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Bring on the Biomass
Hermann Brothers Helps Increase Profit to Forest Landowners Utilizing Biomass
As ever increasing regulation chips away at timber-related profitability, it is important for landowners and their contractors to find new and better ways to optimize profitability from the harvest of timberland.
In Port Angeles, Wash., in close proximity to significant amounts of private and publicly held and commercially zoned timberland, a soon-to-be-completed cogeneration pilot project will add capacity to an already operating biomass system. In response to the projected new need for biomass, Hermann Brothers Logging and Construction Inc. has been perfecting their existing
biomass harvest, chipping, and shipping operation to assure they can profitably and efficiently provide for the new demand.
Hermann Brothers Steps in
Hermann Brothers began as a small, family-owned logging operation in the 1960s. In 1984, the company expanded into wood chipping under the name Evergreen Fibre. Over time, the production and delivery of chips to paper mills throughout the region has become Hermann Brothers’ main business activity.
Forest biomass fueled power generation is an important part of Washington and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s effort to plan for renewable, green power. This is because biomass extraction and use is seen as a win-win situation for the forest products industry, for the community, and for the environment.
Jim Jeffers holds biomass chips, ready for delivery to a local cogeneration plant.
Benefits of Biomass
Biomass is typically burned on-site or left to decay. Using woody biomass to power a cogeneration plant is considered clean energy because the same carbon would have been released into the atmosphere under any scenario. Burning the fiber in a cogeneration plant allows the off gasses and particulate to be controlled. A cogeneration plant produces both electricity and heat, which are captured and used, offsetting the need to burn fossil fuels. The electricity is usually transferred to a power grid, and the heat is typically used for industrial purposes or for district heating in cities.
The appropriate extraction and use of Biomass also reduces forest fire fuels, keeping our working forests fire resistant. This is an important issue as fuel loads build to high levels statewide.
According to Dr. Thomas Bonnicksen, one of the world’s leading experts on forests and forest health, fires are getting bigger, more destructive, and more expensive. In just one seven-year timeframe, Bonnicksen reports, enough greenhouse gasses were released by wildfires in California to equal 3 ½ years worth of gasses released by all 14 million automobiles operating in the state. In addition to environmental benefits, the maturation of a Biomass industry creates and promotes living wage jobs in multiple sectors of a community’s economy.
Slash piles are converted into chips to be used at Port Angeles clean, green cogeneration plant.
Because of Evergreen Fibre’s chipping and shipping expertise, biomass extraction for energy production has been a natural area of expansion for Hermann Brothers. However, biomass extraction, processing, and delivery isn’t an easy industry to operate in.
According to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, “The principal barriers to developing woody biomass plants include high capital and fuel costs, the availability of CHP load, and ensuring an adequate, stable, and economical fuel supply.” Given these challenges, a biomass harvesting and shipping operation must be run with efficiency in mind.
According to Jim Jeffers, field maintenance manager of Hermann Brothers’ biomass division, to supply existing biomass customers, the company runs two sides comprised of a Peterson 5710C horizontal grinder and Doosan DX 300LL shovel that work with their substantial chip hauling fleet.
The grinder is either trucked in or “walked” in under its own power. The chip hauling fleet is equipped with remote controlled rear steering trailers that allow the trucks to navigate sharp, steep access roads typically found in the mountainous Washington peninsula area.
Slash piles, often burned in the open in traditional approaches, are chipped into hog fuel on site and trucked to the cogeneration plant for use. Hermann Brothers is ideally located to provide the service because the cogeneration plant is located in the firm’s hometown of Port Angeles, and the region is rich in terms of both DNR and private timberlands. According to Jeffers, “Proximity to harvest is vital in terms of keeping transportation and maintenance costs manageable.”
The company runs two sides comprised of a Peterson 5710C horizontal grinder and Doosan DX 300LL shovel that work with their substantial chip hauling fleet.
The Hermann Brothers operation is also working hard to reduce grinding costs. According to Bill Hermann, they were able to save about 70 percent on fuel costs in their stationary pulp mill chip operation by shifting to an electric grinder but Jim Jeffers explains, “On-site biomass grinding must still be done with a mobile, diesel-powered grinder.”
According to Jim, basic techniques such as limiting idle time are employed but one of the biggest advances he’s seen recently comes from the use of knife edge bits developed by Peterson Pacific Corp. as a replacement for traditional carbide overlay bits. Explaining how their Peterson is set up, Jim says, “We run carbide overlay hammers on the outside edges of the grinding cylinder and the new Peterson knife edge bits in the middle.” The setup provides the flexibility needed to easily process the wide variety of material encountered in grinding post-harvest with branches, end cuts, stump parts, or even whole tree stems intermixed.
Traditional bits typically produce a longer, fuzzy chip while the knife edge bits produce a chip that is clean and chunky, allowing more chips to fit in each trailer load increasing the amount of chips transported with each trip, and saving fuel. In addition, the knife edge puts a lower load on wear parts and the engine. A lower load on wear parts translates to less downtime for repair and maintenance, and less diesel is consumed to produce chips.
According to Jeffers, “We typically save 16 gallons a day, per side, depending on what kind of biomass we are processing.” The fuel savings are substantial when considered over the course of a year, especially with recent diesel prices in the Pacific Northwest. Last, the knife edge bits produce a chip that feeds into burners better so the end user sees a benefit.
the outside edges of the grinding cylinder and the new Peterson knife edge bits in the middle.” The setup allows easy processing for the variety of material they encounter.
Leading the Way
Biomass energy production looks to have a growing future in the Northwest. Companies like the Hermann Brothers’ Evergreen Fibre are leading the way by investing in the latest biomass extraction techniques and equipment.
The State of Washington has worked to implement pilot projects that, according to DNR, have the following effects: The creation of green rural jobs, reduction of carbon emissions from forest fires and the burning of fossil fuels, reduced risk of forest fire, reduction of sulfur and heavy metals from the burning of fossil fuels, reduction of dependence on foreign oil, and the reduction of home and industrial energy costs. As the efforts of companies like Hermann Brothers grow the biomass industry, the entire forest products industry will benefit.