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Can Biomass Quality Be Preserved through Tarping Comminuted Roadside Biomass Piles?

Wetzel, Suzanne, Volpe, Sylvain, Damianopoulos, Janet, Krigstin, Sally
Forests 2017 v.8 no.9
bioenergy, biomass, biorefining, feedstocks, forests, harvesting, heat, logging, roadsides, slash, storage time, water content
Storage conditions play a vital role in maintaining biomass quality as a suitable bioenergy feedstock. Research has shown that biomass undergoes significant changes under different storage conditions and that these may influence its suitability for various biorefining and bioenergy opportunities. This study explores the effects of different tarp covers on the properties of stored-comminuted forest harvest residue from the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Forest. Characteristics of the biomass were evaluated upon harvesting and after one year in storage. The physical state of the different tarps used for pile coverage was monitored onsite. Results indicated that tarp material considerably affects micro-climatic conditions inside piles, yielding variation in the characteristics of stored biomass over the storage period. While plastic based tarps were easier to work with and lasted longer than paper-based tarps, the paper-based tarps were more breathable and resulted in less degradation of biomass. However, the paper-based tarps did not maintain their structural integrity for the full duration of the storage period. Moisture content of original biomass (48.99%) increased to a maximum of 65.25% under plastic cover after 1 year of storage. This negatively influenced the net heating value of the biomass, causing it to decrease from 8.58 MJ/kg to 4.06 MJ/kg. Overall, the use of covers was not considered successful in preserving the original quality of biomass but may enhance its quality for other biorefinery opportunities.