Biomass Plantations on the Increase

biomass forestry

biomass forestry

Demand for renewable energy sources is increasing in the Southeastern United States, with projections for growth in supply via bio-energy forest plantations as a  supplement woody biomass from other sources such as logging residues.

According to Dr Jeff Wright, “In the southern U.S., projections are for an increase of up to 25 million “new” tons of woody biomass demand for bioenergy. To supply this woody biomass demand will require purpose grown plantations of various species including pine, eucalypts, sweetgum, hybrid poplar and cottonwood, amongst others. Forest plantation yields can be 8-15 green tons/acre/year on rotations of 5-12 years. Utilization of this renewable and sustainable biomass resource will be as feedstock “designed” for a large number of bio-energy applications.

In the particular case of forestry, purpose grown plantations for biomass feedstock give an opportunity for cost savings, a sustainable resource for bio- energy and an economic opportunity for forest landowners.

Bio-energy plantations include, amongst others, pine, cottonwood, hybrid poplar, sweetgum and eucalypts. Much of the emphasis has been on hardwood plantations due to their ability to coppice, continued genetic improvement programs as well as the opportunity to combine fast growth and wood properties in selected clones. In the specific case of Eucalyptus and Populus, there are a large number of commercial planting programs in countries outside the U.S.

A number of feedstock characteristics are important in bio-energy hardwood plantations. Firstly, the plantation hardwood species has to be adapted to the soil and climate conditions. The hardwood feedstock has to be acceptable in harvesting, field processing and ultimately for conversion to bio-energy. Lastly, the growing (stumpage), harvest, haul and preparation costs have to be favorable compared to other biomass options. In the Southeastern US there are a limited number of hardwood species that can be competitive for forest plantation biomass for bio-energy production.”

With its proven track record with Eucalypts and an upcoming project working on elite species of Eucalypts for a Renewable energies client, PolyGenomX can confidently say that its capability to increase biomass outputs by at least 30% would be hugely beneficial to biomass producers in the forestry sector in the US.

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