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Biomass Baling Technologies

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Costly and logistically difficult feedstock delivery have emerged among the critical factors that stall development of planned bioenergy facilities and limit the capacity of others already on-line. Forest Concepts' "science first" development process used purpose-built laboratory equipment to quantify the three rheological properties of many types of woody and herbaceous biomass that are important to the design of light-weight but strong balers that can produce high-density bales. Proprietary data describing pressure-density relationships, side wall friction, and Poisson's forces was then used to design and build a street-legal full-scale engineering prototype baler. Forest Concepts' pioneering research and engineering efforts related to biomass baling have resulted in a strong Intellectual Property position, with six related patents issued to date. Technologies relevant to baling herbaceous crops such as switchgrass, corn stover, miscanthus, and others are available for licensing.

Woody biomass from urban, suburban, and forest areas is a large unexploited source of bioenergy fuels and feedstock. Existing methods for at-the-source chipping, shredding and hauling with specialized trucks have proven to be costly in some cases and logistically impractical in others. These problems are particularly true for woody biomass produced by tree service firms, landscape managers and municipalities in urban/suburban areas. Our biomass baling technology enables woody biomass to join cardboard, paper, cans and many other materials as important recyclables, AND to be collected and handled just like other baled urban recyclables. Biomass baling technologies invented by Forest Concepts establish a new paradigm for woody biomass feedstock collection, transport and handling. Biomass balers enable cost-effective collection and delivery of whole or minimally processed woody biomass to power producers, cogeneration plants, and biofuel producers, while mitigating many of the issues faced by owners and operators of tow-behind chippers.



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Selected Related Publications

Field Experience with Street Legal Square Baler for Woody Biomass

Dooley, J.H., D.N. Lanning, and C. Lanning. 2011. Field experience with street legal square baler for woody biomass. ASABE Paper No. 1111090. St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Field Experience with Street Legal Square Baler for Woody Biomass

Abstract:

We conducted a problem analysis in 2005 to recommend an optimal method for collection, transport, and handling of woody biomass in urban centers, suburban landscapes, and forested areas. The analysis concluded that street-legal biomass balers should replace tow-behind chippers to enable woody biomass to be packaged and handled just like other recyclables. Design and development of an engineering prototype street-legal baler for woody biomass was completed in early 2008. Two years of testing and demonstrations in urban, suburban, and forest settings have produced a wealth of technical and market information that will inform commercialization of woody biomass baling technologies. This paper reports on the results of baling and logistics trials across a range of operating environments and biomass materials.

Square Bales of Woody Biomass for Improved Logistics

Dooley, J.H., D. N. Lanning, C. Lanning, T.F. Broderick, J.L. Fridley. 2009. Square bales of woody biomass for improved logistics. Paper No. 81. Society of American Foresters Annual International Meeting. Orlando, FL. 10 pp.

Square Bales of Woody Biomass for Improved Logistics

Abstract:

The majority of fuels reduction work is conducted by hand crews in the wildlandurban interface and near in-forest recreation/administrative assets. Today, most of the biomass is either piled for burning at some future time or is dragged to the roadside for chipping. In many districts, disposal of chipped or whole brush is costly. However, if the material could be densified into a form that makes it easily transportable, it may be directed to bioenergy firms distant from the project site. Engineering research led to the development of street-legal balers specifically designed to bale woody biomass and replace many of the tow-behind chippers used by agencies, tree service firms, and forest management contractors today. A moment-method study of an engineering prototype was conducted to determine how baler and ground crew unit operations contributed to total cycle time. Although total productivity of more than one bale per hour was adequate to support hand-crews, improvements to ground operations and loader operator strategies resulted in a quick 30% production increase.

Biomass Baling into Large Square Bales for Efficient Transport, Storage, and Handling

Dooley, J.H., D. N. Lanning, C. Lanning, J.L. Fridley. 2008. Biomass baling into large square bales for efficient transport, storage, and handling. In: Baker, S.A., M.C. Bolding, W.D. Greene, eds. Proceedings of the 31st Annual Meeting of the Council on Forest Engineering, June 22- 25, 2008, Charleston, SC. Pg. 25-30

Biomass Baling into Large Square Bales for Efficient Transport, Storage, and Handling

Abstract:

Forest Concepts is working under a federal contract from the USDA CSREES SBIR program to develop better methods to collect and transport woody biomass collected from small-scale fuels reduction projects (ranging from residential lots to 20 acre parcels) in the true wildland-urban intermix zone (WUI). Our specific objective is to enable more of the material to be delivered to value-added uses including energy, biorefineries, and engineered wood products. A secondary objective is to enable diversion of urban greenwood from landfills and compost facilities. Our solution to the problem is to develop baling equipment and technology that enable woody biomass to be baled for transport on standard flatbed trucks, rail, and barge. The driving assumption behind our project is that baled biomass a) preserves user values as compared to onsite chipping, and b) facilitates delivery to more distant users than can be economically reached by chip vans or bulk bins. Another consideration for urban and suburban sources is that baling within residential areas produces lower noise, lower dust (and aerosols), and is potentially safer than chipping. We have designed and tested a baler that is a mid-size unit to demonstrate the concepts for equipment, on-site operations, and baled-material distribution logistics. Smaller and larger balers will be defined as appropriate for other markets.

Engineering factors for biomass baler design

Lanning, D.N., J.H. Dooley, M.C. DeTray, and C.N. Lanning. 2007. Engineering factors for biomass baler design. ASABE Paper No. 078047. ASABE. St. Joseph, MI. 10 pp.

Engineering factors for biomass baler design

Abstract:

Woody biomass is a core element of our nation's strategy to replace imported oil and natural gas with renewable resources. The challenge facing potential biomass users, however, is how to economically recover and transport the material from residential neighborhoods, urban centers and suburban landscapes to distant users. Our preferred solution is to bale the bulky biomass at the roadside to reduce the cost of at-site processing, increase payloads during hauling, and preserve physical properties for more appropriate feedstock processing by woody biomass users. A preliminary step towards this goal is determining the appropriate bale and baler size. We have deduced an appropriate target bale size and density for a baler intended to operate in the wildland urban intermix zone as part of forest health and fuels reduction projects. By using a bale size of 1.22 m x 0.79 m x 1.58 m with a green density of 373 Kg/m3 and an equilibrium density of 250 Kg/m3 we can maximize truck load potential while minimizing input energy. Furthermore, maximizing truck load potential increases the utilization opportunities for the biomass from residential scale fuel reduction projects by reducing the cost of material transportation.

Design of a Forest Residue Baler - Specification of Bale Dimensions

Dooley, J. H. (2015). Design of a Forest Residue Baler - Specification of Bale Dimensions. Auburn, WA, Forest Concepts, LLC: 8.

Design of a Forest Residue Baler - Specification of Bale Dimensions

Abstract:

Specification of bale dimensions, configuration, and density are among the first decision decisions to be made for the design of a new class of forest biomass balers. The engineering team at Forest Concepts updated earlier work on baling of urban woody biomass to the context of forest residuals and the BRDI project. Revised functional objectives and operational constraints resulted in a new bale size specification that should be near-optimal for the BRDI project context. Two bale sizes are specified for further development. The recommended small-bale dimensions are 32-inches tall by 56-inches long by 48 inches wide. The small bale will weigh between 750 and 1,500 pounds depending on biomass moisture content and platen pressure. The recommended large-bale dimensions are 34-inches tall by 96-inches long by 48 inches wide. The large bale will weigh between 1,500 and 3,000 pounds depending on biomass moisture content and platen pressure. These bale sizes will be used in the next stage of baler design which entails both overall baler configuration and concurrent specification of hydraulic power packages.

Conceptual specification of forest residue balers using the Appreciative Design Method

Dooley, J. H., C. J. Lanning and D. N. Lanning (2015). Conceptual specification of forest residue balers using the Appreciative Design Method. ASABE Paper No. 152189213. St. Joseph, MI, American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Conceptual specification of forest residue balers using the Appreciative Design Method

Abstract:

Baling of fine forest residuals such as tops, branches, and thinnings is expected to reduce the cost of collection, transport, and processing. Baling may enable economical access to currently stranded biomass resources that are inaccessible to large in-woods grinders and specialized chip hauling vehicles. The technical feasibility of baling logging slash branches and tops has been demonstrated with an engineering prototype biomass baler. Design and specification of full-scale operationally efficient balers for use in forest settings entails achieving objectives and constraint sets held by many stakeholders such as landowners, operators, contractors, manufacturers, etc. This paper details a disciplined and structured Appreciative Design Method used to establish engineering, functional, and configuration specifications for an entirely new class of woody biomass balers.

Conceptual specification of forest utility balers for woody biomass

Dooley, J. H., C. J. Lanning and D. N. Lanning (2015). Conceptual specification of forest utility balers for woody biomass. Auburn, WA, Forest Concepts, LLC: 9.

Conceptual specification of forest utility balers for woody biomass

Abstract:

The forest utility modular woody biomass baler is designed to maximize recovery of forest residuals from small/remote/stranded landings, scattered roadside windrows and piles, thinnings from hand crews, and forest management prunings. The baler module is designed to be incorporated onto a wide range of undercarriages and prime movers. The baler module can be mounted on (and powered by) a forestry log forwarder when in-woods mobility is needed. Such configuration takes advantage of the forwarders mobility, onboard log crane, and hydraulic power capacity. In other configurations, the baler module can be paired with an optional engine/hydraulic power-pack and a small-log loader for stand-alone use on a trailer frame or truck chassis. Modularity particularly enables users to minimize capital by mounting the baler on existing forwarders, truck chassis, or trailers. When use is seasonal due to markets, fire, snow, etc., the baler can be removed to free the prime mover for other uses.

Conceptual specification of large-bale forest residuals balers

Dooley, J. H., C. J. Lanning and D. N. Lanning (2015). Conceptual specification of large-bale forest residuals balers. Auburn, WA, Forest Concepts, LLC: 9.

Conceptual specification of large-bale forest residuals balers

Abstract:

The large-bale modular woody biomass baler is designed to maximize daily production while baling previously piled logging slash, forest residuals, thinnings from hand crews, and forest management prunings. The baler is intended to be supported by an excavator-type grapple loader to feed biomass into the baler and handle bales produced much like a grinder and loader combination interact today. The base-model conceptual baler is mounted on a self-propelled tracked undercarriage and is tele-operated by the loader operator via wireless controls (also, much like mobile grinders are today). The 34x48x96-inch high density bale produced by the baler is designed to maximize trucking payload, minimize bale yard requirements, and be handled at bale yards by conventional agricultural bale equipment. Each bale is expected to weigh between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds depending on moisture content.

Conceptual Specification of Forest Utility Balers for Woody Biomass

Dooley, J. H., C. J. Lanning and D. N. Lanning (2016). Conceptual specification of forest utility balers for woody biomass. ASABE Paper Number: 162455264. 2016 Annual International Meeting, July 17-20, 2016. Orlando, FL, ASABE: 9.

Conceptual Specification of Forest Utility Balers for Woody Biomass

Abstract:

A new class of modular woody biomass baler is designed to maximize recovery of forest residuals from small/remote/stranded landings, scattered roadside windrows and piles, thinnings from hand crews, and forest management prunings. The baler module is designed to be incorporated onto a wide range of undercarriages and prime movers. The baler module can be mounted on and powered by a forestry log forwarder when in-woods mobility is needed. Such configuration takes advantage of the forwarder's mobility, onboard log crane, and hydraulic power capacity. Balers may also be mounted on highway or forestry trailers, with self-contained power and loading. The bale size for the utility baler was established to be easily lifted by small-log loaders, skid-steer loaders with forks, and the like.

Moisture Content of Baled Forest and Urban Woody Biomass during Long-term Open Storage

Dooley, J. H., M. J. Wamsley and J. M. Perry (2018). "Moisture Content of Baled Forest and Urban Woody Biomass during Long-term Open Storage." Applied Engineering in Agriculture 34(1): 225.

Moisture Content of Baled Forest and Urban Woody Biomass during Long-term Open Storage

Abstract:

This article describes how the moisture content of baled woody biomass varied during long-term open-air storage under conditions in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Large rectangular bales of forest and urban biomass were produced beginning in August 2015 and periodically until June 2016. Weights were measured approximately monthly until the entire lot of bales was ground into fuel in December 2016. Because it was impractical to non-destructively obtain moisture content samples during the study, final moisture content was measured from the ground material. Estimated temporal moisture contents were back-calculated from the final dry weight and moisture content of bales. All bales dried considerably during the spring and summer months, achieving a minimum moisture content in the early fall of 15 to 29% (wb). Minimum early fall moisture content had no correlation with the initial moisture content at time of baling. The ending moisture content in December 2016 ranged from 44% to 57% (wb), with a mean moisture content of 53% (wb). Ending moisture content had no correlation with initial moisture content at the time of baling but appeared to be related to the amount of fine versus coarse woody material in the bales. Bales of forest and urban woody biomass proved to be structurally stable during long-term storage to enable handling and final transport to a centralized grinding location.

Work element time study of a prototype for baling forest residual biomass into large rectangular bales

Wamsley, M. J., J. H. Dooley, C. J. Lanning and D. N. Lanning (2018). Work element time study of a prototype for baling forest residual biomass into large rectangular bales. Auburn, WA, Forest Concepts, LLC.: 17.

Work element time study of a prototype for baling forest residual biomass into large rectangular bales

Abstract:

The productivity of forest biomass collection equipment is highly dependent on site conditions, spatial distribution of biomass, operator skill, and functional design of the equipment used. A prototype woody biomass baler was used to produce large rectangular bales of woody biomass. Rectangular bales enable high payloads during transport and efficient storage at centralized processing facilities. A series of empirical time studies were conducted using experienced operators to assess the baler-specific productivity of making bales of urban, forest thinning, and forest harvest residuals. This paper reports on the results of a forest harvest residuals baling study conducted during 2015. As with prior studies evaluating bundlers, bulk containers, and forwarders, grappling and arranging biomass with a boom-type loader consumed approximately 25% of the total time to make bales. Biomass gathering can only be improved by better arrangement during harvest operations. Platen cycling was a significant production rate factor and is directly related to chosen engine power and available hydraulic flow. Simulations of baler specific production rates (time to make a bale) were informed by field study data. Sensitivity analyses enable choice and specification of functional design attributes for commercial models of woody biomass balers.

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Method of Baling Switchgrass or Miscanthus at Optimum Highway Transport Densities

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Engineered Tall Grass Biomass Baling System

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