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Biomass and Small Diameter Tree Utilization

For more than 15 years, The Beck Group has assisted clients interested in developing businesses built around various technologies for utilizing woody biomass and trees that are too small in diameter to be utilized as sawlogs. Such businesses can stimulate rural economic development, reduce the cost of forest restoration, and reduce the risk of wildfire.

We constantly monitor key business development factors such as markets, product prices, capital costs, operating costs, raw material costs, and yields across dozens of utilization technologies. Examples include (but are not limited to) biochar, biomass heat and power, wood pellets, wood fiber insulation, wood wool cement, posts and poles, bundled firewood, animal bedding, liquid fuels from biomass, oriented strand board, scrimber, and many more.



Wood Pellet Manufacturing Feasibility—A confidential client retained The Beck Group to assess the feasibility of a small-scale pellet manufacturing operation in California. Beck’s roles included assessing the annual supply and cost of raw material available to the prospective operation; estimating the capital cost for constructing the equipment to manufacture wood pellets; estimating the operating costs for manufacturing wood pellets; and estimating the size of the wood pellet market and their selling price.


Our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies, as this is a Beck core competency. This enabled our client’s management team to make a well-informed decision about the feasibility of adding wood pellet manufacturing to their existing operations.

Biomass Cogeneration Feasibility—The Beck Group recently completed assisting a sawmill client assess the feasibility of adding biomass heat and power to their sawmilling operations. Beck’s tasks included identifying the supply and cost of fuel available to the project. This included a portion of the sawmill’s own by-products and biomass fuel sourced from urban wood waste and logging residuals. Beck also estimated the capital cost for installing a new boiler, turbine generator, and interconnecting to the grid. Finally, Beck analyzed the market for renewable power and estimated the price at which the project could sell its power to the local utility.


Our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies; biomass utilization is one of our core competencies. This enabled management to make well-informed decisions about the viability of adding power generation to their facilities.

Statewide Biomass Supply & Demand Assessment—Drax retained The Beck Group to complete a statewide assessment of the supply & demand of woody biomass in California. Beck estimated the annual volume of biomass produced from forestry residues, mill residuals, forest health and wildfire mitigation treatments, ag/orchard removals, and urban wood waste.  Beck also estimated the annual demand for woody biomass materials in the state among users including biomass power generation, landscape and mulch, pellets, and other miscellaneous existing uses. Beck’s database of biomass producing and consuming mills was instrumental in completing the analysis. Beck also developed a comprehensive listing of biomass- and timber-consuming projects in various stages of planning and development.


With over a century of collective experience, Beck consultants can estimate the supply of and demand for many forms of biomass. The client came away with a better understanding of the California market, enabling management to decide how best to navigate its currents.

Council of Western State Foresters—The Beck Group was retained by the Council of Western State Foresters to assess the feasibility of manufacturing Wood Wool Cement and Wood Fiber Insulation, both of which can be manufactured from biomass and small diameter trees. For each technology, Beck assessed the markets for the products produced; the types of equipment needed to manufacture the products and the capital costs for purchasing and installing the equipment; ongoing operational costs; and the supply and cost of raw materials. A copy of the report is available here:


To maintain this core competency, our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies. This feasibility study enabled the Council to share details of two such technologies that show strong potential to combine carbon sequestration with innovative building materials. Entrepreneurs can use the information to begin planning profitable business ventures and enable forest management that will make fire-prone communities safer. 

Chelan County Forest Products Campus—The Beck Group analyzed opportunities for developing a biomass campus designed to utilize small diameter trees harvested during forest health and wildfire mitigation forest management treatments. Using supply information generated by Mason, Bruce, & Girard, Beck identified three small diameter utilization technologies that complement each other, have secure markets for the products they produce, and that are appropriately scaled for a biomass campus. For each technology, Beck provided preliminary estimates of capital costs, ongoing operating expenses, yields, productivity rates, and financial projections.


Our staff stays abreast of dozens of biomass utilization technologies; biomass utilization is one of our core competencies, which enabled the client to identify a biomass campus concept based on the most current information about technologies and production, which will lead to a safer community.

High Hazard Fuels Availability Study—Working as a subcontractor to Mason, Bruce, and Girard (MB&G), The Beck Group assisted in a statewide evaluation of high hazard fuel biomass fuel availability in California. Beck’s role included visiting all the biomass power plants in California operating under BIORAM contracts at the time of the study. As with Beck’s benchmarking studies, each plant was surveyed about the amounts of high hazard fuel (that qualified for use per the BIORAM contract terms) being consumed at each facility, including delivered prices. Additionally, Beck gathered data from each facility about BIORAM contract terms and their impact on the ability of each facility to procure the required amount of high hazard fuels.

Beck and MB&G made recommendations to the study sponsors about BIORAM contracting terms adjustments to better meet high hazard fuel utilization objectives.

Biomass Campus for Small Diameter Tree Utilization—The Beck Group was retained by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to complete a biomass supply study and biomass utilization feasibility study focused on Tuolumne County, California. Beck’s work included developing a detailed estimate of the supply and demand for biomass and small diameter material in the Tuolumne County region. This included estimates of the annually available supply and its delivered cost. Given the results of the supply study, Beck then analyzed the feasibility of a biomass campus that included a biomass power plant, small-scale sawmill, post and pole manufacturing operation, and bundled firewood manufacturing operation. As a direct result of this work, Heartwood Biomass is currently developing a similar biomass campus concept in Tuolumne County.


Beck’s experience with fiber supply and demand, small diameter utilization technologies, feasibility analysis, and business planning all combined to attract a private company to invest in developing a biomass utilization facility.

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