New state partnership could turn forest waste into energy
The Washington Department of Natural Resources says a new plant to be built in Kettle Falls will revolutionize the way they deal with trees and brush left over from timber harvesting.
After forests are thinned, the leftover material, called slash, has to be burned to reduce fire danger. And that burning releases carbon into the atmosphere.
But now DNR is partnering with a company called Myno Carbon Corporation to develop a plant in Kettle Falls that would turn the slash into something called biochar, by heating it to 500 degrees in a low oxygen environment.
“So instead of that carbon going out into the atmosphere, and causing more greenhouse gas emissions, it locks it in because of the high heat, low oxygen process,” said DNR Chief Hilary Franz.
She said the biochar can be added to soil to improve its PH level, and water and nutrient retention. And she said there are more benefits beyond that.
“One, we reduce our wildfire risk,” she said. “Two, we restore the health of our forests at a more rapid scale. Three, we reduce the carbon we are emitting into the atmosphere whether it's through wildfires or through us burning that slash pile. And four is the concept it creates renewable energy that now powers homes to reduce our carbon emissions through a renewable energy source.”
Plans call for the Myno plant to begin operations next year. By 2026, it's expected to process 183,000 tons of slash and biomass to create 40,000 tons of biochar, and generate 18 megawatts of electricity annually.