Forest Biomass - Supply Assessment in Washington State
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Forest Biomass - Supply Assessment in Washington State 

Forest Biomass Supply Assessment Updated 8/2/12

The “Washington Forest Biomass Supply Assessment”  was completed in March 2012. The study examines the sustainable volume of residual forest biomass that can be collected from Washington’s working forests. The study is a the first of its kind in the nation and will help ensure that Washington’s forest biomass-to-energy sector move forward sustainably. There will be two workshops, one east and one west of the Cascades, that will provide more detail on the study findings later in the spring. Please check this webpage for more details.

Prior to entering into long-term contracts for forest biomass from state managed lands, DNR must first assess the available supply of biomass in the contract area (See HB 2165 Section 4). In 2010, DNR sought and ultimately received a $1M grant from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), a portion of which has been allocated to a statewide forest biomass supply study.

Because 2SHB 2481 requires DNR to complete a biomass supply assessment before entering into long-term contracts for biomass supply from DNR managed lands, an aggressive timeline for the project has been developed. After a competitive Request for Proposals  and careful analyses of proposals and bids received, in November 2010, DNR selected the University of Washington (who will be working with TSS Consultants) to conduct the research. The project is scheduled for completion by August 2011, with interim reports provided to the agency throughout the research process.

There will be several public meetings where the University of Washington will present progress on the project over the course of the year. These meetings are scheduled for March, June, and September. Please check this website for more information on the meetings as the dates approach.

Scope of Study
The study will help assess forest biomass availability and sustainability throughout Washington State on all forest land ownerships, including state-owned lands, as well as fulfill the specific requirements under 2SHB 2481 Section 2(1). The grant will, in addition to the supply study, enable DNR and partners to test methods for making forest biomass material available from broad, multi-landowner areas with the aim to improve the economic feasibility of protecting forests from wildfire and restoring forest health.

The forest biomass supply assessment will build on previous biomass supply analyses, refining and improving upon them by using finer-scale data and evaluating individual land managers’ objectives, operational and economic factors for biomass availability, and environmental sustainability. A range of supply estimates will be developed encompassing all forestland owners statewide, and will further break down these estimates within a series of logical supply tributary areas.

The study approach will include the following methodological elements to determine what volume of biomass from Washington forests is both economically and ecologically available:

  • Stratification of the relevant components of the supply assessment by landownership categories (federal, state, tribal, large private industrial, large private non-industrial, small private), forest ecosystem type, species (or, at a minimum, hardwood and softwood), logical supply areas across the state, and time periods in decades.
  • Recent trend and projected acres and volume of timber harvest used to determine estimated residuals left on-site and the physical characteristics of harvest residuals.
  • Projections of biomass that could result from pre-commercial thinning, forest health treatments, salvage operations, and other origins.
  • Estimated volume, physical characteristics, and distribution of material, live and dead, under a reasonable range of on-site retention levels to protect soil productivity, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and other ecological functions. These shall, at a minimum meet current Washington State rules under the Forest Practices Act (RCW 76.09).
  • Analysis and estimate of the operationally feasible volume, cost, and quality of removed biomass under a range of reasonable scenarios.
  • An estimate of the cost of various modes and distances of transportation to the given processing facility locations.
  • An estimate based on currently available information, of a range of the prices in $/ton for delivered biomass matched to various biomass physical quality characteristics.
  • Summary estimates of the volumes, origins, and physical characteristics of biomass, which could be ecologically and economically removed from forest lands in Washington on a long-term sustainable basis, including any key trade-offs involved, based on the preceding analysis results..
  • Results will be aggregated to statewide estimates by biomass origin and landowner category.

The project will also result in the development of a biomass calculator tool that allows for customized biomass availability estimates based on user-defined inputs. This tool will be made available to the public and will be utilized by the agency in developing long-term supply contracts for forest biomass from public lands.

Stay tuned
May and June Progress Reports coming soon.


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Michal Rechner
Aquatic Resources Assistant Division Manager

Dan Siemann
Executive Policy Advisor for Climate Adaptation & Energy


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