(photo courtesy Mohegan Tribe)
(by William Zipse)
In order to assess NJ’s potential for wood biomass markets, it is essential to compile some information about supply. The following information comes from the US Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program data from 2013. NJ currently has an approximate estimated total standing biomass in the boles of merchantable growing stock trees on timberland of almost 74 million dry short tons with an additional 16.8 million dry short tons estimated in the tops and limbs of these same trees. Of the 74 million dry short tons in merchantable boles, an estimated 16 million short tons (approx. 22%) can be found on state-owned timberlands and 44.8 million short tons (approx. 60%) can be found on privately owned timberland; timberland being forested land, legally accessible to timber harvesting, capable of producing at least 20 cubic feet per acre per year.
In order to understand sustainability of supply, it is important to determine biomass growth in NJ. Growth in growing stock trees on timberland in merchantable boles is estimated at approximately 1.1 million dry short tons per year with approximately 229,059 dry short tons (approx. 21%) growing on state owned lands and 702,335 dry short tons (approx. 63%) growing on private lands each year. Growth figures for branches and tops are not available from FIA. An estimated 14 % of privately owned timberland is actively enrolled in the Forest Stewardship program (NJ State Forestry Services, Private Lands Management 2015). Making the assumption that growth is even across private lands, this would mean that approximately 96,210 short tons are growing on Stewardship properties statewide annually. A conservative estimate for accessible growth in NJ would be 325,269 dry short tons per year (growth on state owned timberland + growth on privately held properties actively enrolled in the Forest Stewardship Program). This number is conservative because it only considers timberland biomass grown only in the merchantable boles of growing stock trees, and does not account for privately held properties that are enrolled in the state woodland assessment program but not in the Forest Stewardship program.
In order to put the accessible growth of 325,269 dry short tons into perspective, a mill in Georgia requires 1.5 million metric tons of green wood per year in order to produce 750,000 metric tons of pellets (Dogwood Alliance 2012) with one metric ton of dry wood being roughly equivalent to 2 metric tons of green wood. An announcement of the sale of a moderate sized industrial pellet mill in Peebles, OH indicates that the mill produces 65,000 metric tons of dry pellets (approx 71,650 dry short tons) annually and would need about the same amount of oven dry biomass for production (Voegele 2014). This equates to roughly 22% of the conservative estimate for NJ’s estimated accessible annual biomass growth or approximately 6% of total statewide biomass growth, not accounting for biomass growth in tree branches and tops.
Dogwood Alliance. “The Use of Whole Trees in Wood Pellet Manufacturing, Evidence of the use of Whole Trees by Top Wood Pellet Exporters from the US South to Europe,” 2012.
New Jersey State Forestry Services, Private Lands Management. NJ Stewardship Database, 2015.
USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA). FIA Tools and Data Website, http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/tools-data/. 2013.
Voegele, Erin. Biomass Magazine, http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/10501/northeast-wood-products-purchases-pennington-seed-pellet-mills, 2014.