The pine bark beetle has devastated areas in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West, killing Lodgepole and Ponderosa pines over millions of acres. The dead trees are a serious fire hazard. Researchers may have at least a partial solution – mobile pyrolosis units that convert the dead trees into bio-oil, which is far easier and more cost effective to transport than dead trees.
Mark Coleman, a forest biologist at the University of Idaho, says that he is confident that when the technology is fully developed, it would at least be competitive with ethanol.
“[In South Dakota], we’re paying $18 a tree to have infested trees cut,” said Ball. “So even if this fast pyrolysis method cost $3 a tree, we still save fifteen bucks a tree.”