By Rubina Obaid
Supply chain is considered as the heart of the biomass which becomes challenging as transportation eats up the greatest pie in the overall cost. To improve the harvesting in the field and logistics of the overall system significant improvement has been made over the years and notable gains are observed for increased efficiencies.
Efficient harvesting and delivering practices greatly reduce the cost of biomass for the end-users and could save companies a lot of money in the operating costs. The processing cost of felling a tree, logging, and the sawmill include huge operating costs if not done rightly. The world of biomass mainly depends on woody materials and considerable gains have been made over the years for efficient hauling and transporting for an innovative supply chain which is cost-effective too. Supply chain is considered as the heart of the biomass which becomes challenging as the transportation eats up the greatest pie in the overall cost. To improve the harvesting in the field and logistics of the overall system significant improvement has been made over the years and notable gains are observed for increased efficiencies.
Over the last decade, energy companies have actively contributed to grant-funded research for innovative supply chain processes to minimize the cost. Whereas, professor of forest operations at Auburn University Tom Gallagher says ” The problem is, there are so many limitations on what we can do. Biomass is a low-value commodity and the market is significantly worse than it used to be.” Global pandemic has greatly impacted the biomass industry due to which it is getting even more crucial to lowering the cost of transporting the biomass. Gallagher further added that “In the US we have great roads but there are a lot of limitations in transportation and allowed weight thus it has been taken into consideration by the government to permit trucks for hauling more weight.”
According to the research investigation done by Auburn University with other schools including North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee as the part of USDA Forest Service grant project, researchers identified that efficient movement of biomass and utilizing timber processing depots to relocate the processing of tree limbs and crowns from in-woods logging sites to a central location. Processing all the timber at one central location can optimize the amount of biomass fuel material that is left behind on the harvesting site, reducing ash content of the biomass fuel material to produce a high-quality energy fuel products. However, this process requires the unprocessed whole tree to be delivered to the site for trailer modification.
Gallagher is currently working on a new project for unique feller technology to put one of those on a small boom-type machine that can go down efficiently to reach into the stand and cut small-diameter trees for small skidder to take out. He says “we put this on a boom machine so it doesn’t have to be driven around so much and we want to use smaller equipment.” If efficient ways are developed to cut and remove smaller volumes using smaller machines it leaves an option for the landowner to grow timber and small scale harvesting and allows more agile movement. Despite substantial gains in growth, harvesting, and hauling processes there is a long way to go for an enhanced and cost-effective supply chain.