Biochar: An Emerging Market for Underutilized Woody Biomass

By Sabina Dhungana, Forest Products Specialist

biochar sample

This is a sample of biochar produced from coarse woody biomass.

What is Biochar?
Biochar is a pure carbon product made from organic material that is generally produced through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the decomposition of organic matter at elevated temperatures in an environment with limited oxygen.

Biochar Production and Opportunities for Wood Businesses
Biochar can be produced using woody biomass such as wood chips, sawdust, shavings or bark that is generated from timber harvesting or as a by-product of wood products manufacturing.

Biochar production systems can be classified as either pyrolysis or gasification systems. The pyrolysis of biomass results in three main products: a solid (bio-char), a liquid (bio-oil), and a gas (syngas). Furthermore, pyrolysis becomes self-sustaining as syngas that is produced combusts, generating additional heat for the production process. Gasification on the other hand produces smaller quantities of biochar in a directly-heated reaction vessel with introduced air. Although pyrolysis systems result in higher concentrations of biochar, both production systems can be developed as mobile or stationary units as per the need and availability of the feedstock. Continue reading “Biochar: An Emerging Market for Underutilized Woody Biomass”

Primary mill mapping tool released

By Collin Buntrock, Forest Products Team Leader

The Forest Products Services program recently worked with the Technology Services Section in the Division of Forestry to develop an interactive mapping tool highlighting Wisconsin’s primary wood-using mills.

The new mill mapping tool highlights Wisconsin’s primary mills.

The goal of the mapping tool is to facilitate better marketing of forest products by connecting value-added industries with Wisconsin’s primary mills and by assisting forest managers and loggers with identifying markets for harvested timber. Mill data can be refined by county, species processed, products utilized, and products sold and then downloaded for later reference.

Wisconsin’s primary forest products industry consists of firms that manufacture logs and pulpwood into wood and paper products. Specific examples include sawmills, veneer plants, pulp mills and firewood processors, as well as companies that manufacture products such as composite panels (e.g. oriented strand board, particleboard), shavings, utility poles, wood pellets, and log buildings.

Mill data featured in this tool is collected by Forest Products Services staff as part of the USDA Timber Product Output survey. The FPS program will refine this dataset beginning in early 2019. It should be noted that a subset of mills opted-out of the mill dataset. Therefore, you may be aware of additional mills that are not included in the mapping tool.

If you know of a business that would like to be included in this mapping tool, please send an email to a staff member on the Forest Products Services team and include their contact information, species and products utilized, and products produced.

Markets growing for urban wood across Wisconsin

By Scott Lyon, Forest Products Specialist

Many communities have expressed greater interest in local goods and services over the last few years; as a result, urban wood recycling efforts have increased in Wisconsin. The increase of trees killed by invasive insects and disease caused many municipalities to seek alternative uses for urban wood rather than disposing material in a landfill. Recent efforts to market this growing source of material and develop ways to recycle urban trees within communities led Wisconsin to become one of the leading states in urban wood utilization.

Live edge walnut slab table at a Milwaukee based business.

Throughout the state, markets have started to grow; at least 30 companies are producing products made from urban wood. The City of Milwaukee cut their disposal costs in half by sending their street tree removals to Kettle Moraine Hardwoods and Bay View Lumber. Consumers are drawn to urban wood for its unique character appearance that enhances its use in furniture, cabinets, flooring, millwork, wall and ceiling panels. Urban wood can now be found in large scale projects such as ceiling and wall panels at the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena, and apartment and business buildings in Milwaukee. In both Milwaukee and Madison, the hobbyist wood worker can find urban wood lumber and live edge slabs at the local Habitat for Humanity Restore. Urban wood manufacturers have noted an increase in demand for live edge slabs for use in tables, desks and countertops.

Demand for urban wood has increased not only in Milwaukee and Madison, but across the state in other communities such as Green Bay, Appleton, and Eau Claire. In Eau Claire, urban wood is making some noise (literally) after repurposing in the manufacture of guitars. In addition, the City of Eau Claire has partnered with some Wisconsin Urban Wood members to produce furniture and specialty products. Wisconsin Urban Wood is the brand that assures consumers that the wood originated from Wisconsin’s community forests and passed through an entire supply of Wisconsin-based business to arrive as the final product.

However, a need still exists to help end-consumers and other users, such architects, interior designers, and engineers, understand the benefits and value of using wood and overcome perceived barriers. Wood is a renewable resource as opposed to substitute non-renewable products such as concrete, steel, and plastics.

For more information on urban wood use or to find an urban wood user in your area please visit Wisconsin Urban Wood or the Urban Wood Network.

White Pine Lumber Grading Course Offered

The Northcentral Technical College Wood Technology Program is hosting a white pine lumber grading workshop in partnership with the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturer Association (NELMA), and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This workshop will provide an in-depth review of softwood lumber grading, specifically for Eastern White Pine. In a mix of classroom and hands-on activities, participants will gain valuable skills and experience in grading lumber.

This workshop will be held on February 21-22, 2019 at the NTC Wood Technology Center of Excellence in Antigo, WI. If you are interested in attending this course, please visit NTC’s Conferences and Seminars webpage for additional information and the registration form.

Upcoming Forest Products Events

LSLA 2019 Winter Meeting
Date: January 16-18, 2019
Location: Appleton, WI

Custom Chair Design and Construction
Date: January 19 – February 3, 2019
Location: Antigo, WI

Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association Convention & Exposition
Date: February 4-6, 2019
Location: Indianapolis, IN

White Pine Lumber Grading Course
Date: February 21-22, 2019
Location: Antigo, WI

Wisconsin Local-Use Dimension Lumber Grading Workshop
Date: February 26, 2019
Location: Fitchburg, WI

Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association Spring Celebration
Date: April 12, 2019
Location: Green Bay, WI

Dispose of wreaths properly to avoid spreading invasive insect

image of elongate hemlock scale The small brown blotches on the underside of these needles are an invasive species found on some holiday decorations purchased from chain stores in 2018. Help prevent the spread of elongate hemlock scale by properly disposing of wreaths, swags and other potentially infested materials. (Photo credit: WI Dept. of Ag, Trade & Consumer Protection)

Please remember to properly dispose of wreaths, trees and other holiday decorations from chain stores that may be infested with an invasive insect.

If you purchased any holiday wreaths, swags, boughs and other arrangements from chain stores, please dispose of them by burning or bagging them and putting them in the trash as they may be infested with an aggressive invasive insect that can harm Wisconsin’s native forests, Christmas tree farms, and even ornamental conifers in your yard.

During this recent holiday season, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) inspectors found an invasive insect pest from Asia called elongate hemlock scale (EHS) on holiday wreaths, swags and boughs, and in arrangements of evergreen boughs in hanging baskets, porch pots, mugs and sleighs.

These items came from suppliers in states where EHS is already established. This insect poses a risk to Christmas tree fields as well as native and ornamental coniferous trees in Wisconsin. To prevent the introduction of EHS to Wisconsin, DATCP officials are asking those who purchased the listed decorative items from chain stores in 2018 to properly dispose of them.

Urban forestry finds a voice on the Council on Forestry

Jordon Skiff“I have an opportunity to be a voice in the conversation.” As a new member of the Council on Forestry, Jordan Skiff, Fond du Lac public works director and Urban Forestry Council chair, will be an advocate for urban and community forestry, sharing its challenges and proclaiming its benefits. Skiff fills the urban forestry seat vacated by Dr. R. Bruce Allison in December 2016. Continue reading “Urban forestry finds a voice on the Council on Forestry”

Trees help achieve resolutions to be healthy

The sedentary lifestyle has become more common, and the shift has been costly. One result is an increase in obesity. Childhood obesity rates have tripled (12–19 years old) or quadrupled (6–11 years old,) and adult rates have doubled since the 1970s. Obesity increases risk of chronic diseases and conditions such as: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, cancer and mental illness. This rise in chronic diseases related to obesity results in billions of dollars in medical costs and lost productivity each year. Continue reading “Trees help achieve resolutions to be healthy”