Technology for biomass feedstock production in southern forests and GHG implicationsThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Woody biomass production in the South can come from four distinct feedstocks - logging residues, thinnings, understory harvesting, or energywood plantations. A range of new technology has been developed to collect, process and transport biomass and a key element of technology development has been to reduce energy consumption. We examined three different woody feedstock production systems with detailed field studies including logging residues in central hardwoods, whole-tree pine thinning and clearcuts, and understory baling. Productivity ranged from 5 Mg per hour to over 23 Mg. However the corresponding energy consumption (diesel fuel) was very similar ranging from about 4 to 5.5 l/Mg. Intensive management technology for short rotation woody crops will have additional energy inputs for planting and stand management. Equipment manufacturers are working on even more efficient technology such as energy recovery swing systems, new powertrain designs, and improved productivity. This comparison suggests that intensive energywood production systems and understory harvesting may have the lowest harvesting energy input per ton of wood produced.