Waste to Wisdom is an innovative biomass research project led by Humboldt State University and 15 regional partners, who are building on existing research on the conversion of forest residues into renewable energy and other valuable bio-based products.
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 that supports renewable energy research in the rural United States. Award Number DE-EE0006297.
To make better use of forest residues wasted from timber harvests and thinning by using new equipment, operations, and technologies that can turn that biomass into valuable bioenergy and bio-based products.
We can use forest residues to better our forests and society.
Our three-year project will help shape forest management practices, and forest residue processing and conversion technologies well into the future.
WASTING A RESOURCE
Federal land managers have identified 28 million acres of National Forest lands in the western U.S. alone that are characterized as having unnatural or excessive amounts of woody vegetation, leaving these areas prone to catastrophic wildfires and susceptible to insect attack and degradation. In addition, forest residues generated during commercial logging operations are often left in the forest or are collected into piles and burned. Approximately 68 million dry tons of forest residues produced during traditional logging and land-clearing operations go uncollected in the U.S. every year.
CREATING VALUE OUT OF WASTE
Forest residues, including unmerchantable trees, small-diameter trees, tops, limbs and chunks produced from mechanical thinning and conventional saw-timber harvesting operations provide an opportunity to produce bioenergy and bio-based forest products. The Waste to Wisdom project will study the use of biomass conversion technologies operating near forest harvest operations that can add value to residues while significantly reducing transportation costs. In addition, improvements in logistics and the development of new tools for the collection and transportation of forest residues will be examined.
INCREASING OUR KNOWLEDGE AND PROCESSES
The expected outcomes of this project are (1) improved feedstock collection, processing, and transportation, (2) incorporation of baler technology for pre-processing forest residues, (3) improved production and mobility of biochar, torrefaction, and briquette machines, (4) improved knowledge of the application of biochar to forest soils in terms of productivity and water holding capacity, (5) new knowledge quantifying the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of biomass conversion technology (BCT) products, (6) improved knowledge of economic and marketing potentials for biomass converstion technology products, (7) increased awareness and education of the production of bioenergy and bio-based products, and (8) compliments other biofuels research projects.
BETTERING OUR COUNTRY, PEOPLE, AND FORESTS
Previously wasted or under-utilized forest residues can be used to produce biofuel and bio-based forest products, thereby helping offset the costs of forest restoration and fire hazard treatments while facilitating follow-up forest management activities. Further, the use of these bio-based forest products can improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, amend soil, and create employment in rural forestry-dependent communities, while reducing the nation’s reliance on imported fossil fuels.