Better access to forest wastes needed

Wednesday 16 Dec 2020

Oji: Competitive bioproducts need improved wood supply - New Zealand needs to find better ways to access forestry waste if it is going to produce globally competitive bioproducts, a major packaging company says.

Oji Fibre Solutions, which operates three paper mills in the North Island, said almost all the countries its rivals operate in have schemes that require or encourage the removal of forestry waste at harvesting. Some also have rules or subsidies advantaging energy made from those residues.

Chief operating officer Terry Skiffington said a way needs to be found to place a “national value” on that resource in NZ so the economic incentives are there to not only pull it out of the forests, but also to invest in new plant to process it into new products or energy.

“Unfortunately, in New Zealand, that biomass is generally wasted,” he told delegates at a conference on decarbonising industry. “Really the country needs to figure out a way to convert that into fuel,” he said. “That is both a massive opportunity and a challenge for the country, because is it a free resource that is sitting there wasting away.”

Existing industry - NZ already gets about 10 percent of its primary energy from wood and other wood wastes, much of it used at sites like Oji’s mills. More firms, schools and hospitals are converting heating systems to wood – generally to displace coal – and wood suppliers say they can provide much more, and at larger scale, for customers prepared to enter into long-term contracts.

The government is also keen to see more wood-based fuel and chemicals made here and is looking at ways to encourage more domestic processing – as opposed to exporting raw logs. Rob Mallinson, managing director of wood supplier Living Energy, said about a quarter of all logs processed in a sawmill ends up as wood chip and a lot of that is currently exported. There are also millions of tonnes of wood available on farms and in urban areas.

“Stop worrying about your wood fuel supply – build it and they will come,” he said.

But getting it at scale can be a challenge and many industrial sites built 50 years ago are nowhere near forests.

Dairy and food processors are the biggest contributors to emissions from NZ’s manufacturing sector. Many on the South Island, where gas is not available, are co-firing boilers with wood or looking at complete replacements.

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Source: BusinessDesk

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