Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Modeling air-drying of Douglas-fir and hybrid poplar biomass in Oregon

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  • Both transportation costs and market values of woody biomass are strongly linked to the amount of moisture in the woody biomass. Therefore, managing moisture in the woody biomass well can lead to significant advantages in the woody biomass energy business. In this study, two prediction models were developed to estimate moisture content for Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) and hybrid poplar (Populus spp.) woody biomass. Experimental data for the Douglas-fir model were collected over four different seasons at two different in-forest study sites in Oregon (Corvallis and Butte Falls) between December 2010 and December 2011. Three woody biomass bundles consisting of 3-meter length logs (30 to 385 mm diameter) were built each season at each study site; a total of 24 Douglas-fir bundles (1,316 to 3,621 kg weight) were built over the period. Experimental data for the hybrid poplar model were collected in two drying trials at two off-forest study sites in Oregon (Clatskanie and Boardman) between April 2011 and January 2012. Two types of woody bundles consisting of 3-meter length logs were built each trial: small (28 to 128 mm diameter, 2,268 to 5,389 kg weight) and large (75 to 230 mm diameter, 3,901 to 7,013 kg weight). A total of eight hybrid poplar bundles were built over the period. These data were used to develop linear mixed effects multiple regression models for predicting the moisture content of Douglas-fir and hybrid poplar biomass, respectively. The major factors considered in this study for predicting woody biomass moisture content change were cumulative precipitation, evapotranspiration (ET₀), and biomass piece size. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Penman-Monteith method, which requires temperature, solar radiation, wind, and relative humidity data, was used to calculate ET₀. The developed models can be easily applied to any location where historic weather data are available to calculate estimated air-drying times for Douglas-fir and hybrid poplar biomass at any time of the year. Oregon has been split into nine climate zones. Use of the model was demonstrated for four climate zones, two in which air-drying data were collected, and two in which it was not collected. Considerable differences in predicted drying times were observed between the four climate zones.
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