Funded Research Projects: SRM

Developing an Export Oriented U.S. Wood Pellet Industry in the Pacific Northwest with a Focus on the Asian Market

Research Sponsored By: US Forest Service
Principal Investigator: Indroneil Ganguly
Project Description
Wildfires represent a serious environmental concern in the U.S. Pacific Northwest (PNW). Prescribed burning of residual woody biomass, obtained from harvest or thinning operations, is an established practice in the region to mitigate the risk of wildfires. However, this practice of prescribed burns presents its own share of environmental concerns and economic burdens. The emissions of air pollutants from pile burns, such as particulate matters (PMs), are a major human health and environmental concern. In order to simultaneously reduce the risk of wildfires, promote environmental health of communities and forest lands, reduce forest management costs and generate revenue, this project aims to recover residual woody biomass to produce torrefied wood pellets for exports to Asia. The increasing demand of bioenergy within Japan and South Korea, due to the introduction of incentive schemes to use woody biomass for heating and power generation, offers a great opportunity for PNW to expand the US pellet exports to these countries. For an export oriented industry, the torrefied wood pellets, also known as black pellets, has significant advantages over regular wood pellets. The higher energy content and hydrophobic nature of the torrefied pellets presents significant logistical and economic advantages over regular pellets. This project will explore and document the strategic trade linkages and develop awareness among the U.S. pellets manufacturers and the Japanese and South Korean pellet importers. The overall goal is to develop an export oriented manufacturing cluster in the PNW, to economically utilize the residual woody biomass, currently being disposed of by burning, through development of an export oriented torrefied wood pellets industry in the PNW. The production of torrefied pellets from otherwise unused forest residues will have a significant positive impact on economic development and sustainability within rural and forest dependent communities.