits are used for fuel production, which currently amounts to around 3 million tonnes per annum.
In Western Europe, the extent of Sweden’s peatlands (64 000 km2 with a peat layer thicker than 30 cm) is second only to that of Finland’s: the deposits are distributed throughout the country, being particularly extensive in the far north. The Swedish WEC Member Committee reports a proved amount of peat in place of 700 million tonnes, of which 10% is deemed to be recoverable.
According to data reported to the IEA, peat production in recent years has averaged about 1 million tonnes per annum, with relatively little annual variation. In 1998, CHP plants accounted for 61% of total consumption, heat plants for 37% and industrial users for the remaining 2%.
The largest peat-production unit is located at Sveg, central Sweden, at an altitude of over 400 metres; it supplies a nearby briquetting plant, the only one in the country. This plant has an output capacity of about 300 000 tonnes per annum: production of briquettes (made from a mixture of peat, sawdust and wood chips) is currently about 220 000 tpa.
The use of peat as a household fuel has never been of much significance. Production of peat for industrial energy use began during the 19th century and, after reaching a peak level during World War II, declined to virtually zero by 1970. Use of peat as a fuel for power stations and district heating plants started in the mid-1980’s and now constitutes by far the greater part of consumption.
Sweden has imported small tonnages of peat in recent years, in the form of briquettes from Estonia and sod peat from the U.K.
There are over 10 000 km2 of peatlands, more than half of which are located in Polesie, in the north of the country, where they account for 6.4% of the surface area. The other main area for peat deposits is the valley of the Dnieper, in particular on the east side of the river. Peat production rose during the period of the communist regime, reaching 7.5 million tonnes in 1970, when 73% was used in agriculture and 27% for fuel. In recent years consumption of peat for fuel purposes has fallen to well under a million tonnes per annum, most of which is briquetted for use as a household fuel.
The peatlands of Great Britain cover an area of some 17 500 km2, most deposits being in the northern and western regions; Scotland accounts for about 68% of the total area of peat, England for 23% and Wales 9%.
There are about 1 700 km2 of peatland in Northern Ireland, mostly located in the western half of the province.
The total UK peatland area is nearly twice that of Ireland, but the extraction of peat is on a very much smaller scale: in Great Britain, commercialised peat extraction takes place on only some 5 400 ha (equivalent to about 0.3% of total peatland). Almost all peat industry output is for the horticultural market; there is however still quite extensive (but unquantified) use of peat as a domestic fuel in the rural parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland. About 20 000 tonnes per annum of air-dried sod peat is reported by the International Peat Society to be produced for energy purposes, part of which is exported to Sweden.
United States Of America
In 1995 the total area covered by peat soils (known as histosols) was some 214 000 km2, of which Alaska accounted for just over 50%. In the contiguous United States, the major areas of peat deposits are in the northern states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida and along the Gulf coastal region as far as Louisiana.
The US WEC Member Committee reports a proved amount of peat in place of 6.4 billion tonnes, of which only 15 million tonnes is considered to economically recoverable. These assessments are based on "demonstrated" resource estimates. The large disparity between proved recoverable reserves and proved amount in place is due to a combination of environmental restrictions on commercial activities in wetlands and the fact that much of the proved amount in place is in Alaska where virtually no reserves are currently reported.
An enormous additional amount (103.6 billion tonnes) is stated to be in place, but no estimate of the tonnage eventually recoverable is available, owing to the uncertainties involved.
The potential uses of peat as fuel were evaluated during the 1970’s; a Department of Energy study published in 1980 covered – in addition to direct combustion uses – the potential for producing liquid fuels from peat.
Interest in developing the use of peat for energy purposes has diminished since 1980. A small (23 MW) power plant was constructed in 1990 in Maine, to be fuelled by local peat. Initial problems associated with the use of inappropriate harvesting equipment were overcome but it was then difficult to obtain further permits to exploit the larger bog area required; the boilers are now mainly fuelled by wood chips. There were proposals for three or four small peat-burning power stations (aggregate capacity 360 MW) to be built in Florida. However, the natural gas companies set a low enough price for the supply of gas that once again the planned use of peat did not come to fruition.
Source: 2001 WEC Survey of Energy Resources published by the World Energy Council