Resilient Forests & Reduced Fossil Fuel Dependency

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A Rough Terrain Container Handler, or RTCH, moves a shipping container full of about 40,000 pounds of wood chips to a nearby railcar. Ryan Heinsius/KNAU

National Public Radio (USA) shares a story that links forest management techniques in Arizona to fossil fuel use-reduction in Korea:

Chip-And-Ship Forest Clearing May Help Prevent Wildfire Disasters

A huge mechanical claw scoops up several ponderosa pine logs and feeds them into an industrial chipper. Thousands of wood chunks are then blasted into a large shipping container.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three up to seven small ones can just kind of throw in that little jaws there,” explains Jeff Halbrook, a research associate with Northern Arizona University’s Ecological Restoration Institute. Today he’s overseeing what’s fondly known as the chip-and-ship pilot project about 20 minutes west of Flagstaff.

These trees being fed into the chipper were recently cut from the nearby Coconino National Forest. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the shipping containers as tightly as possible, stuffing each one with about 40,000 pounds of chipped wood. Then another machine hoists the container onto a nearby railcar. In about two weeks, nearly 60 containers will arrive at a port in South Korea.

“They primarily use these wood chips for production of energy. Moving away from the fossil-based energy operation in South Korea,” says Northern Arizona University forestry professor Han-Sup Han.

Move away from fossil fuels

He’s hopeful the chip-and-ship project could support global efforts to move toward carbon neutrality and at the same time bypass the main roadblock to large-scale forest restoration in the region known as the “biomass bottleneck.”

“This material is so small and it has so low value, hauling this material to the market … economically is unfeasible. To be able to complete the restoration of the operation you need to move that out of the forest,” Han says.

Read or listen to the whole article here.

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