Woody biomass

Sustainable supplies of forest resources for renewable fuels and bioproducts

In North Carolina, forest resources have excellent potential for the biofuels industry.  Due to limited markets, North Carolina has a large inventory of standing timber.  For over five years, annual growth of timber inventory has exceeded the annual timber usage.  This has further affected timber pricing, which in North Carolina was already among the lowest in the southern United States.  Currently, North Carolina’s timber inventory consists of 775 million green tons, 66% of which is hardwood and 34% is softwood.    

The infrastructure to sustainably harvest, replant, and transport the forest biomass has been in place for more than 100 years in North Carolina. Over 90% of the state’s forest land is privately owned, and the owners of forest biomass actively engage in the procurement, harvesting, and transportation of woody biomass.  Biofuels industry development provides opportunities for new markets for land owners as well as regional economic development.  In addition, federal and state forest service organizations and state forestry associations are involved in ensuring a sustainable supply of these forest resources.

While there is plentiful supply of woody biomass for biofuels production in North Carolina, new forest management practices will improve not only the economics, but also the environmental impact of woody biomass used for biofuels.  These forest management practices will include high density planting, intercropping, short rotation stands, and other practices that will increase the biomass volume grown on each acre.  By increasing the volume per acre, less land will be required to sustainably produce the volume of timber required to support the growth of the biofuels industry in North Carolina.

Facts about North Carolina's forest resources:

  • There are 17.6 million acres of timberland in North Carolina
  • Of this amount, there are almost 10 million acres in hardwoods, with the remainder pine and mixed pine/hardwood forests
  • Ownership of these forests is predominantly in non-industrial ownership (with 13.9 million acres), followed by public ownership (at 1.9 million acres), and forest industry (at 1.7 million acres)
  • Annual growing stock of all timber on North Carolina lands is approximately 15,929,259 tons
  • Each year, 247,000 acres of timberland are harvested and retained as timberlands
  • The biggest threat to timberlands in North Carolina is development, with an estimated 1.6 million acres lost since 1990

(Source: North Carolina Forestry Association, A Landowner’s Guide to Forestry in North Carolina, 2009)