Washington Researchers Turning Wood Waste Into Energy

Scientists are searching for the fuels of the future in high-tech laboratories around the world, but last week one research team debuted its new technology at a wood-chipping plant tucked in the forest outside Cle Elum. That’s because their technology runs on wood chips. Roasting the wood, which might be otherwise worthless, at high temperatures […]

Scientists are searching for the fuels of the future in high-tech laboratories around the world, but last week one research team debuted its new technology at a wood-chipping plant tucked in the forest outside Cle Elum. That’s because their technology runs on wood chips.

Roasting the wood, which might be otherwise worthless, at high temperatures without oxygen, creates a bio-oil similar to petroleum and a flammable gas that can be captured to run the burners. It also produces bio-char, a charcoal-like material that has applications in agriculture as a soil additive and in water filtration.

The state Department of Natural Resources hosted this demonstration because it’s seeking solutions to Eastern Washington’s biggest forest health problem: dense forests in need of thinning to reduce wildfire and disease risks, which is expensive work.

“When we are talking with landowners about how to improve their forest’s health, (it) involves removing small trees and oftentimes that material doesn’t have much of an economic value,” said Chuck Hersey, a DNR forest health specialist who organized the event with a Utah-based company that developed the technology.

“This technology is one potential pathway for dealing with small, low-grade trees,” Hersey said. “It’s basically turning woody biomass into more dense, renewable energy products that have a higher value than just wood products.”

From the Yakima Herald: http://www.yakimaherald.com/photosandvideos/latestphotos/2592872-8/researchers-turning-wood-waste-into-energy-agricultural-resource

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