Biomass: Revolutionary plans for NZ’s forestry resources

Biomass: Revolutionary plans for NZ’s forestry resources
     Story: Jim Childerstone Forestry Services

Volumes of harvested trees on skid sites and landings may soon be manufactured by specialised plants locally. Every scrap of timber will be processed into a variety of products benefitting the environment and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. This could take some of the pressure off the current volatile log export market, especially to China.

The Australian-based Foresta Group is in the process of developing a significant plant in the Bay of Plenty, run by a local team. A recent NZ Logger article outlined trials of a wood pellet alternative for burning coal at Huntly Power Station. Well, somebody must have been taking note! 

The Childers based Foresta Group is well underway setting up the plant to process three basic products and, as reported last month, recently signed a 10-year supply agreement with PF Olsen which will see 150,000 tonnes of logs, stumps and slash sourced from sustainably managed forests underpinning production for Foresta’s planned low emissions torrefied wood pellet manufacturing plant at Kawerau.

Its principle aim is to produce torrefied wood pellets to replace coal for heat energy, such as electricity generators. Huntly Power Station has already trialled wood pellets at two of its generators. Known as black pellets they are a drop-in replacement for coal, needing little alteration to the boilers.

At the same time the plant will extract chemicals such as terpenes in gum to replace fossil fuel and rosins in sold form for varied uses. The company explains that with 30% of the available chemicals being gum turpentine, it plays a significant role in the production process. Gum turpentine is primarily used as a solvent in paints, varnishes and other coatings. It also has potential as an alternative vehicle fuel with further process.

Another product is gum rosin – a solid form of resins in pine trees. Gum rosin constitutes 70% of the total available chemicals produced in radiata pine and is widely used in the production of additives, inks, varnishes and rubber. It serves as a crucial ingredient  in many industries, including paper, construction and electronics, says a company spokesperson.

The company claims a patent for the method of extraction, although New Zealand Crown Research Institutes (such as Scion Research) have been working on trials over the past decade.

Much of the source of supply comes from Pinus varieties and needs to be green fresh for chemical extraction. Solid form gum rosins make up 70% of the total available chemicals produced from p. radiata trees. 

However, it’s the volumes proposed that could have an effect on current and future domestic and export log supply volumes.

Foresta is targeting 57,000 tonnes of chemicals per year to be separated into terpenes and rosins, leaving 216,000 tonnes of chips for torrefied pellets.

And the company already has contracts for significant percentages of the three products.

This will take a considerable percentage of harvest skid site products, although the company has not itemised the log grades. 

Group spokesperson, Teresa Aylott, explains that the source of supply is from whole forest...

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