It’s one thing to come up with a concept and toss it around on the front porch, but it’s even better when you get to scrutinize the real thing up close, take it around the block a few times, see if the wheels fall off before you spend any money on it.
That’s what county officials plan to do next summer, when a biomass project designed to convert forest slash and other wood waste into a No. 3 grade heating oil comes to Douglas County.
The idea of creating biomass projects locally has been largely championed by Douglas County Commissioner Joe Laurance. We commend him for exploring the possibilities and coming up with some interesting ideas.
It is noted that one-third of the wood waste material that can be used for biomass projects in Oregon is found on the forest floors of Douglas County. That creates an opportunity locally that is found in few other places.
“This is ground zero for that,” Laurance said in a story last Sunday by reporter John Sowell.
Laurance said the project will involve the superheating of 5 to 7 tons of woody material per day at a site near Lemolo Lake in eastern Douglas County.
Renewable Oil International told the Douglas County Forest Council recently that a small modular biomass operation can be loaded on a flatbed truck and driven into the forest.
Once there, wood slash is chipped into small pieces and superheated, with each ton of slash capable of producing 157 gallons of bio-oil. It can be used as a heating oil or slightly refined and turned into No. 2 diesel fuel.
A byproduct of the burning process is char, which can be used in applications calling for activated charcoal, briquettes and as home heating pellets, according to the company.
The local test project is going to take place next summer, and it should provide concrete evidence on whether a large-scale facility could provide an economic boon to Douglas County.
That includes jobs, which are in increasingly short supply these days, as well as opportunities for a new revenue stream in Douglas County, with tons and tons of growth potential.
We have the raw material. Renewable Oil International says it has the technology. And this project should provide interesting answers to some good questions.
“If this shows us what we think it will, we think it will be justifiable, perhaps, to invest in the process,” Laurance said.
And first we get to kick the tires. We like this idea, and we’re appreciative of the chance to give it a road test.