Environmental Evaluation of Converting Post-harvest Forest Residues to Bioenergy Products
Currently, there is growing demand for biomass as a renewable energy source to decrease fossil-fuel-based energy dependence and to cut greenhouse gas emissions. With bioconversion technologies, forest residues can be converted to high-value renewable energy carriers. The resulting product, which is a low-carbon neutral biofuel, may be a substitute for high-carbon fossil fuels and may ultimately decrease greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. This project, referred to as “Waste-to-Wisdom,” is funded by a $5.88 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy under the Biomass Research and Development Initiative Program. The Waste to Wisdom project is a multidisciplinary project with 15 regional partners investigating environmental and economic feasibility of converting forest residuals into value-added products. Forest Service researchers are investigating the environmental sustainability of converting post-harvest forest residues to energy products using two bioconversion technologies, briquetting and torrefaction. Briquetting involves densification of the post-harvest forest residues, and torrefaction is a mild pyrolysis process. Life-cycle assessment is used to assess the sustainability of the technologies and address environmental impacts associated with the conversion technologies. To demonstrate environmental benefits and obtain more insight into environmental competitiveness, their life-cycle impact was compared with their fossil fuel alternatives, including heating oil and coal.