Woody biomass generally refers to the lowest value material, which is a residual of harvesting or restoration work. Unfortunately, the slash produced from logging or restoration operations has little economic value, so the slash piles are usually burned or left to rot, both practices that are bad for the environment. HM3 Energy wants to purchase this woody biomass feedstock from contractors who collect the residual materials from forest restoration and logging. These companies have considerable experience in performing forest harvesting activities and provide family-wage employment in rural areas.
Forest or Rangeland Woody Debris
Forests in the western U.S. are overcrowded and unhealthy. Deadly insect outbursts across the West have created dead wood accumulation, fueling the potential for severe fires. Then, when fires do occur, the fire-weakened trees become more susceptible to attack by insects and disease.
The dry forests in eastern and southern Oregon and elsewhere in the west are at grave danger of stand replacement forest fire. The overstocked condition of these forests is not a historical condition, and the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have been negotiating stewardship contracts on these forests. These contracts have stringent requirements specifying how much material to remove, how much to leave for the soil and habitat, what size of trees to remove, and how many trees per acre to leave. The goal is to restore the forest to a healthy condition that can defend itself from insects, disease, and catastrophic forest fire. Woody biomass is a by-product of this work and selling it as feedstock to produce HM3’s briquettes can offset the cost of restoration treatment.
The Oregon Forest Research Institute (OFRI) estimates that 4.25 million forested acres have the potential to yield useful woody biomass through thinning. The sum of these sources along with slash produced from logging operations can provide a tremendous quantity of woody biomass feedstock.
For more information on restoration projects in Oregon, visit the News & Resources page of this website.
During harvesting operations, which are mostly conducted on privately owned land in Oregon in recent years, much of the volume of a tree is left behind—the tops and branches. Biomass contractors will negotiate access to these slash piles, grind it on site in tub grinders, and deliver it to be used as feedstock for torrefied briquette production.
HM3 Energy strongly supports best practices of biomass suppliers, as modeled by stewardship contracts on federal forests, which have the goal of improving forest health. The Oregon Department of Forestry oversees forestry practices on all timberlands in Oregon (including private forests) and enforces compliance with its Forest Practices Act.