How does woody biomass become biofuel?

This pyrolysis unit is set up in a container as a mobile module that allows the unit to be used in different locations.
This pyrolysis unit is set up in a container as a mobile module that allows the unit to be used in different locations.

Sure, it’s possible to create ecologically sustainable biofuels from forest slash, small logs, branches, twigs, and other types of woody debris left after timber harvests and forest health treatments, such as thinning.

The question is not just ‘how?’ but ‘where?’ Transporting low-value, woody material from remote sites in the forest eats into potential profits for entrepreneurs exploring this emerging source of sustainable bioenergy. What if this woody debris could be transformed into biofuel in the field?

A DNR-cosponsored demonstration of “mobile pyrolysis” hopes to provide some answers. On May 8, the agency will host a public demonstration of three mobile pyrolysis units in Bingen, Washington. The units are designed to convert woody debris and other biomass into bio-oil, biochar, and syngas.

Pyrolysis is a process where organic material is heated in the absence of oxygen and the material thermally decomposes into combustible gases and charcoal. The combustible gases can be condensed into a combustible liquid called pyrolysis oil or bio-oil. Watch for yourself.

The demonstration is free and open to the public; however, space for observers is limited, so you must register in advance if you want to attend. To register, email chuck.hersey@dnr.wa.gov

A mobile pyrolysis unit is prepared to move to any location to create biomass into bio-fuel.
A mobile pyrolysis unit is prepared to move to any location to create biomass into bio-fuel.

The mobile pyrolysis demonstration is funded by the USDA Forest Service in partnership with DNR, Washington State Department of Commerce, Washington State University Energy Program, Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Oregon Department of Energy.

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