Net energy output from harvesting small-diameter trees using a mechanized system

Fei Pan, Han Sup Han, Leonard R. Johnson, William J. Elliot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


What amount of extra energy can be generated after subtracting the total energy consumed to produce the biomass energy? Knowing the ratio between energy output and input is a valid question when highly mechanized systems that consume fossil fuels are used to harvest and transport forest biomass for energy. We estimated the net energy generated from mechanical fuel reduction thinning treatments on pure ponderosa pine stands in Arizona. The mechanized system (felling, skidding, loading, grinding, and hauling) was monitored for energy consumption. Potential energy output from harvested forest biomass was calculated based on hog fuel moisture content and heating value. A 9-day study showed positive net energy output of 3,471,376,292 BTUs. The net energy ratio between energy output and input was 10.41, and the energy cost from stump to energy plant was $4.65/million BTUs. Energy used for hauling hog fuel represented the largest part (36.27%) of the total energy input. The net energy ratio decreased 0.11 with each additional transportation mile. Energy cost increased by $0.04/million BTUs, $0.13/million BTUs, and $1.48/million BTUs for each additional mile of highway, unpaved road, and spur road, respectively. A one dollar per gallon diesel price increase added $0.34/million BTUs to the energy cost. Forest biomass energy has an encouraging net energy ratio compared with other biomass sources, but the high production cost and energy cost can impede the use of forest biomass for energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-30
Number of pages6
JournalForest Products Journal
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • General Materials Science
  • Plant Science


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