Analysis and operational considerations of biomass extraction on steep terrain in western Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/0g354k05j

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  • The development of bioenergy from biomass has dominated the minds of forest engineering researchers over the last decade. One of the main themes that has been generated from that research is that bioenergy from biomass has major operational hurdles to overcome before becoming economically feasible. More directly, the impact of the slope of the harvest area, the elevation of harvest sites and the ownership of the lands being harvested were, in this thesis, seen as major operational hurdles in western Oregon which would require further study. This thesis discusses two studies that were conducted to provide insight into the operational hurdles that are occurring in biomass development. The first of these studies was an exploratory field study conducted in the area of small wood (<16" DBH) ground‐based harvesting on steep terrain (>35%). The purpose of this study was to compare traditional (cable) and contemporary (ground‐based) harvesting methods on steep terrain in an effort to determine the economic feasibility of the differing harvest methods. To achieve the purpose of this study, a shift‐level assessment was conducted on six different harvesting systems, all of which were conducting first‐entry commercial thinning. The six different harvesting systems were a Koller K301 yarder with manual felling on steep terrain (> 35%), a Koller K301 yarder with a Ponsse Ergo harvester (double‐bogie) cutting and pre‐bunching whole trees with no processing on steep terrain (>35%), a Koller K301 yarder with a Ponsse Ergo harvester (double‐bogie) cutting with cut‐to‐length felling, processing and pre‐bunching on steep terrain (>35%), a Ponsse Ergo harvester (double‐bogie) cutting and processing for a Ponsse Buffalo King forwarder (double‐bogie) on steep terrain (>35%) with an adverse haul to the landing, a Ponsse Ergo harvester (double‐bogie) cutting and processing for a Ponsse Buffalo King forwarder (double‐bogie) on steep terrain (>35%) with a favorable haul to the landing, and a Ponsse Ergo harvester (double‐bogie) cutting and processing for a Ponsse Buffalo King forwarder on flat terrain (<35%). To evaluate economic feasibility, the productivity and cost of each harvesting system was evaluated and compared. The results of the comparison of the six harvesting systems showed that the system with the lowest harvesting cost for first‐entry commercial thinning on steep terrain was the harvester/forwarder combination; under all scenarios studied. However, this study also found that by processing and pre‐bunching using the Ponsse Ergo harvester the productivity of the yarder was increased by 79% and the harvesting cost was reduced by 50%. Although the costs of the harvester/forwarder treatments were lower than the cost of the yarder treatments, there were still significant cost reductions and productivity increases when the harvester was paired with the cable yarder. The Ponsse Ergo harvester was the focus of evaluation for operational aspects of ground based machinery on steep terrain. A detailed time study revealed that significant differences occurred in the average cycle time of the harvester when it was placed on steep terrain. Further analysis showed that the significant difference was not a product of increased slope but rather was the product of factors that were outside of the scope of this study. The harvester's productivity was impacted by within unit and outside of unit drive times (the time spent driving between trees or driving between cutting areas and the time spent driving on the return trails for access to the next cutting road, respectively). Significant differences in the average within unit drive times was found at the extreme slope classes (65+%) for all treatment units with some treatments having impacts at slopes as low as 45%. However, the changes in average within unit drive times related to slope did not represent a large enough increase in drive times across the different slope classes within each treatment to be able to conclude that slope is the sole factor for decreased production on steep terrain. Thus, there are elements outside of the scope of this study which may have an unforeseen impact on drive times within the unit. Drive time outside of the unit accounted for a loss of an average of one hour per day of productive cutting, and had a significant impact on harvester productivity. Overall, a detailed analysis of the harvester data found that slope steepness had marginal impacts on the productivity of the harvester. This indicates that further analysis may be needed to identify the elements that were not included in the scope of this study that may impact the operability of the harvester on steep terrain. The second study used to provide insight into the operational hurdles of biomass development was a biomass assessment conducted using Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data provided by the U.S. Forest Service. This assessment focused on the operational factors of land ownership, slope and elevation. This study works to assess the operational considerations of biomass harvesting at the landscape scale through a biomass assessment based on the ownership group (forest service, other federal, state & local and private), the elevation characteristics and the slope characteristics of timberlands in western Oregon. This assessment focused on comparing the biomass per acre (bone dry tons, BDTons) within a given unique feature to identify the trends or relationships that exist. With respect to ownership group, this study found that forest service lands had significantly more biomass per acre (BDTons) than all other ownership types and private lands had significantly less biomass per acre (BDTons) than all other ownership types. Other federal and state & local timberlands had no significant difference with respect to biomass per acre (BDTons). In order to make true comparisons within the elevation and slope categories, the impact of ownership group on these variables had to be accounted for to remove any possible bias. Thus, the categories of elevation and slope were looked at within each ownership group (forest service, other public and private) to provide a comparison with minimal bias. The study found that the amount of biomass per acre was not significantly different with changes in slope or elevation. This thesis works to fill the gaps in the literature regarding the operational considerations of harvesting biomass on steep terrain in western Oregon. The results and conclusions will build to the body of literature already present on this topic.
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