Friday Offcuts – 2 December 2011

growing trees cutting and milling timber forest products
Today is the second and final day of the ForestTECH 2011 technology series being held in Albury, NSW, Australia. The very latest tools and more importantly, how the technology is now being implemented and used by foresters to improve their inventory and forest management is being outlined by a mix of leading Australian, New Zealand and North American forestry companies.

The technology has come a long way in just two years. As presented through a series of case studies, it’s moved from the research and trial phase and already is an integral part of many leading forestry companies day to day operational planning. The technical programme runs again early next week for NZ foresters and we’ll touch on some of the details in future issues of Friday Offcuts.

Linked to the theme of improving forestry company’s inventory and planning systems, we've included two stories this week on remote sensing. The first covers results comparing data collected from airborne LiDAR and ground plots in some NSW Radiata pine plantations and the second, similar studies that compare LiDAR and ground based plotting for measuring carbon in tropical forests. Both clearly show - as do other just completed forest trials detailed yesterday in Albury that advanced laser-based systems for forest monitoring are at least as accurate and certainly more cost effective as traditional plot-based assessments.

We also have a story this week that’s generated a lot of discussion internationally since it was first released. New American research is suggesting that utilising forest biomass as a substitution for fossil fuel to offset CO2 emissions may in fact be contributing more in emissions through the process of harvesting, transporting and the manufacturing of wood products. The researchers are saying that their studies show that in the western US, managing forests to produce biomass fuel would actually increase carbon dioxide emissions by 2 to 14 per cent - more than what would result from current forest practices or by simply burning it.

Finally, carbon markets are looking decidedly shaky just at the moment with NZ carbon prices slumping to record lows. We're looking forward to meeting Kiwi foresters at the ForestTECH 2011 event planned for Rotorua next week and we’ll be keen on hearing from Wayne King of Carbon Market Solutions at the ForestTECH 2011 dinner just what’s causing the crash – and the longer term prognosis for foresters – and carbon markets in this part of the world. See you all there.



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Carbon crashes as Europe sells out

Carbon prices according to Carbon News are in free-fall as cash-strapped European countries dump huge amounts of European Union Allowances – the European equivalent of New Zealand’s NZUs. New Zealand carbon is expected to follow the trend down, and there are fears that without intervention, the situation will see the entire carbon trading system come to a halt.

With production levels in Europe falling, many countries are now holding surplus EUAs (the European Kyoto compliance units) which they are selling to raise money. Prices hit a low late last week when the Netherlands sold two million spot EUAs at 8.05 euros. In July, Greece sold 3 million EUAs.

New Zealand trader Nigel Brunel, of OMFinancial, says that the situation is similar to that a few years ago, when so-called Russian hot-air units (units generating by falling emissions levels due to cuts in USSR production levels, rather than through better environmental practices) flooded the market.

"EUAs are the new hot-air," he told Carbon News. Brunel, who heads OMFinancial’s carbon desk and has been active in the market since its inception, says that he has never seen any financial market in free-fall like this. "I have never seen what’s going on in this market, ever," he said. "Markets have their days, from time to time, but nothing like this." Source: Carbon News




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Processing Lidar data at the plot level

Forests NSW resource and inventory staff presented at the ForestTECH 2011 event in Albury that finishes today and they will be presenting in New Zealand next week to local foresters. As part of this year’s forestry technology programme, they discussed recent research and operational trials where they collected airborne Lidar and plot-based data from a radiata pine plantation in New South Wales, Australia.

They extracted a series of area-based lidar metrics and these modelled against mean tree height, stem density, basal area and stand volume using various modelling techniques. The best models were used to produce prediction maps of these four inventory attributes. These results support the operational inclusion of airborne lidar data within P. radiata resource inventory systems.

Details from the study have been included in the New Zealand Journal of Forestry Science. It is now available on-line here


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CO2 Australia chosen for major carbon study

The Minister for Climate Change, Cassy O’Connor announced CO2 Australia Limited as the successful consultant who will carry out ground-breaking research into the carbon stored in Tasmania’s forests. Ms O’Connor said C02 Australia is a widely-respected reforestation-based carbon project developer with a diverse client base that includes Woodside Energy, Origin Energy, the Victorian and Western Australian Governments, Newmont Mining and Qantas.

"Funded through a Greens' initiative supported by Labor in the 2010-11 State Budget, this independent study is a critical project for the State, particularly given the recent passage of the Commonwealth Government’s national carbon price scheme and the financial opportunities associated with new carbon markets."


"The research to be undertaken by C02 Australia is an Australian first that will give us a detailed and up-to-date understanding of the amount of carbon stored in both private and public forests. It will provide an independent assessment of the volume of carbon currently stored in our forest estate, and identify our most significant opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration in the Tasmanian landscape."

The consultants will be supported in their work by an independent Steering Committee of three respected scientists - Professor Jim Reid from the University of Tasmania’s School of Plant Science; Professor Brendan Mackey from ANU, who is also a member of the Federal Government’s Independent Climate Commission; and Professor Cris Brack, the inaugural Chair of Forestry at the Waiariki Institute of Technology in Rotorua, New Zealand.


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Laser-based forest mapping accurate for carbon

Again, in line with the ForestTECH 2011 focus on remote sensing technologies being adopted by leading forestry companies we have a story on comparisons of using LiDAR and ground based plotting to measure carbon. Two new research papers show that an advanced laser-based system for forest monitoring is at least as accurate as traditional plot-based assessments when it comes to measuring carbon in tropical forests.

The first paper, published in Remote Sensing of Environment by researchers from the Department of Global Ecology at Carnegie Institution for Science and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), compared plot data for Barro Colorado Island, Panama — the most intensively studied tract of tropical forest on Earth — with carbon data derived from overhead flights using the Carnegie Airborne Observatory's (CAO) LiDAR system. It found that "lidar-based uncertainties of aboveground carbon stocks are indistinguishable from errors obtained when doing the most detailed plot-based estimates."

The second paper, published in Oecologia by researchers from Carnegie, STRI, and other institutions, laid out a universal equation for determining forest carbon stock values from LiDAR data. The equation — based on sampling of forests in Panama, Peru, Madagascar, and Hawaii — is adjusted for a forest region based two variables: basal area and wood density information, allowing researchers to "radically decrease" the time needed to calibrate airborne LiDAR data. The research has important implications for mapping global forest carbon stocks, according to Greg Asner, the Carnegie Institution scientist who leads CAO. More >>. Source: Mongabay.com


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Study urges care with harvesting for biofuel

Turning trees into biofuel can release more carbon into the atmosphere than would have been released by fossil fuels, new American research says. In the October issue of the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers say that a global push to replace fossil fuels with biofuel should not be undertaken without accurate carbon accounting.

“Policies are being developed worldwide to increase bioenergy production as a substitution for fossil fuel to mitigate fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of anthropogenic global climate change,” the report says.

“However, the capacity for the forest sector bioenergy production to offset carbon dioxide emissions is limited by fossil fuel emissions from this activity (harvest, transport and the manufacturing of wood products) and the lower energy output per unit carbon emitted compared with fossil fuels.

To view the full report click here. Source: Carbon News


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NZ sawn timber exports drop away

New Zealand’s sawn timber exports to China have been ‘hammered’, while raw log shipments surged in the wake of Beijing’s efforts to cool the economy and amid increased sales by rival forestry nations such as Canada, according to an industry lobby group.

Lumber exports fell 16 percent to NZ$264 million in the four months ended 30 September, according to New Zealand Timber Industry Federation figures. Exports to China fell 19 percent to NZ$44.7 million and shipments to the US fell 23 percent to NZ$40.2 million.
More >>


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Concrete strengthening technology boon for construction

For those interested in the concrete/wood product substitution challenge this story may be of interest. Eden Energy is marching steadily towards its goal of early 2012 commercialisation, with positive results coming in from tests of its carbon-reinforcing technology on concrete, a product with global appeal. Eden Energy is on track for early 2012 commercialisation of its concrete strengthening technology after receiving encouraging initial results.

Eden, through U.S. subsidiary Hythane Company, produces carbon nanotubes and nanofibers that can be added to concrete to increase its flexural strength. Preliminary tests show that certain concrete formulations have increased flexural strength of between 15% and 30% after seven days.

Increasing the flexural strength of concrete is a boon for the construction industry, allowing for reduced concrete beam dimensions and consequently thinner floors, reducing overall building height. At the same time, this can reduce the need for steel reinforcement, which lowers project material costs. Eden’s nano-carbon products have tensile strength of 200-300 times that of steel, but are only about 17% of the weight of steel, according to the company.

Source: Proactive Investors Australia


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Start point for a coordinated national strategy

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) welcomed the release of the findings from the forestry industry inquiry and has urged the government to act on the report by working with industry to implement a national strategy. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry last week tabled its report on the Inquiry into the Australian forestry industry.

AFPA Chief Executive David Pollard said it was essential that a taskforce involving industry and government be established to ensure key recommendations are followed-through. A coordinated national strategy would also be able to pick up key recommendations from the recent Pulp and Paper Industry Strategy Group and current reviews into Australian manufacturing.

“The inquiry has identified the need to develop a plan for future plantation development that includes an effective investment mechanism for new plantations as well as the need to renew the Regional Forest Agreements to provide certainty of wood supply for the native forest sector” said Dr Pollard.

“The industry also welcomes the report’s focus on the carbon positive opportunities which the industry can provide. These include encouraging better ways for the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) to support forestry activities, as well as improved national standards for quantifying the carbon stored in different wood products and their displacement of more energy intensive materials such as steel.”

“AFPA strongly supports the recommendation that native forest biomass be recognised under the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme, given the lack of rationality behind the current proposal to discourage the utilisation of wood waste products for energy production.” Source: AFPA


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ArborGen celebrates planting of 10 billionth seedling

ArborGen, recently celebrated the planting of the company's 10 billionth seedling. During an event at the site of the company's new headquarters, which is currently under construction, company officials were joined by state officials, business leaders and representatives from the surrounding community for a ceremonial planting to commemorate and recognize this significant milestone.

With operations in four countries and sales of more than 275 million trees annually, ArborGen is the largest commercial provider of tree planting stock in the world. The company's seedling products span the entire technology spectrum, from conventional seedlings to biotechnology seedlings with a robust pipeline of biotechnology and other advanced products in development.

To put this milestone into perspective, the planting of 10 billion seedlings is the equivalent of planting 20 million acres of trees, which would be enough to fill every square inch of the land area of South Carolina or would be enough to offset the pollution of all the cars in Los Angeles for 20 years (approximately 26 million cars).


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Russian lumber production climbs in 2011

Russia has almost 20% of global forest growing stock and is producing some 10% of the world’s sawn wood products. Due to the uncertainties related to forest law, institutional reform and export-duty policies, foreign investments in sawmilling capacities have been further postponed. Consequently, the core of the Russian sawmill industry is still characterized by local single-mill companies using mainly old assets. However, there are at least a dozen modern sawmills that have been built in the last six to eight years by both foreign and Russian investors.

Russian lumber production is estimated at 28.6 million m3 for 2011, an increase of 2.25 million m3 (+8.5%) from 2010. The bulk of this increase in output is tied to rising Russian exports to China — on pace to exceed six million m3 in 2011 (up 1.8 million m3 from 2010). Russia is projected to export more than 16.5 million m3 to all markets in 2012, up from about 16 million m3 in 2011.

The recent announcement that Russia will join the WTO leads the way for more change in Russia. While there is some skepticism that Russia will initiate its acceptance promptly, reportedly the move will eventually lead to lower log export taxes, with quotas in place for parts of the year. A lower log export tax is not good for Russia’s domestic sawmills, as they will have to compete for logs that could be destined to export markets at higher prices (or bearing lower export taxes). Before the WTO announcement, Russia’s sawn softwood production was forecast at 30.6 million m3 for 2012, a level that may now be threatened.

Source: International Wood Markets Group, www.woodmarkets.com


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Victorian bushfire building controls introduced

The Victorian Government has announced the introduction of new bushfire related controls in the Victorian Planning Provision, including new standards for siting a house to achieve better bushfire resilience. While this announcement focuses on changes to planning controls, those building new buildings or making additions to buildings in bushfire prone areas may have questions regarding the use of timber which is still determined in accordance with AS 3959 Construction of Buildings in Bushfire Prone Areas.

AS 3959 generally allows timber framed construction but depending on the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL), non-combustible materials may be required. In some circumstances fire-retardant-treated timber may be necessary or high density un-treated timber species that are capable of meeting the required parameters may be suitable. Timber.net.au provides further information. Source: AFPA Canopy




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First NZ CodeMark certified timber weatherboard system

Timspec, a New Zealand timber distributer, has delivered New Zealand’s first CodeMark certified timber cladding solution. This is only the fourth product to be CodeMark certified in New Zealand and is the first timber cladding system. The CodeMark product certification scheme is a voluntary scheme that provides an easily-understood and robust way to show that a building product or system meets the requirements of the New Zealand Building Code.

A CodeMark-certified product or construction method must be accepted by any building consent authority as complying with the Building Code, as long as it is used as specified. The CodeMark scheme was established by the Building Act 2004 and is administered by the Department of Building and Housing. It has been developed jointly with the Australian Building Codes Board.

"We were proud to be the first major timber importer to be both FSC and PEFC Chain-of-Custody certified, which was a huge step forward for resource certification, and now we are proud to be the first company to offer a CodeMark certified timber cladding system, an equally huge step forward in the realm of construction and the consent process" said Chris Wiffen, Joint Managing Director, Timspec.




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MDBA Plan unfairly targets plantation forestry

The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) proposed plan is certainly getting a lot of press throughout Australia since being released earlier this week. David Harris, Commissioner of the NSW Office of Water gave those attending the ForestTECH 2011 event in Albury last night a first-hand insight into the draft – along with implications to landowners in the four Australian States affected.

The plan for the Basin according to the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) in a release this week says it unfairly targets plantation forestry. AFPA Chief Executive David Pollard said the plantation industry was willing to pull its weight in water reform, but not while activities that are potentially high water interceptors are not to be assessed at all.

“The MDBA Draft Plan will result in perverse outcomes for the management of water interception given its focus on plantation forestry, to the exclusion of other dry-land activities,” said Dr Pollard. “Plantation forests make up less than one-third of one per cent of the Murray Darling Basin, while dry-land pasture and crops cover some 66 and 10 per cent respectively. Yet these land uses will not be assessed to the same level of scrutiny as plantation forests.”

“Even improved pasture, which uses a similar amount of water per hectare as tree plantations, is not to be assessed for its water use. This could lead to less than efficient outcomes in utilising our water resources. Moreover, the projected amounts of water claimed to be intercepted by plantations needs to be more thoroughly assessed. The MDBA bases its analysis on National Water Commission projections, which at the time were known to be highly variable estimates with a high degree of uncertainty.”

“The only acceptable approach is one based on scientific evidence, facts and objective analysis. AFPA was hoping for a less political approach to the management of water interception in the Proposed Plan. Taking a more balanced approach to the assessment of dry-land activities across the Basin would be a good start, including sensible thresholds on the scale and significance of water using activities on water budgets” he said.


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New mobile floor manufacturing plant developed

Australian flooring company Style has developed a 'transportable factory’ that will help it expand its production base to other locations around the world. The company currently has a manufacturing base in the Zhejiang province in China and sales offices in US, China, Australia and South Africa.

The ‘transportable factory’ model was developed as part of a 12-month research program undertaken by the Melbourne-based company in partnership with Flinders University’s Molecular Technologies Research Centre in Adelaide, South Australia. The research program was part funded by the Federal Government.
The mobile strand woven factory was designed be installed into existing wood finishing factories in any location round the world for the manufacture of woven products using locally available soft wood pieces, such as poplar in the U.S.A. and blue gum in Australia.
Until now, strand woven products have only been manufactured in China. This is because the manufacturing process has not been able to be replicated outside of China due to raw material sourcing and manufacturing cost issues.

According to Style CEO Peter Torreele, the ‘transportable factory’ model provide for an exportable and economically viable manufacturing cell to produce strand woven products outside of China by designing an international block factory design has a similar cost base to China through advanced automation technologies. The ‘transportable factory’ model has been designed to be an “add-on-module” to existing wood flooring finishing factories anywhere in the world, Torreele said.

This new technology sees the company again a greater footing in the strand woven flooring market, which is expected to grow steadily over the next few years as cost of exotic hardwood continues to increase due to scarcity and restrictions on logging and deforestation. The company is currently engaged in discussions with wood flooring manufacturers to form strategic partnerships to license the patented technology.

A leader in the “green” strand woven technology space, Style was the first company in the world to introduce strand woven flooring products in 2004. The Australian-listed company was founded in 2004 and specialises in R&D, manufacturing and marketing of “green” flooring products based on its strand woven technologies.

The company’s original strand woven technology used Chinese Moso Bamboo, which is considered to be low in value and fast growing, as its “green” input material to produce a solid floor that provides the same strength and durability of exotic hardwood. The technology was developed to reduce the destruction of tropical forests and landing clearing for construction of native hardwood plantations.


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Jobs


...and one to end the week on...lawyers

Apologies in advance to any lawyer readers. A petty thief, a teacher and a lawyer die in a plane crash and go up to Heaven's gates together. When they get there they are stopped by St. Peter, who says: "Sorry, it's crowded up here, you need to answer a question correctly, or else you can't get in."

He looks at the teacher, and asks her: "What was the name of the famous ocean-liner that sank after hitting an iceberg?"

"Oh, that's easy," the teacher replies, "the Titanic." So St. Peter lets her into Heaven.

Next he turns to the petty thief. "How many people died on that ship?" St. Peter asks.

"Oooh, that's tough, but I saw the movie, and I think it was 1,500." St. Peter steps away and the thief walks into Heaven.

Finally (you know what's coming), St. Peter turns to the lawyer and says: "Name them."






And on that note, have a great weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
PO Box 904
Level Two, 2 Dowling Street
Dunedin, New Zealand
Ph: +64 3 470 1902
Fax: +64 3 470 1904
Web page: www.fridayoffcuts.com


This week's extended issue, along with back issues, can be viewed at www.fridayoffcuts.com

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