Posts Tagged ‘biomass’

Biofuels: Leaving the lifecycle of Washington’s forests unchanged

May 23, 2011
slash pile

Some of the logging 'slash' and other wood residues left after timber harvests could be converted into fuel for aviation. Photo: DNR.

Not all biofuels are created equal, especially when it comes to their ‘green’ credentials, a recent study found. Unlike the biofuel projects DNR proposes for slash and residue from routine timber harvests and forest health thinnings, sources that require significant changes in land use might be less green than conventional fossil fuels.

The study by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looked at the complete carbon footprint of 14 biofuels that could be used for diesel or jet fuel. The study examined the full life cycle of creating and using those biofuels. Writing in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Science and Technology, the authors concluded that where tropical rain forests are permanently cleared to plant energy crops, the lifecycle emissions are unacceptably large. Meanwhile, using forest biomass without land-use change can reduce emissions. It sounds like a working forest managed to sustainable harvest targets would fit the bill.

That’s exactly the approach taken by DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative, which is developing a demonstration program to generate aviation biofuel from wood waste and mill residue. DNR hopes to form partnerships to develop and implement the project using a combination of private funds and existing grant sources.

“The MIT study is just the kind of critical research and review we need to ensure that biomass is sustainable and protects the ecological health of the forest,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark upon reviewing the study. “It indicated that the kinds of forest biomass opportunities we have here, in Washington, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


Biomass-to-jet-fuel innovation bill gets noticed

May 4, 2011
logging slash

Slash and residue from timber harvests and saw mill operations could supply biomass for alternative fuel projects. Photo: DNR.

In recent days, we’ve heard from several energy industry newsletters and websites that are developing articles about a bill signed last week by Governor Chris Gregoire to promote aviation biofuel production from wood waste and mill residue.

Substitute House Bill 1422, authorizes DNR to collaborate with the state Department of Commerce, Washington State University and the University of Washington on a pilot project that could generate a sustainable bio-aviation fuel industry in the state. The state isn’t putting up seed money, but the formal authorization to develop a pilot project could help attract grants or private investments for a successful technology.

Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced the initiative in January at a biofuels conference in Seattle.

Here are some articles already in circulation:

Seattle PI – Boeing and Aerospace News blog: Governor signs wood-to-jet-fuel bill

Crosscut: Jet fuel from timber scraps? Sounds like the perfect Northwest marriage

KBKW: Biomass Plane Fuel Bill Signed

Fuel Production News: Washington enacts wood-to-jet-fuel law Washington State Governor Signs Biomass-To-Jet Fuel Bill

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Biomass-to-jet fuel and Community Forest Trust bills signed into law today

April 29, 2011
logging slash

Slash and residue from timber harvests and saw mill operations could supply biomass for alternative fuel projects. Photo: DNR.

Governor Chris Gregoire this afternoon signed into law two bills requested by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark:

House Bill 1422 authorizes DNR to collaborate on the development of a sustainable source of aviation fuel using forest biomass such as logging slash and sawmill wood residues. Working with the state Department of Commerce, Washington State University and the University of Washington, DNR will move forward with a demonstration project for the concept.

“We have an opportunity to bring our timber heritage and our aviation industry together to contribute to a more sustainable energy future,” Goldmark said following the signing. 

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1421, creating the Community Forest Trust, gives communities a new tool to prevent the conversion of working forests into housing or other types of development. Community Forest Trust lands could help buffer public or private working forests from encroaching development without the expenses of managing them as parkland.

“Protecting working forests protects local timber jobs and economies, but it also preserves the clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and other values these lands provide to us,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark after the bill was signed.

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U.S. forests may hold more carbon than previously thought, study estimates

April 18, 2011
Washington State Trust forests

DNR-managed State Trust Land forest on Washingtons Olympic Peninsula. Photo: DNR.

Forests of the United States have more capacity than previously estimated to sequester carbon, especially the conifer forests of the Pacific Northwest. The Science Daily website reports (Carbon Sequestration Estimate in US Increased, Barring a Drought) that forests and other terrestrial ecosystems in the lower 48 states can sequester up to 40 percent of the nation’s fossil fuel carbon emissions, a larger amount than previously estimated — unless a drought or other major disturbance occurs.

A research group, including scientists from University of New Hampshire and Oregon State University, concluded that several areas of the Pacific Northwest assimilated carbon during much of the year because of the region’s mild climate. The temperate forests in the eastern U.S. absorbed carbon mainly because of forest regrowth following the abandonment of agricultural lands.

Crop lands were not included because carbon they absorb during growth is soon released when crops are harvested or burned.

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Legislature sends biomass aviation fuel bill to governor

April 13, 2011
logging slash

Slash and residue from timber harvests could supply biomass to new alternative fuel projects. Photo: DNR.

A DNR forest biomass pilot project that would create jet fuel from wood waste got the go-ahead from the Washington State Legislature today. The bill, HB 1422, was advanced to Gov. Chris Gregoire for final action today after the House voted 96-0 to approve Senate amendments to the measure.

The bill will allow DNR to develop a demonstration program to generate aviation biofuel from wood waste and mill residue. In doing so DNR will be able to form partnerships to develop and implement the project. DNR also will set up a stakeholder group to develop a strategy for broader use of forest biomass as aviation biofuel if the technology proves workable.

As part of DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative, aviation biofuel would be highest and best use for residual forest biomass as well as a unique opportunity to help new, efficient technologies get to the marketplace. Forest biomass is envisioned as a sustainable energy source that can play a meaningful role in Washington’s renewable energy sector. Using forest biomass, such as logging slash or forest health treatment thinnings, can also help maintain the working forests lands that provide habitat, clean water and other benefits to the public.

Read a copy of DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative report to the 2011 Washington State Legislature

Also gaining final approval today was a bill that improves upon the Forest Riparian Easement Program. The House this afternoon approved by a 96-0 vote the Senate passed version of  HB 1509 which expands the compensation that small forest landowners may receive for agreeing to not harvest trees in a riparian (steamside) easement area, channel migration zone, or on potentially unstable slopes on their land. The bill also sets up a study group to look for long-term funding solutions for the program.

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Biomass as a renewable energy source

March 23, 2011
Slash burn in Capitol State Forest
Forest biomass is often burned in ‘slash’ piles, producing CO2 and waste heat.  The same material could produce electricity or liquid fuels.

In this morning’s Seattle Times, an article was written about the use of forest biomass to create renewable energy. The article missed two very important components of the issue of carbon neutrality.  Those have to do with time and scale.

A decade or millions of years
The Carbon dioxide cycle from forest biomass takes place in a span of a decade.  The article ignores the cycle involved in releasing carbon today by burning fossil fuels that have been safely stored in the earth’s crust for millions of years.  

The article refers to a study commissioned by the Massachusetts’ Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences to report that using biomass for energy is “more polluting …than coal”.  This claim, widely circulated in the media when the study was first published, has been repudiated by Manomet as a misinterpretation of their findings in June of 2010.

A single tree or a global system
DNR presented the legislature with a report that articulates the diversity of scientific studies regarding carbon neutrality and the variety of landscape scales they use to approach the issue.

The study referenced in the article focuses on carbon being replaced on that exact spot and the number of years it will take for the replanted trees to grow back.   This ignores what the atmosphere can’t ignore – that millions of other trees across the broad landscape are simultaneously growing and pulling carbon out of the atmosphere. Carbon neutrality is not a feature of a single tree, but of large regions or even nations.

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DNR weekend reading: Power-hungry digital signs, oceanic garbage revisited, and more.

January 15, 2011

Underwater eelgrass beds are used as an indicator of estuary health because they respond to many natural and human-caused conditions. Photo: DNR

Here are a few recent articles about science and the environment that you may not have seen yet. Happy weekend reading from DNR: Digital signage and Philadelphia’s Green Future. Digital billboards use so many LEDs that they gobble large amounts of energy, require their own cooling systems, and are made of components that will eventually become more e-waste. The impact of digital billboards is examined in this paper.

Oregon State University: Oceanic ‘garbage patch’ not nearly as big as portrayed in media. There is a lot of plastic trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, but claims that the “Great Garbage Patch” between California and Japan is twice the size of Texas are grossly exaggerated, according to an analysis by an Oregon State University scientist.

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: Expansion of energy production from biomass requires careful consideration. Energy production from plants could provide up to twenty percent of the world’s energy demand in 2050, half of it from biomass plantations alone – but only at the price of a substantial expansion of land used for cultivation, to the expense of nature. This is the finding of a study carried out by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

The Guardian (UK): World hunger best cured by small-scale agriculture: report. The key to alleviating world hunger, poverty and combating climate change may lie in fresh, small-scale approaches to agriculture, according to a report from the Worldwatch Institute.

Science Daily: Earth Is Twice as Dusty as in 19th Century, Research Shows. Maybe your housekeeping skills aren’t to blame. The amount of dust in the Earth’s atmosphere has doubled over the last century, according to a new study; and the dramatic increase is influencing climate and ecology around the world.

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EPA will continue to recognize biomass as renewable: Decision supports locally grown, clean energy

January 12, 2011

Today the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plan to defer, for three years, greenhouse gas permitting requirements for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from biomass-fired and other biogenic sources of emissions. This action responds to Washington State, congressional leaders’ and scientists’ concerns that biomass would be treated the same as fossil fuel-based energy sources in EPA greenhouse gas regulations that took effect this month. DNR and the Governor’s Office encouraged EPA to take a different approach in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in September 2010.

EPA’s decision insures that the carbon-sequestering benefits of trees will be duly recognized, and provides more certainty for companies seeking to create jobs and make investments in biomass technologies.

“EPA is to be commended for committing to a science-driven process that can credibly distinguish renewable forest biomass from other sources,” said Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, in a news release this afternoon. “Washington State has been well served by the efforts of Governor Gregoire and our federal congressional delegation.”


Aviation biofuel could be high-value, efficient use of Washington’s forest biomass

January 11, 2011
Boeing 787

DNR's Biomass Initiative wants to look into the practicality of turning forest biomass into aviation biofuel. Photo: Boeing Company

You may have read about the several uses of forestry biomass — wood waste — in previous postings here, but did you know that it could be turned into aviation fuel? That’s the idea behind the announcement today by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark that Phase Two of DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative will include a pilot project to produce aviation biofuels from forest biomass.

The pilot project aims to find higher-value uses for wood waste left after timber harvests or lumber milling. One might be biofuels for aviation. Forest biomass is a renewable energy source, but the supply is not infinite. The University of Washington is conducting a statewide study to see just how much forest biomass can be sustainably harvested  from Washington forestlands.

Some of the wood debris left after a timber harvest must stay on the ground to help regenerate the forest and provide future habitat. DNR’s Forest Biomass Initiative is looking for economically viable ways to use the rest. Given that this local, renewable energy source is limited, it will be important to put this material to the most efficient use to produce the highest value product – enter Forest Biomass Initiative Phase Two.

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News from DNR: Biomass Initiative Report and new firewood cutting permit process

December 23, 2010

State trust land

A clump of retained Douglas-fir and western hemlock in a variable retention harvest unit on state trust land in Clark County. Photo: Florian Deisenhofer/DNR. CLICK ON PHOTO to see larger image.

DNR yesterday released a Biomass Initiative Report to the Legislature.

Removing biomass feedstock in ecologically sustainable ways to produce energy (liquid fuels or heat and electricity) can:

  • Provide income for forest landowners while improving forest health; 
  • Create rural jobs; 
  • Reduce wildfires and greenhouse gas emissions; and  
  • Aid in the production of renewable energy

It does not include treated wood, municipal solid waste, wood from old growth forests, or wood required to be left on site under the state forest practices act and implementing rules.  Learn more about forest biomass.

Firewood cutting permit process changes for State Trust forests in southwest Washington, January 1, 2011.

Permits will be offered online on first-come basis starting January 1 for forested state trust lands in Clark, Cowlitz, Grays Harbor (south), Lewis, Pacific, Skamania, Thurston, and Wahkiakum counties.

DNR offices and work centers closed December 24. We will reopen on Monday, December 27. Happy holidays!

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