The Edge: Successful field trials on integrated biomass harvesting in New Brunswick

by | Sep 1, 2023 | 2023, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, September/October, The Edge

The results of a recent study to determine the feasibility of harvesting biomass within existing logging operations will assist New Brunswick as it works towards the development of a bioeconomy strategy.

FPInnovations provided information on the incremental costs of harvesting, processing, and transporting forest biomass (logging residues) to roadside using field trials of current harvesting systems operating in New Brunswick. Integrating biomass recovery operations with traditional harvesting activities in the forest sector is critical to the successful implementation of a biorefinery plant in the region because of the very high costs of non-integrated harvesting of forest biomass.

Working with Chaleur Forest Products (now Interfor), FPInnovations carried out a series of field trials to measure the quantity in oven-dry tonnes (ODT) of recovered biomass, as well as the roadside cost of comminuted biomass in $/ODT. It measured the impact on supply costs under different integrated harvesting scenarios, while ensuring that fibre formats were compatible across scenarios.

In total, FPInnovations assessed 18 combinations of stand types, harvesting systems, and pulpwood/biomass recovery scenarios. It identified each incremental process step (harvesting, processing, forwarding, piling down for drying, and roadside processing for transportation) and determined the associated costs.

The harvest systems selected for the field trials were cut-to-length applications with both two-machine (harvester-forwarder) and three-machine (feller buncher- processor-forwarder) set-ups.

Three different stand types were studied during these biomass trials based on their stand structure and species composition (mixedwood, managed, and natural). For each of the three stand types, three different processing scenarios were analyzed: (1) baseline with no biomass recovery (logs and pulp), (2) without pulp in the biomass, and (3) with pulp in the biomass.

FPInnovations measured the time required by every machine to handle the biomass and load it at roadside, and calculated the cost for every phase of biomass recovery. For each stand type and biomass scenario evaluated, the biomass recovery ratio was determined (ODT/m³) by system. In the “with pulp in the biomass” scenario, increasing the topping diameter to 10.8 cm for softwoods and 24.5 cm for hardwoods led to an average biomass volume increase of 73 per cent with the two-machine system, and 96 per cent with the three-machine system. The technical biomass recovery efficiency was between 50 per cent and 77 per cent, thus leaving adequate residues on site for soil productivity.

The full report, Integrated Biomass Harvesting: Incremental Cost of Harvesting and Forwarding Forest Biomass to Roadside in Northern New Brunswick, is available through FPInnovations’ online library portal at https://library.fpinnovations.ca/en/permalink/fpipub10545.

Understanding machine productivity and, ultimately, roadside wood/biomass cost will ensure that the cost of such treatments and the associated biomass values are well accounted for in the integration of this new supply chain to the regional fibre procurement processes currently in place. It allows fair compensation of all parties including loggers, landowners, and society at large, while ensuring loggers will be able to make the necessary investments (machines, training, etc.) required to conduct such operations. The benefits of this project lie in the opportunity to validate biomass supply availability and cost to emerging bioeconomy investors.

This study was a follow-up to an earlier biomass logistics study where FPInnovations looked at how to create a biomass supply chain for the local port authority in northern New Brunswick and identified supply chain elements to implement. The data generated from these operational trials provide a benchmark to help inform decision makers and stakeholders when evaluating the feasibility of future biomass utilization projects.

Far left: A feller buncher preparing bunches to enable biomass processing.

Left: Forwarding residues in the managed stand with pulp in the biomass pile.

For more information, contact the report’s author, Jean-Philippe Gaudreau, senior researcher in FPInnovations’
Forestry group: jean-philippe.gaudreau@fpinnovations.ca


Federal government‘s Two Billion Tree Program and the opportunities for deployment of unique afforestation scenarios

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

In the aftermath of the extreme wildfire behavior witnessed this past summer in Canada, there are positive initiatives, like the federal government’s Two Billion Tree Program, aimed at addressing the challenges of a changing climate.

The program aims to significantly increase the number of trees planted each year, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (CO2e). It is a major component of the federal government’s objective to reduce GHG emissions to net zero by 2050 by contributing 30 per cent toward achieving that reduction goal.

“Trees, considering both above and below ground biomass components, are about 50 per cent carbon, and as such are significant natural carbon sinks,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer at the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).

Launched in 2021 and lasting 10 years, over 110 million trees have already been planted as part of this Two Billion Tree Program initiative. That is expected to ramp up significantly each year over the remaining lifespan of the program.

Other objectives of the Two Billion Tree Program are to increase habitat and ecosystem diversity, while also managing air, water, and soil quality and availability. This includes revegetation and reclamation of disturbed sites like coal mines, seismic lines and industrial construction sites, as well as sites featuring other land uses that have removed or excluded the presence of trees, biomass and ground vegetation.

Four-year-old high yield hybrid afforestation plantation.

By diversifying the forest land base, this enhances the resistance of the forest to wildfires, pests, pathogens and other natural or man-induced impacts on forest health. And as natural air and water filters that bring balance to ecosystems, trees also contribute to overall human and wildlife well-being by providing habitat, canopy cover to reduce heat while managing moisture, and providing natural landscapes for shelter, enjoyment and recreation.

Those qualified to apply for Two Billion Tree Program funding are private enterprise, provincial governments, municipal governments, as well as Indigenous organizations and communities. In most cases, the participating partner is required to provide a minimum of 50 per cent of the operational funding for their approved project.

Seventeen-year-old high yield afforestation mix plantation, hybrid poplar and white spruce.

Also, the trees planted under the Two Billion Tree Program must be incremental, meaning that they are adding to the current forest land base and planted in areas not currently forested as a result of natural disturbance like wildfire, insects and disease, or previously deforested for other land uses, representing afforestation. Furthermore, they cannot be planted to replace trees that have been commercially harvested or trees that would be planted as a normal business-as-usual management application.

Because the Two Billion Tree Program represents a significant opportunity for afforestation, the CWFC is a good resource for those interested in learning about and applying proven afforestation practices developed over decades by the CWFC and the Canadian Forest Service, involving fast-growing hybrid poplar as well as mixedwood plantation designs. Applying these practices on qualifying lands would be considered for funding support, and would significantly increase GHG emission reduction units due to the production of these managed plantations developed under moderate to intensive regimes.

“The suggested planting method and species that are being proposed for an afforestation program that will significantly contribute to the Two Billion Tree Program are fast-growing hardwood species, primarily poplar or aspen, which are selected clones of similar genetic makeup,” says Sidders.

Hybrid poplar has the ability to grow under moderate to high intensity management at a rate of 8 to 10 times that of the natural forest, which will allow a plantation managed at 80 per cent crown closure to capture 12 to 24 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year on average over its 15 to over 40-year lifespan. One centimetre of diameter growth and one metre of height per year is the expected annual average growth rate, with as much as 2 centimetres and 1.8 metres possible.

“One of the significant benefits of this technology is that fast-growing hardwoods also create a huge amount of incidental or annual released biomass as leaf fall from the tree, which is really important in terms of soil fertility and soil/organic carbon capture on lands that have low or moderate organic matter,” says Sidders.

These plantations can also be planted for diversity, for example, for habitat enhancement, with multiple species planted on site such as light-tolerant white spruce or white pine in Eastern Canada planted in the understorey. This creates an added environmental and commercial value.

For more information about establishing and managing a fast-growing, high yield or mixedwood afforestation plantation, contact Derek Sidders at derek.sidders@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca or Tim Keddy at tim.keddy@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca.

Tony Kryzanowski

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