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Economic Analysis of Making Solid Biofuels and Biochar from Forest Residues Using Portable Production Systems in the U.S.

Photo of Torrefied wood chip briquettes produced from forest residues using a portable system near forest setup.Torrefied wood chip briquettes produced from forest residues using a portable system near forest setup.Snapshot : Higher logistic cost is one of the major bottlenecks to produce renewable power, fuel, or bioproducts from forest residues in large-scale production facilities. Smaller scale and portable production facilities that consume forest residues near to the sources reduce logistics cost.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Sahoo, KamalakantaBergman, Richard, PhD
Research Location : Madison, WI
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2018
Highlight ID : 1504


Prevention of wildfire by fuel treatment methods will generate forest residues in large volumes, which in addition to available logging residues, can be used to produce solid biofuels and bioproducts. However, the collection and transport of widely-dispersed forest residues can be expensive. Researchers evaluated the economic feasibilities of portable systems to produce woodchips briquettes (WCB), torrefied-woodchips briquettes (TWCB) and biochar from forest residues using pilot-scale experimental study data. Researchers used a discounted cash flow rate of return method to estimate minimum selling prices (MSPs) for each product, to conduct sensitivity analyses, and to identify promising cost-reduction strategies. Using a before finance and tax 16.5% nominal required a return on investment, and a mean transport distance of 200 km, the estimated delivered MSPs per oven-dry metric ton (ODMT) of WCB, TWCB, and biochar were $162, $274, and $1044 respectively. However, the MSPs of WCB, TWCB, and biochar could be reduced to $65, $145, and $470 ODMT respectively with improved portable systems. In addition, the MSPs of forest residues based solid biofuels and biochar could be further reduced by renewable energy and carbon credits, if the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potentials are quantified and remunerated. The study concluded that portable systems could be economically feasible to use forest residues and make useful products at current market prices while simultaneously minimizing potential wildfires and GHG emissions.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Forest Products Laboratory
  • University of Georgia.