BioSum 3.0

About this page

This page summarizes the project "Evaluating opportunities for biomass processing facility siting and economic feasibility of landscape-scale fuel treatment", ongoing at the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. Links to publications on analyses conducted to date can be found below. In Summer 2010, we will add links to the BioSum 3.0 software currently in Beta Test by several clients and at the PNW Research Station.



Landscape-scale deployment of mechanical thinning of western forests to reduce fuels accumulations, as called for by the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, has been slow to materialize, in large part due to the limited availability of funds to subsidize such activities, the high costs of these labor-intensive treatments, and the low to non-existent commercial value of the majority of the trees removed in such operations. Construction of facilities that would convert biomass to energy is seen as a prospect for generating new markets for small-diameter wood, and potentially contributing to expansion of the scope of fuel treatment possibilities. Answering the question of where to construct such facilities, and the appropriate scale at which to do so, depends, among other things, on the location and quantity of the resources upon which they will draw and the costs of transporting harvested material across the landscape. Biomass plant investors and operators, fuels managers, state & private foresters, and community planners are keenly interested in answers to such questions.



The BioSum analysis framework was developed to combine forest inventory data representing an analysis region, a treatment cost model, a fuel treatment effectiveness model, and a raw material hauling cost model to explore alternative landscape-scale treatment scenarios that achieve a variety of management objectives (Fried et al. 2005). Raw material volumes generated by mechanical treatments designed to reduce canopy fuels are estimated by simulating such treatments using data derived from forest inventory plots, treatment costs are estimated via the Fuel Reduction Cost Simulator (Fight et al. 2006), gross product values are calculated as the product of modeled harvest quantities and local product prices, and a variety of treatments, developed in consultations with local silviculturists and fuels management experts, are simulated to assess treatment effectiveness and net and gross treatment costs (Fried et al 2003, Fried and Christensen 2004). Candidate sites for building processing facilities can be simulated and evaluated with respect to economic feasibility (Fried et al. 2005), or the framework can be extended via mixed-integer optimization to jointly select the best treatment for each acre and the best places to site bioenergy capacity (Daugherty and Fried 2007).


Products and tools

FIA BioSum has been applied to a 25 million acre region of Oregon and California and throughout the states of Arizona and New Mexico in support of research studies and articles (e.g., Barbour et al. 2008; Bilek et al. 2005), presentations to Washington Office, regional and forest staff, other scientists, forest and fire managers, and the biomass-to-energy community. Custom analyses have supported biomass plant capacity decisions (in Lakeview Oregon) and forest practices policy development (in California). The FIA BioSum simulation software, which provides a user-friendly, automated, integrated analysis environment and all the needed model components to conduct BioSum analyses for any area in the U.S. for which FIA plot and road network data are available, is in beta release and documentation, sample datasets, and a user tutorial are nearing completion.   


Results and Applications

Under a range of policy scenarios with different objectives in the Oregon and California regional analysis, removal of considerable amounts of commercial size trees is needed to accomplish fire hazard reduction goals when objectives are centered on either maximizing net revenue or maximizing treatment effectiveness. Even when the objective is to minimize merchantable volume, about two thirds of the removed weight would be in sawlogs.


Tops and limbs from merchantable commercial conifers and whole trees of hardwoods and non-commercial conifers are major sources of sub-merchantable wood for which there is essentially no market but bioenergy. Assuming a ten year implementation and depreciation of the biomass plants constructed to support fuel treatment, and treatment of all acres for which treatments would achieve fuel reduction benefits, the study region is capable of annually producing $590 million in net revenue, yielding 6 to 12 million green tons of biomass and 840 million to 1.2 billion cubic feet of merchantable wood, and over the course of a decade, achieving effective treatment of 2.8 to 8.1 million acres while providing bioenergy capacity of 496 to 1009 MW.


Analysis with a range of forest bioenergy-facility capacities revealed robustness in the optimal spatial distribution of bioenergy facilities.  This robustness depends on the extent of the transportation network relative to the sources of woody biomass and on the ability to change plot-treatment combinations to define different biomass collection areas. Custom analyses have been conducted in support of biomass plant capacity decisions (in Lakeview Oregon), forest practices policy development (by the California Dept. of Forestry and Fire in California), and regional analysis of opportunities to attract bioenergy investment capital (in New Mexico).


Awards and Recognition

DIRECTOR’S AWARD FOR FIA EXCELLENCE for FY 2002, USDA Forest Service. For outstanding research in the development and implementation of the BioSum model to assess the economic and fire risk impacts of treating stands across broad landscapes.


INFORMS 2004 Best Paper in Forestry Sponsored Sessions Award, Inst. for Management Science and Operations Research, Section on Energy, Natural Resources and the Environment. Presentation by J.S. Fried and P.J. Daugherty, “Joint Optimization of Fuel Treatment Selection and Processing Facility Siting for Landscape-Scale Fire Hazard Reduction,” judged best of 25 papers presented at the 2004 INFORMS meeting Forestry Sessions.


Principal Investigators

Jeremy Fried, Jamie Barbour, and Roger Fight (retired)



We gratefully acknowledge funding provided by the National Fire Plan, the PNW Research Station, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program and the Western Forest Leadership Coalition.


Research Publications and Literature Cited

Barbour, R.J., J.S. Fried, P.J. Daugherty, G. Christensen and R. Fight. 2008. Potential biomass and logs from fire-hazard reduction treatments in Southwest Oregon and Northern California. Forest Policy and Economics 10:400-407.


Bilek, E.M., K.E. Skog, J.S. Fried, and G. Christensen. 2005. Fuel to burn: Economics of converting forest thinnings to energy using BioMax in Southern Oregon. Gen. Tech. Rep. FPL-GTR-157.


Daugherty, P.J. and J.S. Fried. 2007. Jointly optimizing selection of fuel treatments and siting of biomass facilities for landscape-scale fire hazard reduction. Information Systems and Operational Research. 45(1):353-372.


Fight, R.D., Hartsough, B.R., Noordijk, P., 2006. Users Guide for FRCS: Fuel Reduction Cost Simulator Software. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-668. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, OR.


Fried, J.S. 2003. Evaluating landscape-scale fuel treatment policies with FIA data. Western Forester 48(1):6-7.


Fried, J.S., R.J. Barbour, R. Fight, G. Christensen, and G. Pinjuv. 2008. Small Diameter Timber Alchemy: Can Utilization Pay The Way Towards Fire Resistant Forests? In: Narog, M. G., technical coordinator. Proceedings of the 2002 fire conference on managing fire and fuels in the remaining wildlands and open spaces of the Southwestern United States; 2002 December 2-5; San Diego, CA. [CD Only] Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-GTR-189. Albany, CA: Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Fried, J.S., J. Barbour and R. Fight. 2003. FIA BioSum: Applying a multi-scale evaluation tool in Southwest Oregon. Journal of Forestry 101(2):8.


Fried, J.S. and G. Christensen. 2004. FIA BioSum: A tool to evaluate financial costs, opportunities, and effectiveness of fuel treatments. Western Forester 49(5):12-13.


Fried, J.S., G. Christensen, D. Weyermann, R.J. Barbour, R. Fight, B. Hiserote, and G. Pinjuv. 2005. Modeling opportunities and feasibility of siting wood-fired electrical generating facilities to facilitate landscape-scale fuel treatment with FIA BioSum In: Bevers, Michael; Barrett, Tara M., comps. Systems Analysis in Forest Resources: Proceedings of the 2003 Symposium; October 7-9, Stevenson, WA. PNW-GTR-656. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, pp. 195-204.


Science Delivery Publications

Rapp, V. 2004. Reducing Fire Hazard: Balancing Costs And Outcomes. Science Update #7. US Forest Service, PNW Research Station, Portland, OR. 12 p.


PNW Research Station Communications Group. 2009. Bioenergy From Trees: Using cost-effective thinning to reduce forest fire hazards. Science Finding #117. US Forest Service, PNW Research Station, Portland, OR. 6 p.



Jeremy Fried (jsfried <at> and Jamie Barbour (jbarbour01 <at>



Last update 2010 April 6th by jsf