Development of an outreach program to promote wood residue utilization for bioenergy in West Virginia

Final Report for CNE07-037

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2007: $24,962.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dr. Jingxin Wang
West Virginia University
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Project Information

Summary:

West Virginia, located in the central Appalachian hardwood region, has abundant woody biomass resources. The state of West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the U.S. and has 12 million acres of forest land (Griffith and Widmann 2003). A recent survey stated that there are over 40,000 tons of wood residues produced by primary and secondary wood products industries on a weekly basis in the form of bark, chips, and sawdust in West Virginia (Wang et al. 2006). Also, during timber harvesting operations, over 10 tons per acre of wood residues are left on site. The efficient utilization of these residues and by-products seems to be a necessity.

The study addressed the community education of wood residue utilization for bioenergy so as to promote the rural community economy in the region. The utilization of woody biomass in these rural areas of West Virginia for heating or energy needs would increase employment in these small communities. At the same time utilizing these resources would help to develop technologies that would benefit the entire state. The project concentrated on the Appalachian Forestry Heritage Area (AFHA) that consists of 17 counties located in West Virginia and Maryland. During the course of this project, five conference/workshops/industry tours were developed to provide information on wood residue resources and the potential to use these resources for bioenergy and/or heating of businesses in a small community. The information gained should lead to a biomass conversion plan that will be implemented for bioenergy and/or heating responsibilities for a small community or business. The AFHA has played an integral role in providing a networking avenue to survey interested people who are working with wood residues and have the opportunity to pursue wood heating/energy possibilities in the region.

Project Objectives:
  1. Development of outreach program for biomass and bioenergy education, multi-disciplinary conference on biomass and bioenergy.
    Design and planning of workshops (advertisement, survey, detailed topics, speakers, audience, schedules, and locations).
    Offering Level 1 workshops, feedbacks and refinement. One conference will target biomass/bioenergy research/development professionals.
    Offering Level 2 workshops, feedbacks and refinement. Workshops/industry tours will target state and federal agencies and industry people; topics will include wood residue utilizations, policies, and development opportunities.
    Offering Level 3 workshops, feedbacks and refinement. Two workshops will target rural communities especially in the Appalachian Forestry Heritage Area (AFHA), including farmers and forest landowners; topics will cover woody biomass estimation and valuation, basic thermal properties of wood residues, heating devices, and appropriate community bioenergy utilization projects.
Introduction:

West Virginia, located in the central Appalachian region, has abundant woody biomass resources. The state of West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the U.S. and has 12 million acres of forest land (Griffith and Widmann 2003). However, West Virginia has an unemployment rate of 5.4% for 2005, which includes 44,820 people and 0.3% higher than the nation’s average (US Bureau of Labor 2006). The proposed study will address the community education of wood residue utilization for bioenergy so as to promote the rural community economy in the region. Specifically, the project will concentrate on the Appalachian Forestry Heritage Area (AFHA) that consists of 17 counties located in West Virginia and Maryland.

A recent survey stated that there are over 40,000 tons of wood residues produced by primary and secondary wood products industries on a weekly basis in the form of bark, chips, and sawdust in West Virginia (Wang et al. 2006). Also, during timber harvesting operations, over 10 tons per acre of wood residues are left on site. The efficient utilization of these residues and by-products seems to be a necessity. The utilization of woody biomass in these rural areas of West Virginia for heating or energy needs would increase employment in these small communities. At the same time utilizing these resources would help to develop technologies that would benefit the entire state.

Much of the research emphasis on renewable energy has been on agricultural crops or waste to produce bio-based transportation fuel (Brown 2003). However, with the forestry resources that West Virginia possesses, it seems necessary to focus our attention on the optimal use of these abundant wood residue resources. Increasing the use of woody biomass for energy could also lead to improved economic development and poverty alleviation, especially in AFHA, since it attracts investment in new business opportunities for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the fields of biofuel production, preparation, transportation, trade and use, and generates incomes (and jobs) for the people living in and around these areas. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO 2005) states that “bioelectricity production has the highest employment-creation potential among renewable energy options, since it can create several times the number of direct jobs than the production of electricity using conventional energy sources, and with lower investment cost per job generated.”

During the course of this project five conference/workshops/ industry tours were developed to provide information on wood residue resources and the potential to use these resources for bioenergy and/or heating of businesses in a small community. The information gained should lead to a biomass conversion plan that will be implemented for bioenergy and/or heating responsibilities for a small community or business. The AFHA will play an integral role in providing a networking avenue to survey interested people who are working with wood residues and have the opportunity to pursue wood heating/energy possibilities in the region.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • David McGill
  • Joseph McNeel

Research

Materials and methods:

Working together with West Virginia Development Office Energy Efficiency Program and other partners, we have developed and offered the conference and workshops of three different levels for biomass/bioenergy research and development professionals, agency and industry peoples, farmers, landowners, and other local community people.

Instructional system design (ISD) approach was used to integrate all available information and design the workshops. The ISD acknowledges a relationship among trainees, trainers, and materials (Driscoll 1998). The ISD can relate all the components optimally using an iterative process and provide procedures and flows in the outreach education. A mail survey was conducted to identify the detailed education need, education methods, time and locations. The companies dealing with co-firing, wood pellets, and community heating were surveyed to enhance the workshops.

The AFHA played a major role in distributing information to companies in the included counties. Sawmill operators, timber harvesters, farmers, and woodlot owners would be the focus groups to apply these applications and distribute information to. These groups would be able to use the woody residue for heating/energy production on a small scale.

The West Virginia Biomaterials and Wood Utilization Center’s web site (http://www.wdsc.caf.wvu.edu/BioMCenter/) served as a major information source for this proposed outreach education program. The economic analysis and woody biomass availability will be based on a model developed by the Appalachian Hardwood Center (AHC) at West Virginia University, which can be used to identify biomass feedstock opportunities within user-defined dynamic search zones (Bragonje et al. 2005).

Research results and discussion:
  1. According to the proposed objectives/performance targets, the outreach program for biomass and bioenergy education, multi-disciplinary conference on biomass and bioenergy was developed;
    The details of workshops, including advertisement, survey, detailed topics, speakers, audience, schedules, and locations, were designed and planned;
    The Level 1 workshop, “Appalachian Woody Biomass to Ethanol Conference”, was held in the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), Shepherdstown, WV on Sept. 5-6, 2007;
    The level 2 workshops/industry tours were conducted in October 2008 and November 2009 to help participants familiarize the pellet fuel type and discuss opportunities for its use in residential, institutional, and farm heating needs.
    For the third level meeting, three landowner/resident wood energy workshops were carried out in February and March 2008.
Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

LEVEL 1 CONFERENCE

Before the conference, about 800 brochures were mailed with 17 returned undeliverable, 2,273 emails were sent out with brochure attached with 418 returned emails (bad addresses or no longer with company). A total of 84 participants attended the conference. This conference explored the opportunities and obstacles that the wood products industry in West Virginia and the Appalachian region must address relative to ethanol production (Figure 1). Conference topics included national and regional biomass availability, policies, conversion and harvest technologies, and bio-based materials opportunities in the Appalachian Region. The presentations during the conference can be accessed at http://www.wdsc.caf.wvu.edu/BioMatCtr/WVUEthanolConference/index.html.

The Appalachian Woody Biomass to Ethanol Conference featured nearly 20 speakers with a wide range of topics. The first session explored Cellulosic Ethanol Opportunities, which included four very knowledgeable speakers and promised to set the tone for the rest of the conference. The topics included nationwide and state level statistics, as well as insight from the West Virginia Forestry Association. An overview of new bio-based feedstock and an informative presentation on biomass collection/processing were reported. The second section allowed participants to explore conversion technologies and biomass refinery details. A very informative session for industry participants discussed options for investment, infrastructure needs, butanol possibilities, and ethanol as a pulp by-product. The presenters from this session provided a great deal of information to our participants. The final session included topics to discuss options for coal and wood conversion to liquid fuels, an overview of ethanol economics, and finally Amy Miranda from the USDOE discussed Bioenergy Programs that were available. The conference concluded with projection information concerning new market possibilities followed by a general discussion. The participants enjoyed the conference because it had the overview from different perspectives, the setting of the conference and hope for future direction, the industry perspective on biomass and policy information, the short presentations and the wide range of expertise of presenters, open perspective of attendees. The facility was great and variety of speakers with different background gave excellent talks from a range of topics. The meeting is featuring good mix of participants, discussion and networking social, nice place, and great talks. The topics of the conference were well managed and tied together. The depth of knowledge of speakers has greatly impressed the participants. People agreed that the woody biomass utilization for biofuels would be the future direction.

LEVEL 2 WORKSHOPS/INDUSTRY TOURS

An industry tour focusing on wood pellet production in West Virginia and community heating modular application was carried out on October 2, 2008. A total of 16 people from state and federal agencies and industries attended the tour of the Hamer Pellet Fuel Company in Elkins, WV. Hamer Pellet Fuel has another manufacturing facility in Mt. Hope, West Virginia. Both plants manufacture a premium grade pellet made from fine Appalachian hardwood sawdust.

The intent of the tour was to familiarize the participants with this fuel type and discuss opportunities for its use in residential, institutional, and farm heating needs. The workshop was advertised and coordinated by the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, Inc. Rob Jones, Public Relations Director for the Jim C. Hamer Company led the tour and explained the product flow from sawdust to bagged pellets (Figure 2). The Hamer Pellet Fuel Company currently manufactures about 95,000 tons of pellets per year. These are branded “premium pellets” because they are 100% wood and have less than 0.5% ash residual. The pellet fuel is made from clean sawdust, much of which comes from our own lumber operations in the heart of the Appalachian Region of the United States in West Virginia. Currently the cost per Btu is half of that of natural gas and demand for this fuel type is growing. Pellet fuel has a lot to offer over chips and “chunk wood” as it can be conveyed with relative ease through piping systems. In the future, it is anticipated that delivery trucks will be able to drive up to residences, institutions, and farms and deliver pellets in bulk to large hoppers.

Richard Satterfield of the USDA Rural Development program also attended the meeting and shared that a pilot pellet heating project was being established with a poultry production facility in the WV eastern panhandle. Other than this, there are few wood heat using institutions and farms in West Virginia.

Another tour of the Hamer Pellet Fuel Mill in Mt. Hope was carried out on November 9, 2009. The Mt. Hope operation uses a blend of different hardwoods to make a pellet that produces a light fluffy ash. Most of the ash easily blows out of the burn pot to help reduce clinkering.

LEVEL 3 WORKSHOPS

As originally stated in the SARE/ARC proposal, three landowner/resident wood energy workshops were carried out in February and March 2008. The 2-hour evening workshops developed were designed to inform the general public, farmers, and woodlot owners on the basic thermal propertied of wood residues, heating devices, appropriate community bioenergy utilization projects, and opportunities of using woody residues for heating/energy needs, especially the various types, quality, and logistic consideration of using wood for heating purposes. The sessions deal with residue availability estimation, economic analysis, and energy aspects for heating using a variety of furnace models based on size and output needs. The workshops will help local woodlot owners and farmers realize the wood heating/energy possibilities and decrease their costs and efficiently utilize wood residue resources in rural communities. A one hour lecture was presented by Dr. Dave McGill and covered:

• Basic energy principles
• Definitions of energy
• Renewable and nonrenewable energy sources
• Wood and wood energy content
• Logistics of using wood for energy
• Firewood quality
• Types of wood burning stoves
• EPA standards for wood burning stoves

Knowing a few basic principles about how wood burns will help understand why wood can be a good energy source for home heating, given the right conditions. This understanding will also help burn wood more cleanly and efficiently. A wood hear fact sheet prepared by the Appalachian Hardwood Center at West Virginia University is included in the Appendix of the report. The three phases of firewood burning and the factors that affect wood heating cost were introduced. Suggestions of maximizing the combustion efficiency or heat value of wood were also given.

Wood stoves dealer Bill Biller presented a video of his firm’s stoves including the history of the company and how these stoves were developed. The one-hour lecture included descriptions of the stoves operation, parts and accessories, and a discussion of different types of heat exchangers available for homes and small barns. The following factors should be considered when buying one wood stove: cost, safety, and air pollution. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the use of wood fore residential heating contributes up to 50 percent of the polynuclear organic air pollutants (Consumer Energy Center 2010). An appropriate wood stove needs to meet the local air quality regulations. As a rule of thumb, the more efficient the stove, the less pollution it produces.

A total of 57 participants attended these workshops. These were mostly private citizens who had received postcard mailings or had seen a press release. Examples of both of these advertising tools are included in the Appendix of this report. Approximately 900 postcards were sent to individuals owning property in West Virginia and those on WVU Extension Service Ag producers contact lists. An evaluation survey was designed and sent to these participants in summer 2008 to assess the major ideas that were conveyed during these workshops. The survey results were summarized as follows: 87 percent of the participants feel that the workshops were helpful and are looking for more information about wood energy use.

The workshops have provided detailed information and technology to forestry professionals and citizens of rural communities in AFHA and West Virginia. A follow-up survey with the workshop attendees was developed to evaluate the performance of the Level 3 workshops. A questionnaire was mailed out in August 2008. The survey results showed that approximately 87 percent of the participants feel that the workshops were helpful. They are still looking forward to more related information, especially targeting the Appalachian hardwood region.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The project targeting small rural communities has informed and educated the general public, woodlot owners, farmers, and professionals on woody biomass utilization, bioenergy, alternative heating and energy possibilities in West Virginia. The workshops were informative and the attendants have realized the opportunities of wood residue utilization. The detailed accomplishments of the project were summarized as follows:

  • The outreach program for biomass and bioenergy education, multi-disciplinary conference on biomass and bioenergy was developed.
    The details of workshops, including advertisement, survey, detailed topics, speakers, audience, schedules, and locations, were designed and planed.
    The first level meeting, conference of “Appalachian Woody Biomass to Ethanol Conference”, was held in National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), Shepherdstown, WV on Sept. 5 and 6, 2007. 84 participants attended the conference. The overall conference rating is 4.49 (average rating on a scale of 1-5).
    The level 2 workshops/industry tours were conducted in October 2008 and November 2009 to help participants familiarize the pellet fuel type and discuss opportunities for its use in residential, institutional, and farm heating needs.
    For the third level meeting, three landowner/resident wood energy workshops were carried out in February and March 2008. Total attendance at these workshops was 57. An evaluation survey was developed and sent to these participants in summer 2008 to assess the major ideas that were conveyed during these workshops. Eighty seven percent of the participants feel that the workshops are helpful and looking for more related information.
Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

The proposed project will enable the community to rely more on local renewable resources and less on foreign oil. The process of utilizing current waste materials will decrease the reliance on out of county businesses and resources. Utilizing logging slash will also please many woodlot owners aesthetically who find this debris to be unpleasing after timber harvesting.

The use of these wood residue resources, especially logging residue, will create healthier forests as proposed by the Healthy Forests Initiative of 2003. Utilizing the logging residue, which was previously left in the forest, will reduce the fuel load found in the forests. This greatly reduces the risk of forest fire damage to residual stands of valuable timber. The rising price of wood chips can create an interest and a goal to produce more of this product as efficiently as possible. By creating wood chips from current waste products there is a possibility for creating revenue from previously unused material. Utilizing all materials produced from a harvested site will increase stewardship on that property. Many forest lands currently have stewardship plans and this should enable an increased value to be added to these plans with the utilization of woody biomass. This project should also strengthen communities and their businesses by becoming more reliant on each other, but also more self-sufficient as a local economy.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.