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Forest treatment residues for thermal energy compared with disposal by onsite burning: Emissions and energy return


Dan Loeffler
Woodam Chung



Publication type:

Miscellaneous Publication

Primary Station(s):

Rocky Mountain Research Station


Biomass and Bioenergy. 34(5): 737-746.


Mill residues from forest industries are the source for most of the current wood-based energy in the US, approximately 2.1% of the nation's energy use in 2007. Forest residues from silvicultural treatments, which include limbs, tops, and small non-commercial trees removed for various forest management objectives, represent an additional source of woody biomass for energy. We spatially analyzed collecting, grinding, and hauling forest residue biomass on a 515,900 ha area in western Montana, US, to compare the total emissions of burning forest residues in a boiler for thermal energy with the alternatives of onsite disposal by pile-burning and using either natural gas or #2 distillate oil to produce the equivalent amount of useable energy. When compared to the pile-burn/fossil fuel alternatives, carbon dioxide emissions from the bioenergy alternative were approximately 60%, methane emissions were approximately 3%, and particulate emissions less than 10 mm were 11% and 41%, respectively, for emission control and no-control boilers. Emissions from diesel consumption for collecting, grinding, and hauling biomass represented less than 5% of the total bioenergy emissions at an average haul distance of 136 km. Across the study area, an average 21 units of bioenergy were produced for each unit of diesel energy used to collect, grind, and haul biomass. Fossil fuel energy saved by the bioenergy alternative relative to the pile-burn/fossil fuel alternatives averaged 14.7-15.2 GJ t-1 of biomass.


Jones, Greg; Loeffler, Dan; Calkin, David; Chung, Woodam. 2010. Forest treatment residues for thermal energy compared with disposal by onsite burning: Emissions and energy return. Biomass and Bioenergy. 34(5): 737-746.

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