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Woody Biomass Energy Output & Efficiency

Mass amounts of energy are wasted every year in the U.S. when slash piles from forest management and thinning are burned. For example, in 2008 the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota alone had approximately 239,000 green tons of woody biomass heaped up in slash piles, with another estimated 1,000,000 tons of "air dry" slash piles.fn

That is enough woody biomass to generate up to 19 trillion BTU, or 5.6 TW of electricity. To put that in perspective, that is enough energy to power 4.6 million homes for a year. It would take up to 33 million barrels of crude oil to generate a comparable amount of energy.

Below are various tables with addtional energy information related to woody biomass.

Average Thermal Energy Content by Fuel Type
Fuel Unit Energy output
Natural Gas 1 Cubic Foot 1,009 - 1,034 BTU
Crude Oil 1 Gallon 138,095 BTU
Crude Oil 1 Barrel 5.8 million BTU
Gasoline 1 Gallon 125,000 BTU
Ethanol 1 Gallon 84,400 BTU
Coal 1 Ton 16.2-26 million BTU
Wood (cord) 1 Ton 18-24 million BTU


Cost per BTU by Fuel Type (2008)
Fuel Cost per BTU
Natural Gas $11.89
Crude Oil (at $50 per barrel) $8.62
Crude Oil (at $150 per barrel) $24.14
Gasoline (at $3.00 per gallon) $24.00
Wood $15.15
Coal (at $36 per ton) $2.22


Thermal Energy by Wood Species
Wood Species BTU per cord
Balsam Fir 11.3 million BTU
Aspen 12.5 million BTU
Pine (white) 13.3 million BTU
Maple 21.3 million BTU
Oak 22.7 million BTU


U.S. Renewable Energy Consumption by Energy Source (2008)
Energy Source Quadrillion BTUs
Hydroelectric 2.463
Woody Biomass 2.165
Geothermal .353
Wind .080
Solar .319


Environmetal Benefits of Woody Biomass Utilization