Forest Health Management
Although the White Mountain Stewardship Contract (WMSC) initially worked to reduce fire hazard, the project has expanded to improve overall forest health. Through a collaborative approach, Future Forest has joined with the Forest Service, not only to manage tree density, but also to control disease and insect mortality, protect wildlife, preserve watersheds and help restore our local forests.
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Before the settlement of the West, fire was a natural part of a healthy forest, acting as nature’s housekeeper by cleaning up the dead and dying debris. With the onset of fire suppression, however, open park-like forests have become incredibly dense and wildfires can run rampant. WMSC’s goal is to help return current forest conditions to their natural fire regime by reducing tree densities, removing ground debris, utilizing biomass and managing ladder fuels.
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With these improved management methods for our forests and the primary focus now being the restoration of our ponderosa pine forests to a more natural system, the majority of the resulting residues are derived from small diameter trees, biomass and the most prudent utilization of these sustainable residues is to produce biomass energy. Biomass refers to any organic material, not derived from fossil fuels, that is created when plants capture carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis using sunlight. It is renewable because it can be grown and re-grown on a continuous basis. One of the most common forms of biomass is wood or woody biomass.
Biomass Preparation- feedstocks and fuels
Woody biomass from the forests can and has been used as a fuel just as it comes from the forest. Fireplaces and wood stoves still heat large numbers of houses across the country using cord wood. But preparation of the raw wood can often provide superior feedstocks for energy processes or superior fuels. Wood fuels can take the form of cord wood, low ash chips, whole tree chips, densified or torrefied wood. These can also be used as feedstock for production of hot water, steam, electricity, biofuels (transportation fuels), gasification, pyrolysis, or other energy producing processes.
The wood can be chipped in the forest or at a plant and can include the bark, limbs, needles and white wood (whole tree chips) or delimbed and debarked prior to chipping for a clean, low ash chip. Once the wood is chipped, the water in the biomass is removed at Forest Energy Corporation in Show Low. During this process, the biomass loses 50% of its weight from the loss of water, but gains in energy content per pound. The biomass is then transformed into briquettes or pellets to further increase the material’s energy density and to improve its material handling characteristics.
Biomass Renewable Energy
To release energy, biomass can be cleanly combusted, converted to gas or fermented (for transportation fuel). Although biomass energy releases some carbon, this carbon was removed from the air as the tree grew and during regrowth of new trees will capture nearly equivalent amounts of these emissions. Although it is not totally carbon-neutral, in the short life cycle of growing trees, it is very low in net carbon emissions and it is a locally grown renewable energy.
Benefits of Densified Biomass Pellet Fuel:
- Environmentally friendly, with renewable and low net carbon dioxide emitting fuel
- High energy content, high bulk density, improving transportation, storage or handling economics
- Low sulfur and NOx emissions, as well as extremely low or often zero mercury, lead and arsenic emission
- Handles similar to a fluid
* Based on the WMSC monitoring board 5 year report.