Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Evaluation of six tools for estimating woody biomass moisture content

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  • Woody biomass transportation costs and market values/costs are strongly correlated with the woody biomass moisture content. Properly managing moisture content can potentially lead to economic and environmental advantages in biomass energy markets. Good management requires accurate moisture content measurements. Therefore, availability of accurate, precise, reliable, and efficient tools to assess woody biomass moisture content is essential. In this study, six different tools (Fibre-Gen HM200, IML Hammer, Humimeter BLW, Timbermaster, Humimeter HM1 and Wile Bio Meter) were evaluated. The six tools employed three different measurement technologies; acoustic, conductance, and capacitance. Woody biomass samples were collected over one season (summer 2011) at three different locations in western Oregon (Corvallis, Dallas, and Clatskanie) for three softwood species and three hardwood species: Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco), Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa L.), western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.), hybrid poplar (Populus spp.), Madrone (Arbutus spp.), and Garryana Oak (Quercus garryana Dougl. ex Hook). Twenty 3-meter long log (20 to 400mm diameter) specimens were collected per species; 18 specimens were divided into two different treatments (open vs. covered), and the two remaining specimens were chipped. In addition, approximately 100 kilograms per species of hogfuel (limbs and tops) were collected and chipped. Moisture content measurements of logs, chips, and hogfuel were made regularly over a four month period. These data was used to develop multiple linear regression models for assessing the moisture content of the six species using the six tools. The major factors considered in the regression models were species (6), treatment (2), and tools (6). The data were also used to estimate the sample size needed for each tool. The best tool from each technology type was identified. The results generated from this study show that (1) none of the tools are accurate without calibration for different species, (2) the best model/tool combination could only explain about 80% of the variability in measurements, (3) further product development is required in some cases to ensure that the tools are robust for industrial application, and (4) there is a wide range in efficiency of the tools (i.e., 50 minute tool efficiency range). The Fibre-Gen HM200 and Wile Bio Meter were the most accurate, precise and efficient tools tested. The cost of transporting woody biomass from the forest to woody biomass plants is "optimized" when the moisture content drops to approximately 30% (wet basis). Validation of the models developed for three of the tools tested (Fibre-Gen HM200, Humimeter BLW and the Wile Bio Meter) indicates that the tools are accurate below 35% MC (wet basis). This suggests they could be used for making threshold transportation decisions, i.e., determining when to haul.
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