Research Points To Bright Future For Woody Biomass

A potential revolution is unfolding on out-of-the-way logging roads. Foresters and researchers are innovating unique ways to make use of forest residues—low quality trees, tree tops, limbs, and chunks that formerly would have been left in slash piles and burned, or worse, left to rot. Last year, HSU and 15 regional partners began the Waste […]

A potential revolution is unfolding on out-of-the-way logging roads. Foresters and researchers are innovating unique ways to make use of forest residues—low quality trees, tree tops, limbs, and chunks that formerly would have been left in slash piles and burned, or worse, left to rot.

Last year, HSU and 15 regional partners began the Waste to Wisdom project after receiving a $5.88 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to dramatically expand biomass research. The grant is part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a collaborative effort between the Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Now, initial research from that project is beginning to show promising results.

Researchers have long known forest residues—also referred to as woody biomass—have the potential to be used in energy production, but logistics have stood in the way. “Due to the high cost of collection and transportation, woody biomass is a promising but widely untapped source of renewable energy,” says Arne Jacobson, one of the principal investigators on the Waste to Wisdom project who is focusing on developing new biomass-to-energy conversion technologies.

“Our approach is different. We’re adapting our operations to take advantage of the opportunity the waste materials present,” says Han-Sup Han, HSU forestry professor, and one of the project’s lead researchers. “Processes such as briquetting and torrefaction of wood chips at or near the forestry sites add value to existing bio-products.”

According to researchers, the innovations center on improving collection of forest residues and reducing transportation costs. For example, gathering forest residues into dense bails improves the economics of handling, storing, and transporting the raw materials. Beyond analyzing logistics, researchers hope to also to better understand the environmental impacts of processing forest residues on site, and how the forest products market will receive the new products.

From Forest Business Network: http://www.forestbusinessnetwork.com/52560/research-points-to-bright-future-for-biomass/

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