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Residues as fuel

Monday, February 18, 2019, Brian Cox's Blog

The decision by the Government of British Columbia to introduce policy reforms which require greater added value processing of wood within Canada, rather than export of unprocessed logs, shows that governments can actively lead the transition of their economies and support local bioenergy industries. (see story later).

Applying similar policies in New Zealand, focusing on reducing forest waste and pursuing opportunities for using wood domestically, would ensure that the value of the trees we grow and the carbon that is captured and stored is maximised.  Currently 15-20% of a tree processed in New Zealand is wasted.  Most wasted wood is from the growing and harvesting of trees. (Wood processors use most of their residual biomass for timber drying.) In addition there is the 100% non-availability in New Zealand of biomass exported as logs. With exported logs the eventual process residues are given to another country to be used, when we could be using those residues here to replace domestic coal and gas for process heat.

If we process current exported logs within New Zealand then the wood residues become available as a high quality carbon feedstock for multiple purposes, including energy. Having the biomass residues available as fuel would also contribute to reducing any future risk of having to purchase carbon credits offshore to comply with our Paris commitments.

The forestry business is an exception to most manufacturing where the residues from one process become the feedstock for another product. In the forestry sector the discarding of production and harvest residues is considered acceptable. Forestry has a social license to use our valuable land wisely. As countries move to encourage circular economy businesses the individual business resilience improves, waste is reduced and new business opportunities open up. A benefit of this is that more biomass will come available in the domestic market as a biogenic source of carbon to replace the use of fossil derived carbon in the form of coal and gas.

A key place for the Government to start is with its own 1 billion tree programme. More thought needs to be given to the long term value and the efficient use of carbon that can be derived by planting and harvesting these trees. Sequestration of carbon through planting trees and leaving them there is a short term fix if the trees are not going to be part of an ongoing harvest and use strategy. Rotation harvesting and using the trees planted today will result in a new sink being created every 30 years. This sounds like a sustainable carbon sink policy, as well as opportunities for a permanent flow of biomass for energy, bio-based economy, and creation of jobs and regional economic growth.

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3 posts.

Post from Dean Satchell on February 28, 2019 at 12:19PM

Totally agree with everything you are saying Brian. I hope this government is brave enough to put a large enough price on carbon emissions for businesses to use the "marginal" or "currently uneconomic" residues. I hear the corporate foresters still talking about burning landing residues and I still see massive bonfires as the means of getting rid of woody shelterbelt residues here in Kerikeri. This is renewable energy going to waste.

Post from Peter Brown on March 1, 2019 at 9:27AM

I agree with what Brian and Dean have said.  But one additional thing that everyone forgets - and it could become signifiant when the $25 cap is finally removed from the NZ ETS scheme - is that all forest and forest industry residues are deemed to have released all their CO2 to the atmosphere at the time that the trees were felled. 

So if you then use these residues for energy production, your are deemed to not be releasing any CO2 to the atmosphere at all - the system considers that it has alrady been released at harvest!  Therefore, any energy generated by burning them - or otherwise extracting their energy is carbon neutral.  That has to have signifiacnt value in most circumstances.

Post from Vaughan Kearns on March 4, 2019 at 11:16PM

Yes, correct at the moment but who know what raft of changes will come about after MPI have done their current review.

Disclaimer: Personal views expressed in this blog are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of the NZ Farm Forestry Association.

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