The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) has a research programme underway called the Wood Fibre Futures project.

The point of it is to identify more profitable and environmentally-useful ways for NZ to exploit its harvested timber than simply shipping out logs and minimally-milled timber.

Personally, I would like to see NZ produce its own paper. The next issue of BayBuzz magazine will cost nearly $2k more because our printer has run out of my usual paper stock and can’t source more because of the global shipping disruptions caused by the pandemic. So I had to agree to use more expensive paper, with my cash going onto some overseas pocket. [Donations welcome!]

But I digress.

Back to MPI and this recent announcment: “The Wood Fibre Futures project earlier this year identified viable wood-based alternatives to high carbon emitting products such as transport fuel, concrete, steel, and coal.

In particular, MPI notes considerable interest in biofuels and biomass energy from organisations such as Air New Zealand and Fonterra.

“We are now putting out a tender, seeking an organisation with extensive international contacts and experience that can develop compelling business cases for investing in the biofuels and solid fuels sector in New Zealand,” says their announcement.

“These business cases are expected to be completed by mid-2021 and will focus on wood-based products that will provide a large source of residues that can be used to produce 3 priority products identified in stage 1:

  • biocrude oil
  • liquid biofuels (such as sustainable aviation fuel)
  • solid fuels such as wood pellets.

“We have a huge amount of pine in New Zealand that can be used to create these fuels, but we need to attract investment and prove that there is both the demand and a viable supply, and that is what we are aiming to do by developing these business cases.

“The growing demand for alternatives to fossil fuels has the potential to transform the forestry sector into a provider of biofuels, bioenergy, and a range of renewable bioproducts alongside more traditional wood products.

“The government is committed to moving New Zealand to a low carbon future and forestry has a major role to play in that future.”

MPI’s announcement also notes that “biofuels will also have the added benefit of supporting regional development with biofuel manufacturing centres being in areas where forestry is prevalent.” [Emphasis added]

Hawke’s Bay has plenty of pine trees to harvest, especially up north.

Seems to me that manufacturing our own biofuel in the region — in addition to creating a higher value product — would translate into less diesel fuel use on our farms, putting a major dent on our primary sector’s emissions profile.

Are you reading this Mayor Little?!

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2 Comments

  1. It is great you are discussing the concept of biofuels including for aviation. But in the chapter “In for the long haul: Carbon-proofing New Zealand tourism” in a just published Bridget Williams book on tourism renewed Professor Susanne Becken does not favour biofuels. She states:

    “One option that genuinely seeks to close the carbon cycle is to make synthetic fuels essentially from CO2 from the air. The process of turning electricity into liquids (so-called e-fuels) relies on large amounts of electricity and a range of chemical reactions that combine CO2 (or methane, CH4) and water to create hydrocarbons similar (or essentially identical) to fossil oil. The power-to-liquid fuels are more sustainable than biomass-derived fuels because they consume considerably less land area, they require much less water, and they take the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere as is emitted later when the aircraft burns the fuel. In that sense they can be up to 95 per cent climate-effective. Many biofuels are not even achieving a net positive effect and therefore do not offer an alternative for aviation. The big challenge for e-fuels will be cost, estimated to be three to four times that of fossil fuel, and the need for large-scale renewable energy”

    I look forward to seeing what the research comes up with and thanks for publishing your article

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