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A Simple Technique to Improve Woody Biomass Quality

Photo of Loblolly pine is frequently harvested for use as a biofuel. Erich Vallery, USDA Forest ServiceLoblolly pine is frequently harvested for use as a biofuel. Erich Vallery, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : The commercial markets for biofuels and bio-based products will require cost-competitive raw materials to compete with rival energy sources. The Forest Service continues to work on identifying ways to improve feedstock logistics. In 2014, Forest Service scientists examined a method to improve biomass quality using a simple drying technique.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Klepac, JohnMitchell, Dana
Thompson, Jason 
Research Location : Alabama
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 727


Moisture is an important quality in biomass. Most conversion technologies are sensitive to moisture content, and lower moisture is typically preferred. Some conversion facilities even base delivery payments on the quality of the feedstock. Forest Service scientists examined a simple method to reduce the moisture content in loblolly pine trees during a typical harvesting operation in Alabama. In a study funded by the Department of Energy, a plantation of young southern loblolly pine trees was harvested. Some of the trees were felled and left in small bunches scattered throughout the site. Others were felled and skidded, then stacked in a large pile by the road. The trees were left uncovered and exposed to natural weather events for 8 weeks. The intent of the study was to determine if the pile size impacted the amount of moisture loss in the trees. Results indicate that the final moisture content was lower in the smaller scattered bunches than in the large pile. To translate this to a real world application, a logging contractor could increase the value of biomass deliveries by felling and bunching trees, then delaying the skidding and processing phase for a number of weeks to allow natural drying.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Corley Land Services
  • Department of Biosystems Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University
  • Department of Energy
  • School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University