2022 MASBio Seminar Series
Our next seminar presentation will be on Monday, April 25th.
Austin Garren, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech gave a talk on “Logging Residue Utilization for Bioenergy” on 02/14/2022. Common factors affecting profitability from logging residues are equipment type/size, large initial capital investment, low chipper/grinder utilization rates, and trucking availability. Nutrient depletion and soil erosion are some environmental concerns related to the removal of logging residues for bioenergy, which may be addressed if needed through the addition of fertilizer and mulch, but they would add cost to the system. Mr. Garren evaluated the productivity and cost of five energy-wood harvesting operations in the lower Mid-Atlantic Region of the U.S. Video-cameras recording of landing activities were analyzed to determine utilization rate for machines on landing, whereas the cost per tonne was estimated using the Machine Rate Method and Auburn Harvest Analyzer. It was found that machines are less productive when handling energy-wood due to the smaller average diameter of stems. Trucking was found to be expensive with a shortage of drivers. The top three advantages of biomass production are reported to be improved aesthetics/clean looking site, increased landowner satisfaction, and additional market/source of revenue. The top three barriers to profitable biomass production are reported to be low delivered prices received for biomass, unstable markets/demand, high diesel fuel prices.
Dr. Shawn Grushecky
gave a talk on “Feedstocks on Marginal Land” on 01/31/2022. First, he presented data on mined lands in West Virginia followed by estimates of the preparation cost of those mine sites for plantation. He pointed out that yield on those mine sites needs to be about 8 MG/ha/yr to break even with the preparation cost of $175/ac/yr. However, the yield in some of the sites that were planted is much lower (only 0.1 Mg/ha/yr in the first year and 0.2 tons/ha/yr in the second year). Hence, additionally two major projects 1. Stream restoration and 2. Emission offsets with tree planting and biochar use, are being undertaken now to suffice for the low production on mine sites.
Dr. Mike Jacobsen
, Professor of Forest Resources at Penn State University, gave a talk on "Shrub Willow for Biomass" on 02/09/2022. First, he gave an overview of the properties of shrub willow (Salix spp) followed by the economic analysis of its production. Feedstock is the greatest variable cost. Willow harvesting and transportation constitute 40-60% of the delivered cost. Integrated debarking can be considered for clean chips. Facilities in New York State are using willow for biopower. Willow can also be used for non-energy applications such as to make silt socks, bedding material, riparian buffers, snow fences, bioremediation, pollination, and wastewater treatment.
Dr. Jeff Skousen of West Virginia University gave a talk on “perennial grasses” on 01/24/2022 where he talked about the significance of bioenergy crops and gave an idea on yields of bioenergy crops on reclaimed mine lands in West Virginia. West Virginia has a total of 12 bioenergy crops growing sites to date. Some of them are good sites for biomass crops, such as the Hampshire site where the yield of Cave in Rock switchgrass was 19 Mg/ha after the 7th year, whereas poor sites like that at Hobet with barely any soil yielded only 1.8 Mg/ha. Another wonderful site is Alton where 20 Mg/ha of Miscanthus was harvested after 7 years. Likewise, 15 Mg/ha of Miscanthus was harvested in The Wilds, OH after 7 years. Hence, we can say Switchgrass and Miscanthus have demonstrated high growth potential on several marginal land sites and show promise as bioenergy crops for ethanol or bioproducts.
Dr. Jingxin Wang is the Director of MASBio and Professor of Forest Chemistry at the Davis College of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at West Virginia University. His presentation provides an overview of the USDA-NIFA MASBio project. MASBio is led by West Virginia University and supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2020-68012-31881 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Various institutions (universities and national labs) and industries are involved in this project. Industry partners include Celtic Energy Farms, Double-A-Willow, MABEC, Ernst, GTI, Fox Land Restoration, PA FFSC, AWSGP, Torresak, Wilds, Allstar, AWP, Eastern Biochar, Lignetics, Enviva Southampton, Enviva Chesapeake, Tucker Eng, and Norris Thermal. Institutional partners include SUNY-ESF, PSU, WVU, WVSU, VT, INL, RMRS, FPL, and ORNL. The objectives of MASBio revolve around a goal of delivering sustainable and economically feasible biomass for value-added products system in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. MASBio has seven major objectives which are to 1. Identify and demonstrate feasible and cost-effective approaches to soil amendment and feedstock production; 2. Demonstrate efficient and effective harvest and logistics strategies for an optimized supply chain; 3. Develop and optimize bioproduct conversion processes through collaborations with industry partners; 4. Evaluate the sustainability and human dimensions of the developed system; 5. Conduct system and scale-up analyses using robust artificial intelligence (AI)-based data analytics; 6. Engage the next generation of bioproducts leaders through education and internship programs; 7. Outreach and engage with entrepreneurs, stakeholders, and business developers to promote bioeconomic development through integrated outreach programs. A task group has been formed for each objective and hence seven task groups have been formed in total. Each group is responsible for executing various sub-tasks specific to that objective. By the completion of this project there will be various outcomes and deliverables such as a handbook on management strategies for feedstock production on reclaimed and marginal lands; a decision-making framework for comparing different harvesting and storage approaches across various systems and feedstock types to provide a year-round supply of biomass at an affordable cost for end-users; development of successful, scalable, carbon neutral/negative conversion pathways for innovative bioproducts; policy implications for guiding biomass products development; an integrated environmental and economic decision support tool for the bioproducts produced on a plant-level scale; online courses, certificates, and internship program for biomass systems; development of 10+ businesses within the bioproduct supply chain; increased social awareness and opportunities for bioproducts markets in the Mid-Atlantic region; more than 100 trained personnel in biomass related business.