Development of a Small-Scale Harvester for Biomass Operations
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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The Oil Embargo of 1973-1974 that quadrupled the price of a barrel of oil in a matter of months sparked the discussions of alternative forms of energy; one of the topics that started to be addressed was renewable energies. Nowadays, biomass accounts for the most used form of renewable energy in the United States, with woody biomass specifically being third overall. However, although a promising source of energy, new investments in the United States on how to improve the biomass market have happened at a slow pace. Forest fragmentation, along with other factors, has caused the existence of a large share of timber supply on smaller tracts of timber. The timber found on these tracts generally cannot be profitably harvested because the high investment in machinery does not offset the low volume harvested. To make the harvest operations more economically feasible, a small-scale feller-buncher was designed for biomass harvesting. A mini excavator (IHI 80 VX) was the starting point for our studies. As this machine was not originally built to operate with a felling head and inside the woods, we modified the design of the boom for a better reach and added an auxiliary motor, hydraulic pump and hydraulic tank exclusively to run the felling head. We estimated the costs to run this machine to be around $5.70/ton at a production rate of 10.6tons/PMH, and considerably lower if higher productivity can be achieved. If productivity levels are met, this machine could help stimulate the harvesting of biomass when that market develops.