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Novel Technology Uses Waste Wood to Make Bioenergy while Sequestering Carbon

Photo of The Tucker Renewable Natural Gas unit is a new bioenergy technology that uses wood such as forest biomass as its fuel source. Richard Bergman, USDA Forest ServiceThe Tucker Renewable Natural Gas unit is a new bioenergy technology that uses wood such as forest biomass as its fuel source. Richard Bergman, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Wood companies need high-value uses for wood residues. A new technology developed by Forest Service researchers and their partners converts wood residues into high-value products such as biochar while producing bioenergy. The researchers are measuring the environmental impacts of this new wood technology compared to current fossil-fuel technologies.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Bergman, Richard, PhD 
Research Location : Forest Products Laboratory
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 577

Summary

Forest biomass is a promising fuel for the production of bioenergy because it is widely available as a byproduct of timber harvests and forest restoration activities, it is renewable, and it has lower impacts on food production and land use than some other agricultural feedstocks. In particular, expanding bioenergy (including electricity production) has the potential to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy security. In addition, finding this information using scientific approaches is important to potential investors to help individual states meet their renewable energy standards. Therefore, science-based assessments such as life-cycle assessment (LCA) of new bioenergy technologies or systems are essential tools for policy makers working to expand renewable energy production, including production of electricity from biomass. LCA measures the inputs and outputs of a given system for its impact on the environment. All systems including renewable energy technologies have some impact on the environment and LCA helps show what these impacts are to air, water, and land. This project will use LCA to look at one such new bioenergy technology system in particular to find its impact. The Tucker Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) unit is a new bioenergy technology that uses wood such as forest biomass as its fuel source. The Tucker RNG unit operates at high temperatures and an extremely low oxygen environment to convert wood into a synthesis gas (similar to natural gas) and biochar (similar to charcoal). Measuring the inputs and outputs of the Tucker RNG system, LCA finds its environmental performance so it can then be compared to fossil-fuel alternatives such as natural gas and coal. The synthesis gas produced can be burned to produce electricity just like natural gas, while the biochar can be added to soil which is then considered sequestered. Given that the LCA in this study will focus on a new technology, it will be critical to coordinate closely with other researchers to obtain the run data necessary from theTucker RNG unit to complete this assessment.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Southern Research Station
  • USFS Technology& Development
  • Bio Energy Conversion Global, Inc.
  • Green Diamond Resource Company
  • Humboldt State University
  • Jump Trucking, Inc.
  • The Coquille Indian Tribe
  • Tricon Timber, LLC
  • Tucker Engineering Associates, Inc.
  • University of Montana
  • Washington State University