Air Curtain Incinerators

Last week, an Air Curtain Incinerator was demonstrated in Lincoln County. One of the significant problems with thinning forests both for a healthier ecosystem, and for reduced fuel load is what to do with the woody materials left over after thinning. Disposal options include chipping, or burning the left-over plant material. Especially in areas suffering from insect infestation, chipping is not an ideal solution. Leaving piles of mulch provides terrific habitat for the bugs, and they reproduce accordingly.  But burning has its own set of issues, most significantly, the problem of smoke produced by burning. Air Curtain Incinerators (ACIs) can mitigate the smoke problem, making burning of slash piles a much more attractive option.

Burning the woody debris with an air curtain has numerous benefits. Organic matter is not left on the ground where it could benefit insects or intensify wildfire. Any bark beetles or other insects are killed completely through burning, thus reducing the infestation problem. Also, the air curtain allows the burning of green material so the leftovers from thinning projects can be disposed of quickly after the thinning is completed without waiting for the wood to dry. Furthermore, burns can occur during dry or wet conditions, so disposal doesn’t have to wait for a burn window. In addition, woody materials don’t have to be transported and that provides significant savings. Most importantly, very little to no smoke is created during the burn.

Air curtains were designed to control air pollution from burning forest waste, so their primary objective is to reduce the amount of smoke created. These machines don’t actually burn anything, rather they control the results of something being burned. Very little smoke is produced with opacities (that is, the degree to which a background such as blue sky is reduced by smoke particulates) generally well below 10%. In comparison, open burning opacity levels typically run between 80% and 100%, so the air curtain reduces the amount of smoke by a great deal.

Little Bear Forest Reform Coalition plans on having an industry representative speak at our spring conference. We’ll also have a demonstration of an actual burn using an air curtain. In the meantime, check out the Air Burners website at Air Burners for more information, including videos of air curtains in action.

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