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Transpirational Drying Effects on Energy and Ash Content from Whole-Tree Southern Pine Plantation Chipping Operations

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Wood energy facilities prefer clean, dry raw material to maximize energy content and minimize the ash remaining after combustion. We allowed felled loblolly pine trees to transpirationally dry in-field for 4 and 8 weeks during late summer in central Georgia. We then compared costs of whole-tree chipping and transportation, as well as the energy, ash, bark, and nutrient contents of the chips produced. Moisture content was reduced from 53% for freshly felled trees to 43% and 39% for trees allowed to dry for 4 and 8 weeks, respectively. Drying did not change the ash content (<0.7%). Truck payloads were 16% and 24% lower for material dried 4 and 8 weeks compared with green material, thus increasing hauling costs by $0.80 per ton (field condition) for each subsequent 4-week drying period. Drying increased the energy content of delivered chips by approximately 1,200 BTU/lb. Whereas drying stems increased on-board and delivered costs on a field ton basis, it reduced those costs by 20% when measured on a bone dry ton or million BTU basis. Transpirational drying for 4 weeks or more appears to be a promising method for increasing the energy content without increasing the ash content of woody feedstocks.
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Keywords: biomass; cost; energy content; harvesting; transpirational drying

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2013

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