Forest owners pumped by biofuel project

27 July 2013

Forest owners are hopeful that a project designed to convert forest waste into liquid biofuels will provide growers and mills with extra income streams.

In what is known as the 'Stump to Pump' project, the government has approved $6.75 million in funding to be matched by partners Norske Skog and Z Energy.

The $13.5 million project will be based at Norske Skog's Tasman mill in Kawerau. The initial 14-month study will examine the feasibility and economics of making biofuel from sawdust, bark and harvest residue which currently has little or no value. If successful, a test plant will then be built in Kawerau.

"The success of the venture could prove to be a shot in the arm for forestry as well as timber and paper mills. We congratulate the partners for making such a big investment in such an important opportunity for the sector," says Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes.

"Forest owners have been working with the Bioenergy Association for several years with the aim of getting the government to recognise the opportunities that lie in bio-energy. So this is a significant step forward."

He says in uncertain times, investors are unwilling to invest in new forest planting unless they can see higher returns than they are getting now. For their part, timber and paper mills face stiff competition from overseas log buyers and mills that have much lower cost structures, or enjoy government subsidies of one kind or another.

"Making biofuel from forest and wood waste is the focus of hundreds of scientific projects around the world. While most of them are motivated by a desire to break the world's dependence on fossil fuels, they also have the potential to make forestry and wood processing more profitable," Mr Rhodes says.

The Stump to Pump project aims to produce biocrude oil from sawdust which can then be refined into diesel or petrol.

Meanwhile, Mr Rhodes says Scion Research in Rotorua is working with enzymes to convert chemically pulped softwood into simple sugars which can then be converted to fuels and biochemicals. And at Canterbury University, scientists and engineers are working on a package suitable for small to medium-sized sawmills to produce biocrude oil from the gasification of wood waste.

For more information, please ring David Rhodes, tel 0274 955 525