Friday Offcuts 2 December 2011
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.
This week we have for you:
Carbon crashes as Europe sells outCarbon 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
Processing Lidar data at the plot levelForests 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
CO2 Australia chosen for major carbon studyThe 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.
Laser-based forest mapping accurate for carbonAgain, 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
Study urges care with harvesting for biofuelTurning 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
NZ sawn timber exports drop awayNew 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.
Concrete strengthening technology boon for constructionFor 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
Start point for a coordinated national strategyThe 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
ArborGen celebrates planting of 10 billionth seedlingArborGen, 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).