NC Biomass Research Under Wraps

By: Doug Duncan

You wouldn’t see this log trailer on our newsletter cover on the highway. It’s part of a biomass drying study that the NCAPL is working on with the NCSU School of Forestry and Environmental Resources.

Keeping biomass under wraps is part of a treatment to record moisture loss after logging residue as limbs, topwood and upper stems are air dried. This approach is used successfully in Europe where slash is piled or bundled on roadsides to allow natural drying before being hauled or chipped and hauled to local biomass plants.

Heavy reinforced kraft paper is often used to cover the piles to shed rainfall and facilitate drying. While there are lots of operational questions about how to do this in the southeastern US, the research principles are straightforward. Green woody biomass immediately after harvest has 45-50% moisture content. In other words, half of the haul load is water.

Any process involving burning for electricity, wood pellets or advanced biofuels sees water as a negative. Dry material measured and paid for on a bone dry basis or BTU basis could be in the future. We saw the beginnings of this when the early BCAP program required bone dry weights for payment. The NCSU led study is comparing a variety of treatments: pine versus hardwood, covered versus uncovered, and upper stem slash versus that same slash still attached to the upper stemwood.

The NCAPL helped develop a simple way to measure moisture loss. Our members donated portable scales, log trailers and biomass for the study. We thank member Ken Murray of Maxiload Scales for providing the scales and Joe Ross of J&J Logging for the harvesting, trucking and safe storage area for the log trailers.

The biomass loads on donated log trailers are weighed on a set schedule by graduate students Chris Hopkins and Doug Albrecht per the study plan developed by the NCAPL, NCSU’s Dr. Joe Roise, Dennis Hazel and others. It’s an easy and straightforward way to watch the decrease in moisture content over time. The treatments will be repeated over the four seasons.

Special thanks to our logging members for donating log trailers for the study: Joe Ross, Bud Jones, Tim Capps, and C.K Greene.

Logging and trucking members wishing to support this research should reach Doug Duncan at (919) 271-9050 or email Additional log trailers in good mechanical condition are needed for several months.

Doug Duncan is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Professional Loggers - a non-profit organization which promotes professionalism and business opportunities for logging members and the entire forest products network. Doug is also a Board of Director for the National Timber Harvesting and Transportation Safety (THATS) Foundation, and a technical advisor for the AgHaul coalition.