After a series of devastating wildfires in the West, many states are increasingly funding efforts to clear forests to reduce these dangers. This includes clearing brush, felling trees or using controlled burning to damage the landscape and prevent fires from spreading into the forest canopy.
As climate change accelerates in the coming years, states are expected to generate increasing amounts of forest waste from these efforts, said Justin Freiberg, managing director of Yale’s Carbon Containment Lab, which has been conducting field experiments exploring many “Wood Carbon Containment” method under different conditions over the years.
But today, harvested plants and trees are often stacked in cleared areas and left to rot or deliberately burned. This allows the carbon stored in it to simply return to the atmosphere, causing further warming.
Kodama wanted to address both wildfire danger and emissions challenges. The company says it’s developing ways to automatically thin overcrowded forests, which would make the process cheaper and faster (although it hasn’t discussed that part of the business in detail). After stripping branches from trees that are too small to sell, they load them onto trucks and drive them to prepared pits.
The key is to make sure what the company calls a “wood vault” will keep out oxygen and water, which would otherwise speed up decomposition and prevent greenhouse gas leaks.
In a site visit with researchers at Yale University, expected to begin in the third quarter of next year, the company intends to build a burial mound seven yards high, three yards deep, and 58 yards long and wide in the Nevada desert.
They plan to cover the biomass with a geotextile liner, which will then be buried under soil and a layer of native vegetation that chooses to absorb water. Given the region’s dry conditions, this would create a closed system that would prevent “decomposers from acting on the buried wood mass,” ensuring the carbon stays in place for thousands of years, said Jimmy Voorhis, director of biomass use and policy. Kodama.
They also left the timber exposed on site and created smaller side vaults designed in different ways, Freiberg added. Over the years, the teams will continue to monitor them and compare decomposition rates and any greenhouse gas leakage. The teams hope to be able to extrapolate long-term carbon storage estimates from this and other studies and experiments.