In early 2023, Lakeview RNG (a wholly-owned subsidiary of NEXT Renewable Fuels) launched plans to improve and expand a facility owned by Red Rock Biofuels in Lake County, Oregon, to convert wood waste to biofuel. This location will use forest waste, or “slash,” as the feedstock to produce renewable natural gas and clean hydrogen. Wood waste is a common byproduct of forest thinning, logging, and wildfire management activities. What are the benefits of using this material to produce biofuel, and how does it compare to other material sources?
Why using wood waste for biofuel production makes sense:
Biofuels are renewable fuels produced from organic matter such as plants, wood, and other forest products, human and animal waste, and agricultural crops. The beauty of biofuels is that they remove carbon dioxide from the air as they grow. When we burn them in our automobiles, we release carbon dioxide, but it is the same carbon that the plants originally absorbed while growing. Just on that basis, biofuels appear to be zero net emitters.
However, it takes energy to grow biofuels; it takes fertilizer, tractors, transportation, and energy to convert the plants to liquid fuels. Planting and growing these crops can also change how much carbon is stored in the soil. And using existing food crops or arable land for biofuel production can lead to unintended environmental consequences.
One solution to this problem is to use wood waste, or “slash,” as the feedstock for biofuel production. Wood waste can come from activities like forest thinning, logging, and wildfire management activities on private and state lands. Today, that waste is largely burned in open slash piles, and the subsequent black carbon lands in rivers, on snowpack, and in the community’s lungs. Instead, it can be processed and turned into a low-carbon gaseous fuel, benefitting environmental and community health in southern Oregon and beyond.
The process of producing biofuels from wood waste involves breaking down the material into its component parts, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and then converting those parts into biofuels through various chemical processes. The resulting biofuels can be used to power vehicles, heat homes, and generate electricity. Using wood waste for biofuel production has several benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills, and providing a new source of revenue for forest owners and operators.
Benefits of Using Wood Waste as a Feedstock for Biofuel Production
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Biofuels produced from wood waste have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85% compared to fossil fuels. This is because the carbon dioxide released during the combustion of biofuels is offset by the carbon dioxide absorbed by the trees during their growth.
- Reducing waste: Using it as a feedstock for biofuel production reduces the amount of waste that goes into landfills. This, in turn, reduces the amount of methane gas that is produced by landfills, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
- Providing a new source of revenue: Using wood waste as a feedstock for biofuel production provides a new source of revenue for forest owners and operators. This can help to support the local economy and create new jobs.
- Improving air quality: Burning wood waste in open slash piles can lead to poor air quality, which can have negative health effects on local communities. By converting wood waste into biofuels, air quality can be improved, benefitting the health of local communities.
- Supporting sustainable forestry practices: Using wood waste as a feedstock for biofuel production supports sustainable forestry practices by providing a market for low-value wood products. This can help to reduce the amount of waste generated during forest management activities and promote sustainable forestry practices.
How does this process compare to converting other materials into biofuels?
The process of converting wood waste into biofuels is similar to the process of converting other feedstocks, but there are some differences. Here is a comparison of the process of converting wood waste into biofuels to other feedstocks:
|Wood waste||The process of converting wood waste into biofuels involves breaking down the material into its component parts, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and then converting those parts into biofuels through various chemical processes.|
|Waste resources||Waste resources, such as waste cooking/frying oil, animal/plant fats, and palm oil mill effluent (POME), are third-generation feedstocks that can be used for biodiesel production. The process of converting waste resources into biodiesel involves filtering the waste to remove impurities, then reacting the waste with an alcohol, such as methanol, to produce biodiesel.|
|Biomass||Biomass refers to any renewable organic matter, including wood, plants, other forest products, human and animal waste, and agricultural crops. The process of converting biomass into biofuels involves breaking down the biomass into its component parts, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and then converting those parts into biofuels through various chemical processes.|
|Woody biomass||Woody biomass feedstocks are those that come from trees and woody plants. The process of converting woody biomass into biofuels involves breaking down the woody biomass into its component parts, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and then converting those parts into biofuels through various chemical processes.|
|Waste-to-energy||Waste-to-energy biofuel production involves converting waste materials, such as municipal solid waste, into biofuels. The process of converting waste-to-energy involves sorting the waste to remove non-biodegradable materials, then processing the waste through various chemical and biological processes to produce biofuels.|
Overall, the process of converting wood waste into biofuels is similar to the process of converting other feedstocks. The main difference is the source of the feedstock. Wood waste comes from forest thinning, logging, and wildfire management activities on private and state lands, while other feedstocks come from waste resources, biomass, woody biomass, and municipal solid waste.
Are you interested in learning more about renewable energy solutions in Oregon?
The Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition’s mission is to enhance the livability of the Rogue Valley. We promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!