Special Reports

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Special Report No. 16-02: Screening Life Cycle Assessment of Unconventional Use Pathways for Woody Mill Residues

PDF , Source: Special Reports Published: 08/2016 View Abstract

Abstract: In this study, life cycle assessment is used to assess the environmental attributes and trade-offs of different woody mill residue management options in North America. More specifically, this study documents the potential environmental impacts and benefits from disposing of woody mill residues in a landfill, or using them in five unconventional use pathways: heat production from value-added fuels (pellets, syngas, methane), combined heat and power (CHP) generation from these same value-added fuels, transport fuel, use in metallurgy, and use as horticultural growing media. The results indicate that, for most environmental indicators studied, the impact scores are lower for the unconventional uses than for landfill disposal. Scenarios involving the use of syngas in the combined heat and power pathway designed for high electricity output and displacing electricity on the North American electricity grid show the most environmental benefits for most impact categories. Scenarios involving the use of pellets and methane in these CHP systems also yield environmental benefits in a large number of impact categories. Production of heat using syngas is also interesting. In contrast, the scenarios in the transport pathway are among those with the most categories showing the worst relative environmental impact, scenarios in the metallurgy use pathway are relatively neutral (i.e., showing neither significant environmental benefits or impact), and the scenarios under the horticultural growing media pathway are also among those with the greatest number of categories showing a net environmental impact. KEYWORDS: electricity, heat, horticultural growing media, LCA, landfill, metallurgy, transport, woody mill residues

Special Report No. 16-01: Assessing the Risk of Forest Herbicide Volatilization

PDF , Source: Special Reports Published: 04/2016 View Abstract

Abstract: In commercial forestry, herbicides are an essential tool for suppressing competing vegetation and improving timber productivity, as well as meeting ecological objectives such as invasive species control and habitat modification. Forestry herbicide applicators employ a variety of tools and techniques to minimize off-site movement of herbicides. Volatilization (transition of a liquid or a solid directly into the vapor state) of pesticides from treated foliage or soil after the application process is one potential route of off-site movement of herbicides and, potentially, exposure of individuals away from the application site. The tendency of a pesticide to volatilize is influenced by a number of factors, including some that are intrinsic to the pesticide itself and some that are a function of the environment in which the application takes place. Herbicides that are routinely used in forestry tend to have low vapor pressures and be present in the environment in ionic form, both of which reduce the tendency to volatilize. Volatilization tendency may be further reduced by making applications when temperatures, relative humidity, and soil moisture levels are low. However, volatilization occurs in response to varying and complicated interactions involving meteorological, soil, and chemical factors, and even in studies in which as many factors as possible were held constant, herbicide vapor losses show significant year-to-year variability. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has developed a pesticide Volatilization Screening Tool for use during the pesticide registration and registration review processes. The results of initial screenings indicate that most forestry herbicides are not likely to undergo significant volatilization in the environment. KEYWORDS: environmental fate, herbicide, volatilization

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