Report provides analysis of Washington woody biomass resources

By Erin Voegele | March 21, 2012

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has released a biomass supply study. The report, titled “Washington Forest Biomass Supply Assessment,” describes the contribution that woody biomass sourced as a byproduct of sustainable forest operations can make in terms of economic development within a set of economic, technological and ecological constraints.

According to the report, the study accomplished three primary goals. First, it estimates the volume of forest biomass available in terms of land ownership categories, forest ecosystem types, species and location. In the report, the authors note that this data resulted in the development of a spatially explicit biomass database. Second, it assesses biomass availability based on cost and price considerations. Finally, members of the public are able to access the biomass database through the internet via a web-based tool.

Using the data gathered through the study, the researchers estimated that between 439,000 and 558,000 bone dry tons (BDTs) were delivered to facilities in 2010. According to the report, the study concluded that if market prices rose slightly, the amount of biomass supplied to the market could double without requiring increased production in the field. Furthermore, the study found that enough potential biomass was available to meet a doubled demand. However, when statewide demand would rise to more than 1 million BDT, competition among facilities would appear, effectively limiting the amount of biomass supplied to each facility. The researchers also found that the amount of residual forestry biomass that is produced is directly proportional to the levels of forestry harvest.

The analysis also featured interviews with forest land owners and land managers. The report states that these industry members generally reported that the byproduct of their harvest and treatment operations is piled and burned, or remains are dispersed throughout the unit, or they are hauled back and scattered throughout the unit when biomass recovery is not a viable option. Accord to the report, this type of material was described as unsuitable for market conditions or consisted of material that did not meet contract removal specifications.

A full copy of the 183 report can be downloaded from Washington State Department of Natural Resources website.