The Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula is working with Tricon Timber in St. Regis to commercialize cutting edge technologies that use biomass – such as small trees and wood chips – to create heat, electricity and biochar, a charcoal that sequesters and carbon and is used as a soil amendment.

The collaboration resulted from the Mineral County Challenge, a community initiative to develop sustainable economic development projects. The Rocky Mountain Research Station and Tricon will work develop a modular 20-dry ton per day, high-temperature gasification system at the mill.

U.S. Senators Baucus and Tester recently cosponsored legislation to create a loan guarantee program to develop technology that creates biochar from public lands.

“Using dead trees to create renewable energy means more timber jobs for Montana, and that’s something I’ll stand behind,” Baucus said. “Montana has the potential to lead our country toward energy independence, and Tricon’s cutting edge biomass technology will help do just that, while creating good-paying jobs for Montana loggers.”

Biomass development is also a key component in Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

“Expanding home-grown energy resources like biomass and biochar is a responsible investment for Montana because we’ll create good paying jobs while making the most of the dead trees throughout Western Montana,” Tester said. “The potential for turning the pine beetle epidemic into something that can help get our country more energy independent is something I’m proud to support.”

“This is a shot-in-the-arm for Western Montana, and Tricon Timber is proud to be on the front lines of developing an innovative domestic energy resource,” said Ken Verley, owner of Tricon Timber, Mineral County’s largest employer. “We look forward to the economic opportunities developing biochar will bring to the loggers who work in the woods and the all of the folks who call Mineral County home.”

The Rocky Mountain Research Station will receive $5,309,320 through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy.