Burgeoning Biomass: Creating Efficient and Sustainable Forest Bioenergy Technologies in the Rockies

Forestry operations in the western US, including thinning for hazardous fuel reduction, leave behind a staggering amount of wood waste. Much of this waste is non-merchantable tree stems, branches and tops. These materials, called forest residues or “slash”, are usually yarded into large piles and burned for disposal. In the bark-beetle affected areas of northern Colorado alone, it is estimated that there is a backlog of 120,000 piles of woody biomass slated for burning. Not only is this a waste of a potential resource, pile burning can exacerbate air quality problems and increase greenhouse gas emissions. It also leaves long-lived burn scars on the forest floor. If slash could be economically transported, processed, and used by a bioenergy facility, it could be transformed into energy and marketable products rather than burned for disposal. This may be a more environmentally and socially appealing alternative to open burning.

Related Topics:
5. Energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, environmental, and social factors.
8. Wood based bio-fuels are one form of energy that is renewable

Associated Grade Levels:

Related Sub-Topics

5.4 Energy decisions are influenced by economic factors.

8.1 Sources of cellulosic residuals used are found in forest operations and in industry process

8.8 Life cycle analysis take account of ecological factors that are in steps of the supply chain.

8.2 Transportation and logistic considerations shape cost and feasibility within supply chains.