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