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Title: High Tonnage Forest Biomass Production Systems from Southern Pine Energy Plantations

Abstract

In this study, a high-tonnage harvesting system designed specifically to operate efficiently in the expected stand types of a bioenergy scenario was built, deployed, and evaluated in a production setting. Stands on which the system was evaluated exhibited the heavy stocking levels (> 600 stems per acre) and tree size distributions with significant volume in small stems (down to 2” DBH) that were expected in the modified energy plantation silvicultural approach. The harvest system also was designed to be functional in the traditional plantation stands dominating the commercial forestry landscape in the region. The Tigercat 845D feller buncher, which was a prototype machine designed for the high tonnage harvest system, used a boom-mounted prototype DT1802 shear felling head and incorporated a number of options intended to maximize its small-stem productivity, including: a high-speed shear severing system that was cheaper to operate than a saw; a large-pocket felling head that allowed larger accumulations of small stems to be built before expending the time to drop them for the skidder; efficient, low ground pressure, tracked carrier system to decrease the amount of maneuvering, saving time and minimizing soil disturbance; and various energy-saving devices to lower fuel costs and minimize air quality impacts.more » Overall, the feller buncher represented a quantum advance in small-stem harvesting technology. Extensive testing showed the machine’s production rate to be relatively insensitive to piece size, much less so than comparable traditional equipment. In plantation stands, the feller buncher was able to produce approximately 100 green tons of biomass per productive machine hour (PMH), and in natural stands, it produced nearly 120 green tons per PMH. The ability of the high tonnage feller buncher to maintain high productivity in stands with smaller diameter stems is something that has not been achieved in previous feller buncher designs. The Tigercat 845D feller buncher is now a production machine for Tigercat and is being sold in their current product line. The high-speed felling system was paired with a Tigercat 630D skidder and high-capacity grapple; one that could match the felling productivity when pulling small stems. The harvesting system minimized hourly costs using a single, high-capacity skidder (with a single operator), rather than two smaller ones, which is the traditional practice. The skidder itself can be considered a mid-range size and had an engine no larger than other machines in its class, but it incorporated a very large capacity 25 ft2 grapple. The large grapple is well suited to grabbing and hauling a large bunch of small-diameter trees, as produced by the high tonnage feller buncher. The grapple worked effectively in larger stems as well, but its ability to carry large numbers of small stems meant the average payload did not drop as stand DBH decreased. Tests with the machine indicated its travel speeds were nearly the same as, or perhaps slightly better than, conventionally equipped skidders, but grapple capacity was 75% larger. Productivity and cost per ton of the new skidder were better than conventional skidders for average skid distances of any length greater than 100 feet. Measured skidder productivity was as high as 143 gt/PMH. Its productivity exceeded that of the high-capacity feller buncher for skid distances out to nearly 700 feet, so system productivity could be expected to remain high for stands of a size typical in the southern U.S. The Tigercat 630D skidder is a production machine for Tigercat and the large grapple can now be ordered by customers using it for small diameter trees. When the feller buncher and skidder are analyzed as a two-machine system, overall productivity is fixed at the level of the least productive machine. Results from a set of side-by-side tests in the same density stand with conventional feller bunchers and skidders showed that the high tonnage system produced 97 gt/PMH versus 68 gt/PMH for a comparable conventional system. Machine rate costs for felling and skidding were $2.31/gt and $3.72/gt for the high tonnage, and conventional systems, respectively. However, the most significant result of the project is that the high tonnage system was shown to be relatively insensitive to tree size. This ability to maintain felling and skidding productivity and cost as tree size decreases is a breakthrough in harvesting systems for southern pine plantations. The concept of transpirational drying of woody biomass was tested at an industrial scale at multiple locations during this project. Felled trees were allowed to dry in two scenarios: 1) in bunches where they were felled, and 2) in roadside piles. Although the wood piled in large piles at roadside did experience drying, the wood left in bunches experienced a greater moisture reduction. Drying times of 72 days in the late summer resulted in mean wood moisture content of 26% for skidder bunches and 39% for the large pile at roadside as compared to moisture contents of 55% to 58% for freshly cut trees. An existing whole-tree chipper, Precision 2675, was modified to allow production of chips smaller than the traditional pulp size chip (i.e. “microchips”). Feed rates and knife placements were retained in the new design, while additional pockets were incorporated in the chipper disk to allow the attachment of either four knives for pulp chips or eight knives for microchips. This design facilitated switching between the energy and pulp chip product options at relatively low expense (about ½ day downtime). Chipping of whole-trees into pulp chips and microchips with the Precision 2675 disk chipper resulted in average productivities of 79.5 gt/PMH and 70.7 gt/PMH, respectively. Production rates of the chipper were lower when producing microchips by about 10% relative to producing pulp chips, but rates were similar to those achievable when making clean pulp chips. Particle size analysis for clean pine microchips revealed 26.6% retention on a 13 mm (slightly less than 3/8-inch) round hole screen and 25.9% retention for whole-tree pine microchips. For comparison, clean pine pulp chips had 52.2% retained. Ash content (% dry basis) was 0.54% for clean pine microchips and 0.62% for whole-tree pine microchips. Ash content for clean pine pulp chips was 0.39%. For transpirationally-dried material there was 38.1% retention for whole-tree microchips on a 13mm screen compared to 70.1% for dried clean pulp chips. Ash content was 0.78% and 0.44% respectively for these two chip types. Clean pine microchips stored at roadside had 25.2% retention on a 13 mm screen and 0.50% ash content. For mixed species (pine and hardwood), whole-tree microchips had 25.1% retention on a 13 mm screen compared to 50.6% for whole-tree pulp chips. Ash content was 2.12% and 2.74% respectively for these two chip types. Clean hardwood microchips stored at roadside had 35.0% retention on a 13 mm screen and an ash content of 1.24%. There are two significant advantages to using transpirational drying: reduced transportation costs, and reduced drying costs (capital and operating costs) for the biorefinery. This project evaluated the potential to reduce transportation costs through transpirational drying, and it included a component that tested higher capacity chip trailers (23% larger volume) to be able to transport dry wood with a lower bulk density. For transpirationally-dried chips at 35% MC, the high-capacity trailers achieved loads with a mean payload of 24 tons with maximum payloads of 29 tons. The typical legal payload on this trailer is 28.5 tons. Therefore, the project demonstrated that it is possible to achieve maximum legal payloads on chip trailers with transpirationally dried wood. Assuming that the truck is loaded to the legal payload limit, the transportation costs of chips can be reduced from $15.91/dry ton (dt) for 56% MC wood to $10.77/dt for transpirationally dried wood at 35% MC (for an example 50-mile haul distance at $0.14 per one-way ton-mile). For longer haul distances, these savings in trucking costs become even more significant. These results have demonstrated how significant savings in transportation costs can be achieved through transpirational drying. Also, these results show that it may be possible to increase the procurement radius for a biorefinery by using transpirational drying. Further cost reductions can be realized by the biorefinery when drying costs are reduced. The goal of this study was development of a timber harvesting system as productive in stands optimized for biomass production as it was in stands grown for roundwood markets. If that goal is achieved, a logger can invest in a single suite of equipment and operate efficiently in any future silvicultural regime that might include energy feedstocks as an output. It was the premise of the study that a future biomass market would shift the age distribution and stem size in stands grown for energy downward, and the key strategy in developing a harvest system for that scenario would be creating one with logging costs relatively insensitive to tree size. Our vision for such a system included a felling machine with a large capacity head to minimize time spent building bunches, plus a skidder capable of moving large volumes of small trees. The study proposed building the system and testing it against existing equipment in stands similar to those envisioned as resulting from biomass-optimized silviculture. As stated previously, the new feller buncher and skidder evaluated on their own merits showed their designs were clearly a step in the right direction - their productivity was indeed high and less sensitive to reductions in stem size. Cost projections based on extensive time and production studies of the high tonnage and benchmark operations showed modest advantages in FOB costs of the new system in both ‘average’ and simulated ‘energy’ stands (7.7% and 9.5%, respectively). But it was clear, when coupled into a traditional logging system, the in-woods productivity advantage of the modified equipment was easily overwhelmed by inefficiencies in chipping or trucking. Some additional savings can be achieved by spreading the cost of the feller buncher over multiple chipping operations (another 7.5%), but generally, in stands with average DBH above 6 inches, the in-woods equipment was not limiting productivity, and costs were driven by chipping and transport. Our results were a positive step in lowering delivered cost of trees grown for energy purposes, but they also argue strongly for a more comprehensive approach in solving this issue. The procurement system in its entirety has to be optimized to take full advantage of the productivity gains achieved with the machines and transpirational drying techniques developed in this project. We have to understand the true costs of all logistical options, particularly those of the choice in chipping strategy and in truck allocation, both of which seemed, in this study, to be the greatest source of variability in cost, and often the most expensive operations as well.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1];  [1];  [1];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [2];  [3];  [4]
  1. Auburn Univ., AL (United States)
  2. US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, Washington, DC (United States)
  3. Corley Land Services, Chapman, AL (United States)
  4. Tigercat, Brantford, ON (Canada)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Auburn Univ., AL (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Bioenergy Technologies Office (EE-3B)
Contributing Org.:
USDA Forest Service, Corley Land Services, Tigercat, Inc.
OSTI Identifier:
1341084
Report Number(s):
1
DOE Contract Number:  
EE0001036
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
09 BIOMASS FUELS; biomass logistics; biomass harvesting; biomass transportation; transpirational drying

Citation Formats

Taylor, Steve, McDonald, Timothy, Fasina, Oladiran, Gallagher, Tom, Smidt, Mathew, Mitchell, Dana, Klepac, John, Thompson, Jason, Sprinkle, Wes, Carter, Emily, Grace, Johnny, Rummer, Robert, Corley, Frank, and Somerville, Grant. High Tonnage Forest Biomass Production Systems from Southern Pine Energy Plantations. United States: N. p., 2014. Web. doi:10.2172/1341084.
Taylor, Steve, McDonald, Timothy, Fasina, Oladiran, Gallagher, Tom, Smidt, Mathew, Mitchell, Dana, Klepac, John, Thompson, Jason, Sprinkle, Wes, Carter, Emily, Grace, Johnny, Rummer, Robert, Corley, Frank, & Somerville, Grant. High Tonnage Forest Biomass Production Systems from Southern Pine Energy Plantations. United States. doi:10.2172/1341084.
Taylor, Steve, McDonald, Timothy, Fasina, Oladiran, Gallagher, Tom, Smidt, Mathew, Mitchell, Dana, Klepac, John, Thompson, Jason, Sprinkle, Wes, Carter, Emily, Grace, Johnny, Rummer, Robert, Corley, Frank, and Somerville, Grant. Mon . "High Tonnage Forest Biomass Production Systems from Southern Pine Energy Plantations". United States. doi:10.2172/1341084. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1341084.
@article{osti_1341084,
title = {High Tonnage Forest Biomass Production Systems from Southern Pine Energy Plantations},
author = {Taylor, Steve and McDonald, Timothy and Fasina, Oladiran and Gallagher, Tom and Smidt, Mathew and Mitchell, Dana and Klepac, John and Thompson, Jason and Sprinkle, Wes and Carter, Emily and Grace, Johnny and Rummer, Robert and Corley, Frank and Somerville, Grant},
abstractNote = {In this study, a high-tonnage harvesting system designed specifically to operate efficiently in the expected stand types of a bioenergy scenario was built, deployed, and evaluated in a production setting. Stands on which the system was evaluated exhibited the heavy stocking levels (> 600 stems per acre) and tree size distributions with significant volume in small stems (down to 2” DBH) that were expected in the modified energy plantation silvicultural approach. The harvest system also was designed to be functional in the traditional plantation stands dominating the commercial forestry landscape in the region. The Tigercat 845D feller buncher, which was a prototype machine designed for the high tonnage harvest system, used a boom-mounted prototype DT1802 shear felling head and incorporated a number of options intended to maximize its small-stem productivity, including: a high-speed shear severing system that was cheaper to operate than a saw; a large-pocket felling head that allowed larger accumulations of small stems to be built before expending the time to drop them for the skidder; efficient, low ground pressure, tracked carrier system to decrease the amount of maneuvering, saving time and minimizing soil disturbance; and various energy-saving devices to lower fuel costs and minimize air quality impacts. Overall, the feller buncher represented a quantum advance in small-stem harvesting technology. Extensive testing showed the machine’s production rate to be relatively insensitive to piece size, much less so than comparable traditional equipment. In plantation stands, the feller buncher was able to produce approximately 100 green tons of biomass per productive machine hour (PMH), and in natural stands, it produced nearly 120 green tons per PMH. The ability of the high tonnage feller buncher to maintain high productivity in stands with smaller diameter stems is something that has not been achieved in previous feller buncher designs. The Tigercat 845D feller buncher is now a production machine for Tigercat and is being sold in their current product line. The high-speed felling system was paired with a Tigercat 630D skidder and high-capacity grapple; one that could match the felling productivity when pulling small stems. The harvesting system minimized hourly costs using a single, high-capacity skidder (with a single operator), rather than two smaller ones, which is the traditional practice. The skidder itself can be considered a mid-range size and had an engine no larger than other machines in its class, but it incorporated a very large capacity 25 ft2 grapple. The large grapple is well suited to grabbing and hauling a large bunch of small-diameter trees, as produced by the high tonnage feller buncher. The grapple worked effectively in larger stems as well, but its ability to carry large numbers of small stems meant the average payload did not drop as stand DBH decreased. Tests with the machine indicated its travel speeds were nearly the same as, or perhaps slightly better than, conventionally equipped skidders, but grapple capacity was 75% larger. Productivity and cost per ton of the new skidder were better than conventional skidders for average skid distances of any length greater than 100 feet. Measured skidder productivity was as high as 143 gt/PMH. Its productivity exceeded that of the high-capacity feller buncher for skid distances out to nearly 700 feet, so system productivity could be expected to remain high for stands of a size typical in the southern U.S. The Tigercat 630D skidder is a production machine for Tigercat and the large grapple can now be ordered by customers using it for small diameter trees. When the feller buncher and skidder are analyzed as a two-machine system, overall productivity is fixed at the level of the least productive machine. Results from a set of side-by-side tests in the same density stand with conventional feller bunchers and skidders showed that the high tonnage system produced 97 gt/PMH versus 68 gt/PMH for a comparable conventional system. Machine rate costs for felling and skidding were $2.31/gt and $3.72/gt for the high tonnage, and conventional systems, respectively. However, the most significant result of the project is that the high tonnage system was shown to be relatively insensitive to tree size. This ability to maintain felling and skidding productivity and cost as tree size decreases is a breakthrough in harvesting systems for southern pine plantations. The concept of transpirational drying of woody biomass was tested at an industrial scale at multiple locations during this project. Felled trees were allowed to dry in two scenarios: 1) in bunches where they were felled, and 2) in roadside piles. Although the wood piled in large piles at roadside did experience drying, the wood left in bunches experienced a greater moisture reduction. Drying times of 72 days in the late summer resulted in mean wood moisture content of 26% for skidder bunches and 39% for the large pile at roadside as compared to moisture contents of 55% to 58% for freshly cut trees. An existing whole-tree chipper, Precision 2675, was modified to allow production of chips smaller than the traditional pulp size chip (i.e. “microchips”). Feed rates and knife placements were retained in the new design, while additional pockets were incorporated in the chipper disk to allow the attachment of either four knives for pulp chips or eight knives for microchips. This design facilitated switching between the energy and pulp chip product options at relatively low expense (about ½ day downtime). Chipping of whole-trees into pulp chips and microchips with the Precision 2675 disk chipper resulted in average productivities of 79.5 gt/PMH and 70.7 gt/PMH, respectively. Production rates of the chipper were lower when producing microchips by about 10% relative to producing pulp chips, but rates were similar to those achievable when making clean pulp chips. Particle size analysis for clean pine microchips revealed 26.6% retention on a 13 mm (slightly less than 3/8-inch) round hole screen and 25.9% retention for whole-tree pine microchips. For comparison, clean pine pulp chips had 52.2% retained. Ash content (% dry basis) was 0.54% for clean pine microchips and 0.62% for whole-tree pine microchips. Ash content for clean pine pulp chips was 0.39%. For transpirationally-dried material there was 38.1% retention for whole-tree microchips on a 13mm screen compared to 70.1% for dried clean pulp chips. Ash content was 0.78% and 0.44% respectively for these two chip types. Clean pine microchips stored at roadside had 25.2% retention on a 13 mm screen and 0.50% ash content. For mixed species (pine and hardwood), whole-tree microchips had 25.1% retention on a 13 mm screen compared to 50.6% for whole-tree pulp chips. Ash content was 2.12% and 2.74% respectively for these two chip types. Clean hardwood microchips stored at roadside had 35.0% retention on a 13 mm screen and an ash content of 1.24%. There are two significant advantages to using transpirational drying: reduced transportation costs, and reduced drying costs (capital and operating costs) for the biorefinery. This project evaluated the potential to reduce transportation costs through transpirational drying, and it included a component that tested higher capacity chip trailers (23% larger volume) to be able to transport dry wood with a lower bulk density. For transpirationally-dried chips at 35% MC, the high-capacity trailers achieved loads with a mean payload of 24 tons with maximum payloads of 29 tons. The typical legal payload on this trailer is 28.5 tons. Therefore, the project demonstrated that it is possible to achieve maximum legal payloads on chip trailers with transpirationally dried wood. Assuming that the truck is loaded to the legal payload limit, the transportation costs of chips can be reduced from $15.91/dry ton (dt) for 56% MC wood to $10.77/dt for transpirationally dried wood at 35% MC (for an example 50-mile haul distance at $0.14 per one-way ton-mile). For longer haul distances, these savings in trucking costs become even more significant. These results have demonstrated how significant savings in transportation costs can be achieved through transpirational drying. Also, these results show that it may be possible to increase the procurement radius for a biorefinery by using transpirational drying. Further cost reductions can be realized by the biorefinery when drying costs are reduced. The goal of this study was development of a timber harvesting system as productive in stands optimized for biomass production as it was in stands grown for roundwood markets. If that goal is achieved, a logger can invest in a single suite of equipment and operate efficiently in any future silvicultural regime that might include energy feedstocks as an output. It was the premise of the study that a future biomass market would shift the age distribution and stem size in stands grown for energy downward, and the key strategy in developing a harvest system for that scenario would be creating one with logging costs relatively insensitive to tree size. Our vision for such a system included a felling machine with a large capacity head to minimize time spent building bunches, plus a skidder capable of moving large volumes of small trees. The study proposed building the system and testing it against existing equipment in stands similar to those envisioned as resulting from biomass-optimized silviculture. As stated previously, the new feller buncher and skidder evaluated on their own merits showed their designs were clearly a step in the right direction - their productivity was indeed high and less sensitive to reductions in stem size. Cost projections based on extensive time and production studies of the high tonnage and benchmark operations showed modest advantages in FOB costs of the new system in both ‘average’ and simulated ‘energy’ stands (7.7% and 9.5%, respectively). But it was clear, when coupled into a traditional logging system, the in-woods productivity advantage of the modified equipment was easily overwhelmed by inefficiencies in chipping or trucking. Some additional savings can be achieved by spreading the cost of the feller buncher over multiple chipping operations (another 7.5%), but generally, in stands with average DBH above 6 inches, the in-woods equipment was not limiting productivity, and costs were driven by chipping and transport. Our results were a positive step in lowering delivered cost of trees grown for energy purposes, but they also argue strongly for a more comprehensive approach in solving this issue. The procurement system in its entirety has to be optimized to take full advantage of the productivity gains achieved with the machines and transpirational drying techniques developed in this project. We have to understand the true costs of all logistical options, particularly those of the choice in chipping strategy and in truck allocation, both of which seemed, in this study, to be the greatest source of variability in cost, and often the most expensive operations as well.},
doi = {10.2172/1341084},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2014},
month = {9}
}