IDX students observe collection and processing equipment for post-harvest forest residual in the Olympic Peninsula.
IDX students observe collection and processing equipment for post-harvest forest residual in the Olympic Peninsula.

Students enrolled in the Integrated Design Experience (IDX) course at Washington State University are showing people what a wood-to-bio-jet fuel supply chain might look like.

The IDX students are working on behalf of NARA and multiple stakeholders to identify and evaluate potential facility sites that could function as either an integrated biorefinery, a solids depots or a liquids depot. The evaluations are complex and include a range of considerations like the availability and cost of post-harvest forest residuals, transportation options, permits, existing infrastructure, work force, social acceptance, the type of products that could be produced and the available markets for those products.

View regional supply chain studies prepared by IDX.

Some of the information used to produce these evaluations is provided through open sources and from data generated by the NARA teams; however, much of the information comes from the people and companies who manage working forests, transport wood, and produce wood-based products.

This semester, the IDX course will provide an assessment that covers the Olympic Peninsula and will provide the following:

  • Analysis and design for a co-located liquids depot at existing pulp and paper mills, with analysis of biomass requirements and potential markets
  • Analysis and design for a lignin recovery facility at existing pulp and paper mills, with analysis of biomass requirements and potential markets
  • Assessment of community perceptions in Clallam and Jefferson counties related to wood-based biofuels and co-products production

That’s why students in the IDX course traveled to the Olympic Peninsula in October. They meet with Bill Hermann, the owner of Hermann Brothers Logging and Construction Inc. in Port Angeles, to observe a business that collects and processes post-harvest forest residuals. They also meet with Port Townsend Paper mill and Nippon Paper mill to learn about their operations, and they attended a packed open house to hear what local citizens thought about a potential industry that uses post harvest residuals to make bio-jet fuel and other products.

Hermann Brothers Logging and Construction Inc.

Bill Hermann is a man who provides solutions. To reduce the cost of hauling slash material to customers, his company designed chip vans with rear wheel steering. To ensure that only clean water escaped from the wood yard, the company built settling ponds and a water purification plant. His crew escorted the IDX students to a post-harvest site where slash was chipped into hog fuel and transported to a facility that uses the fuel to generate electricity and heat. The slash was removed so that the harvest site could be re-planted. The students also traveled with chip van drivers, toured the wood yard where logs are converted into pulp chips, and observed slash piles being formed. The information will help IDX students understand the hauling and processing costs involved with handling post-harvest forest residuals.

Bill Hermann talks with IDX students
Bill Hermann talks with IDX students

Port Townsend Open House

The WSU Jefferson County Extension office hosted a community open house in Port Townsend that featured the NARA project. The meeting room was filled with locals and the IDX students heard a wide array of questions and concerns about the use of post-harvest forest residuals. Listed are some of the issues discussed:

  • Many wanted to know how the production of biofuels and co-products from post –harvest forest residuals would affect the local air and water quality, noise, smells and traffic levels.
  • Questions were asked about the kind of waste products generated from the conversion process and how citizens could be sure that a life cycle assessment (LCA) would be produced accurately and without bias.
  • Additional topics covered the amount of residuals that should be left in a working forest to maintain ecological health, and the potential demand for forest residues once an industry was established.

NARA research is providing answers to some of these topics. For instance, a life cycle assessment is nearly developed that describes the impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Their research indicates that regional air quality would improve significantly if post-harvest forest residuals were removed and used to produce alternative jet fuel rather than if burned. The International Organization for Standardization will review the NARA LCA once completed to ensure that the methodology is sound. NARA also conducts research that measures the impact of post-harvest forest residuals on forest ecology.

View a recent webinar describing the NARA LCA findings.

View a recent webinar describing NARA research on post-harvest residuals.

Port Townsend Paper and Nippon Paper

The IDX team met with representatives of the Port Townsend Paper mill and Nippon Paper mill located on the Olympic Peninsula. The purpose for the meetings was to learn about their operations and describe the types of analyses the IDX group could provide. These analyses would include supply curves that project the biomass cost from a given distance to the facility and site designs with cost assessments for converting wood biomass into simple sugars. Providing these kinds of assessments allows the IDX students to develop skills and provides stakeholders with quality information they can use for future planning.