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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.

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.

Selected Related Patents

Engineered Woody Biomass Baling System

7987776

Engineered Tall Grass Biomass Baling System

7987777

Engineered Top Infeed Hopper System

7992491

Engineered Top Infeed Hopper System

8205546

Method of Baling Switchgrass or Miscanthus at Optimum Highway Transport Densities

8359974

Engineered Tall Grass Biomass Baling System

8430025