Friday Offcuts 11 March 2022
Escalating drought has placed increasing pressure on both forest resilience and recovery. An article this week looks at just how effective some of the traditional tree restoration approaches that we’ve been using are. Land managers increasingly have been expressing their concerns as to whether conventional tree replanting methods in the future are actually going to be as effective with the changes in climate conditions being experienced.
In a bioenergy story this week, Genesis Energy have commented that they believe that converting part of the Huntly power station (New Zealand’s largest thermal power station) to run on biofuel could be economic. However, it’s going to need a source of a specialist wood fuel (steam - exploded wood pellets), which they suggest the NZ government could lend a hand to help set up.
Scaling up is what they’re pushing for – and it’s this scaling up of a reliable and consistent resource of biofuel that’s going to drive the switch from coal by larger industrial heat users like Genesis. Along with new harvesting, transport and wood handling technologies, it’s also this collaboration by forestry and wood products companies regionally to meet the increasing demand for biomass that will feature in the upcoming Wood Residues 2022 event set up for the forestry industry. It runs on 26-27 July in Rotorua, New Zealand. Full details including both the programme and registration information can now be found on the event website.
And finally, as well as breaking news this week, we probably need a bit of a pick me up to counter the negativity hogging the headlines right now. We’ve included some obscure but pretty interesting forestry stories to finish your week on including; a video that takes you inside a modern mass timber manufacturing operation, another video, this one though is 70 years old, that looks at the early Australian bush and sawmilling camps and we’ve included a wake-up call on the challenging task that we’ve all set ourselves as we try to switch from using fossil fuels to electric vehicles. Phew - that’s all for this week. Enjoy.
This week we have for you:
Container lines suspend shipping to RussiaThe world's three biggest container lines have temporarily suspended cargo shipments to and from Russia in response to Western sanctions on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine, in a further blow to trade with the country.
Russia's assault on its neighbour, which Moscow says is a "special operation", is the biggest state-to-state invasion in Europe since World War Two.
Swiss-headquartered MSC, the world's biggest container shipping company by capacity, said in a customer advisory that as of March 1 it had introduced "a temporary stoppage on all cargo bookings to/from Russia, covering all access areas including Baltics, Black Sea and Far East Russia. MSC will continue to accept and screen bookings for delivery of essential goods such as food, medical equipment and humanitarian goods," it said.
Denmark's Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), which is the second biggest carrier after MSC, said separately it would temporarily halt all container shipping to and from Russia, also adding that the suspension covering all Russian ports, would not include foodstuffs, medical and humanitarian supplies.
"As the stability and safety of our operations is already being directly and indirectly impacted by sanctions, new Maersk bookings within ocean and inland to and from Russia will be temporarily suspended," the company said in a statement.
France's CMA CGM, the world's third-biggest container line, later on Tuesday announced it had suspended all bookings to and from Russia until further notice, citing safety concerns.
The moves follow similar decisions already taken by Singapore-headquartered Ocean Network Express and Germany's Hapag Lloyd (HLAG.DE) - effectively cutting Russia off from the world's leading container shipping companies, adding to freight challenges ahead.
The impact of the conflict on logistics and supply chain industries (Ukraine is one of the foremost—yet often overlooked—components of both the European and global supply chains) is also been covered here.
Source: Reuters, mhlnews
New Tools For Foresters website launchedIt was quite a fitting week with the Australasian forestry industry celebrating 15 years of ForestTECH, Australasia’s premier annual forest technology conference running on 23-24 February - an event that has enabled and empowered our industry with game changing technology – to officially launch the new Tools for Foresterswebsite.
It was launched as part of the Remote Sensing Cluster Group meeting that was again held virtually, the day before ForestTECH 2021-22 ran.
For those of you not familiar with #ToolsForForesters, they are an industry group dedicated to the progression of useful technology at the grass roots level. They seek to enable forest workers to innovate and advance their practice, improve health and safety, attract new people to our industry, and also helping to bridge the gap between researchers and forest workers to accelerate the use of this technology.
Working in forestry is hard enough without having to figure out all the details of UAV deployment. Identifying a gap between research and on-the-ground implementation, in 2019 a group of NZ foresters and researchers began discussions around how to progress the use of UAVs in forestry. It soon became apparent that;
• For a company to adopt UAVs in NZ, they have to invest heavily in internal RnD capability
• There are no forestry-specific training courses for UAVs teaching the required skills, and no industry standards governing their use
• It’s not a forester’s role to resolve technical roadblocks for the adoption of new tools
• There is a lack of tools to aid companies in decision making around the benefits to their use and their adoption
• There is a big disconnect between research and UAV users within industry with young foresters in particular being out of the loop
• Scientific papers, where they are available, are not the best medium for end users
• No feedback link between end users and researchers.
With this in mind, they formalised their thoughts into the Tools for Foresters Initiative. The Initiative aims to progress the use of UAVs and other useful technologies as operational tools within the industry by providing technical expertise to remove barriers to adoption, informing on best practice, creating a forum for troubleshooting and forming a link between research and industry.
Tools for Foresters seeks to grow and maintain an active network of UAV-users and enthusiasts, providing leadership in the development of this technology as well as a digital platform which will act as a central hub for UAV-related research, knowledge and resources. As new technologies emerge, we will also expand our remit to encompass other new tools that will be a benefit to foresters.
The new website is the culmination of two years of discussions between researchers and foresters. Check out the new website on www.toolsforforesters.co.nz/
Australia’s forest restoration tactics re-evaluated• More than 24 million hectares (59 million acres) burned during Australia’s devastating “Black Summer” bushfire season of 2019-2020, which formed part of a confirmed climate change-driven trend of worsening fire weather and larger, more intense forest fires.
• Scientists are still assessing the extent of the damage and are calling for a greater focus on understanding the effects of fires. Bushfires in Australia have been worsening for more than two decades as escalating drought places pressure on forest resilience and recovery.
• Since 2003, alpine ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis) and mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnens), the world’s tallest flowering plant, have been the focus of Victoria state’s largest post-fire reseeding effort ever. But the Black Summer fires caused foresters to re-evaluate the effectiveness and future of this initiative.
• With future wildfires expected to see ferocity equal to the 2019-20 fire season, forest managers are questioning traditional tree restoration approaches, with some even wondering if regrowing forests is viable. Researchers are actively testing more interventionist approaches, such as replanting seeds and seedlings with genetically fire-resilient traits.
For eight months, between July 2019 and March 2020, fires tore through forests in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales (NSW), the three states that comprise Australia’s eastern seaboard.
Now dubbed the “Black Summer,” many of these blazes were vast. One, the Gospers Mountain fire west of Sydney, burned more than 510,000 hectares (1.26 million acres), the largest forest fire ever recorded in Australia.
The full scope of damage nationwide wasn’t known until late in 2021, when a study published in Nature Communications calculated the total area burned during the Black Summer at 24 million hectares (59 million acres), an area roughly equal to the terrestrial U.K. The study also confirmed that these wildfires fit a climate change-driven trend of larger fires and worsening fire weather characterized by hotter, drier and windier conditions. Forecasts indicate that trend will only worsen.
With the catastrophic fires still fresh in the collective memory, Australians are now embarking on multiple reforestation initiatives. The federal government has committed AU$200 million to aid native wildlife and habitat recovery.
But many tough questions are being asked how this can best be done, and whether or not certain native plant species can adapt to withstand the frequency and ferocity of future bushfires equivalent to or worse than the Black Summer.
Land managers are expressing serious concerns as to whether conventional replanting methods will be effective, and are discussing and testing alternative reforestation proposals. These include the selection of genetically superior seeds and a land management vision encouraging more fire-resistant novel ecosystems, native forests and plantations.
“There is increasing recognition amongst practitioners and the restoration industry that traditional tree planting may not be adequate under a rapidly changing climate, [and] that we need to modify how we plan and implement tree planting to account for the impacts of a changing climate,” said Alistair Jones, Asia Pacific projects manager for One Tree Planted, an NGO.
Photo: DELWP Gippsland planning officer Wally Notman planting mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnens) in the largest reseeding effort in Victoria’s history. Image courtesy of the Victorian Department of Lands, Water and Planning
Carbon pricing and ripples from RussiaNZUs have come off – a lot - in the last week, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues to unnerve global energy - and environmental product - markets. It feels obscene to make observations about NZU prices - to talk money - in the face of such human horror, but there you have it, the conflict in Ukraine has most certainly been felt in NZU prices.
Other carbon markets have also experienced significant declines. EUAs, for example, took a deep plunge last week, and having nudged €97 in early February, touched a low of €55 before recovering somewhat in the last two days - yesterday saw the front year Dec 22 EUA contract firm, last trading €68.45.
The phasing out of Russian gas, oil and coal imports are to be discussed by EU leaders at a summit this week, and an outright US import ban on Russian oil has been announced overnight.
China is looking to increase natural gas, crude oil and coal production in an attempt to ensure its own energy security following global commodity price spikes, as indeed are most countries. Oil prices have soared to more than $130USD/barrel, and coal over $400USD/tonne.
In the mid-term, expect even more resolve to decarbonise, accelerated build out of renewables, underpinned by renewed focus in all countries on improving energy security and resilience. Right now, it's about enduring the chaos and turmoil.
Back here in the NZU market, spot prices have slipped mainly on the back of waning buy side interest, with support shown dipping back towards the early $70s - a far cry from the record high of $86 achieved by some sellers just under one month ago.
NZUs may not be directly linked but they are certainly not immune from sentiment and NZU holders can expect to feel further flow on effects of general uncertainty.
Source: Carbon Match
More delays & price rises for building productsVictorian builders are waiting nine months for trusses and up to 16 weeks for laminated veneer lumber
• Building material shortages, due to supply chain disruptions, are likely to continue into 2023
• The construction industry has been facing workforce shortages for 10 years
• The building industry contributes more than 46 per cent of Victoria's tax revenue
Builders are waiting about nine months for trusses and up to 16 weeks for laminated veneer lumber (LVL), one of the most widely used engineered wood products, according to Master Builders Victoria (MBV).
Stuart Allan, chair of MBV's country sector committee, said these shortages were likely to continue into next year. "It's widespread, but if we're just talking trusses, they're used right throughout the industry," he said.
"We are talking with designers and engineers to try and get LVL beams as an alternative to pitch a roof with, but there is a demand for those beams as well and the supply of those beams comes from overseas.
"So now there is a shortage of those as well as; there is demand from a lot of countries [for the material]."
Graeme Pilcher, the managing director of Pilcher Builders in Bendigo, said costs had been steadily increasing over the past two years. "I'd say it's probably somewhere between 20 and 25 per cent costs overall that have increased and it may even be more," he said.
Specialist wood fuel suggested by GenesisGenesis Energy believes converting part of the Huntly power station to run on biofuel could be economic, but it will need a source of the specialist wood fuel needed to be created in New Zealand, which the government could assist in setting up.
Genesis chief executive Marc England said preliminary work showed converting two of the Rankine units at the station is technically feasible and they could last until 2040 using steam- exploded wood pellets.
Steam-exploded pellets are created by treating woody biomass with pressurised hot water. Carbon emissions from the manufacture, shipping, and combustion of steam- exploded wood pellets are significantly less than coal.
England said their work so far also showed it could be stored outside without degrading its heating qualities. Wood pellets with high thermal capacity are in demand worldwide as they have the potential to partially displace coal use in power plants, reducing the global warming impact of electricity generation.
England said the problem is supply chain issues. Genesis is importing 4,000 tonnes of the pellets from Alabama in the United States.
Alabama has several wood pellet factories with one new entrant – Alabama Pellets – reportedly receiving a tax credit for job creation totaling US$848,000 (NZ$1.26 million) over 10 years, as well as an investment credit of US$9.5m, also spread over 10 years.
England would not say what the cost of the pellets was, but the current spot market has varying qualities of products ranging in price about US$200 a tonne. But commentary of that market said supply was tight and delivery was difficult.
The other problem, of course, is transport and there is not the supply available in NZ. England wants the government to consider whether helping the industry to scale up would be an option.
Genesis has discussed the potential for fuelling Huntly with biomass with the NZ Battery Project team. The unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is looking at how to deal with NZ’s dry year issue in a 100% renewable energy scenario and as the country looks to electrify the economy.
The costs of advanced biofuel are expected to be competitive with coal at current carbon prices and cheaper once carbon is $150 a tonne (it is currently about $80).
Wood Councils celebrate International Day of ForestsThe launch of a new children’s forestry activity book by the “Wood is Good” program will see Wood Councils across New Zealand initiate the “Great Book Handout” to honour International Day of Forests on 21 March 2022. This year the theme of this day is “Forest restoration; a path to recovery and wellbeing”.
The Wood Councils primary school engagement program “Wood is Good” received fantastic funding from The Forest Growers Levy Trust and Te Uru Rakau – New Zealand Forest Service, and this book is the first a range of resources aimed at primary school children to be released this year. You can look over this new resource by clicking here.
Many of the Wood Councils and forest company members around New Zealand will be dropping off free boxes of these activity books for local students to complete.
Any forestry companies or sector bodies who would like to participate can order their own free books from the website or email@example.com.
Forestry Australia Board announcementsForestry Australia has paid tribute to outgoing Vice President Dr Kevin Harding, (photo) who has announced his retirement from the Board as part of an ordered and planned transition to encourage fresh leaders to continue to grow the sector’s future. Dr Lachie McCaw was elected to fill Dr Harding’s Vice President position which he will serve alongside current Vice President Dr Michelle Freeman who remains in the role.
Forestry Australia President Bob Gordon thanked Dr Harding for his “huge contribution” to Forestry Australia and its predecessors the Institute of Foresters of Australia (IFA) and Australian Forest Growers (AFG). “Kevin’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Farm Forestry and his willingness to pitch in and get things done led to the survival of the AFG in extraordinarily challenging times,” Mr Gordon said.
“He championed the merger with the IFA that led to the successful establishment of Forestry Australia and drove the integration process that ensured the voice of farm forestry continues to be heard. Dr Harding’s career as a research scientist has been important in providing scientific rigour to Forestry Australia’s deliberations and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with him.”
Mr Gordon welcomed Dr McCaw to the Vice President role, noting his expertise in landscape management and fire would be of great benefit to the organisation. “Dr Lachie McCaw AFSM has had a distinguished career as a respected landscape manager of fire over multiple land tenures,” Mr Gordon said.
“A previous chair of the WA division of the IFA and an active member of AFG he brings a perspective of both forest scientist and farm forester to the role of Vice President which will continue to be very valuable to our future endeavours.”
Source: Forestry Australia
Looking inside a mass timber manufacturing operationThis video discusses mass timber manufacturing and shows an advanced mass timber factory in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada (Element5). Building components are modelled using 3D modelling software and then translated into drawings for the factory. Factory components are built on advanced assembly lines and robotically machined to precision.
Take a "walk" through the new factory and learn about the cross laminated timber manufacturing process on this virtual tour conducted by their VP of Manufacturing Engineering, Chris Latour. Special thanks to the Wood Manufacturing Cluster of Ontario for recording the tour.
Personnel changes announced for ForestWorksForestWorks has announced that Michael O’Connor and Stacey Gardiner will take the reins as co-chairs of the ForestWorks Board in 2022.
Michael O’Connor is the National Secretary, Manufacturing Division of the CFMEU and has held this position since 2005. He has been with the Union for over thirty-five years, commencing work as a union organiser in 1985. Michael is Co-Chair of First Super, an AU$3.24 billion industry superannuation fund, which has 46,000 members across the timber, pulp and paper, and furniture and joinery industries, and their communities. Michael also chairs the First Super Investment Committee. He is a Director on the board of Industry Super Australia (ISA).
Stacey Gardiner has worked in the forest industry for the past seven years and is an experienced leader committed to building mutually beneficial relationships across organisations and industries to support transformation and value creation. She has over 20 years’ experience in strategic planning and managing teams focused on creating strategic frameworks and developing evidence-based policy. She holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science and a Master of Land Use Planning.
Outgoing Board Chair, Tony Price, is thanked by the Board for his wise counsel and stewardship, as well as his passion and love for the industry. The significant experience and corporate knowledge of the outgoing Chair, Tony Price, will be retained as Tony will continue on as a ForestWorks board member.
In other changes at ForestWorks, as part of a planned leadership transition and growth strategy, David Forbes has been appointed as the Deputy General Manager of ForestWorks. David brings a wealth of experience in stakeholder engagement and understands the skills challenges facing our industry.
ForestWorks is also recruiting for a new General Manager to take over from Yvette Nash. Yvette has worked across the industry to re-establish ForestWorks relevance with industry, and has significantly grown the organisation.
At the conclusion of her contract, Yvette has chosen to pursue other opportunities. The Board takes this opportunity to acknowledge Yvette’s commitment to the role, her many achievements and wishes her well in her future endeavours. David will be Acting as the ForestWorks General Manager until a new General Manager is appointed.
Pre-training prepares job seekers for forestry workNathan Fogden has 2,000 hectares of land to plant and prune in 2022 but not the staff to complete the work. “It’s a really competitive labour market these days,” says the managing director of Te Puke-based silviculture contractors, Inta-Wood Forestry. “When I started working in NZ forestry 30 years ago, tradespeople were leaving to work in the silviculture sector. Nowadays they often earn $30 an hour and I can’t guarantee that.”
The labour market situation is not helped he says by inexperienced contractors under-pricing. Nathan currently pays his staff the minimum adult wage of $20 an hour to start with, including travel time and breaks, with bonuses paid at 6 and 12 months for those who pass monthly drug testing.
With training and experience, that rate increases to $26.50 with production. He also pays for work clothing and equipment. “We are working to become a living wage employer in March, with that rate increasing to a target of $30.00 an hour with production.”
Nathan’s company was the only forestry company to attend the latest Limited Services Volunteer LSV) career expo held at Trentham, Hutt Valley, on 23 November. Funded by MSD, LSV is a voluntary and free six-week training course run by New Zealand Defence Force for job seekers. Nathan says those undertaking the course are attentive, have self-respect and are drug-free.
“I look for people who are fit and are team people with a drive to do better.” New recruits will still need to work for up to four months on the job perfecting planting before they reach the optimal planting rate of 600-700 trees every day.
As a result of giving a presentation and hosting a stand at LSV, his company received a number of expressions of interest from jobseekers. While in the end no one was employed as a result, his company will continue to attend LSV graduations where participants come from the Bay of Plenty and finding local accommodation is not an issue.
Inta-Wood Forestry’s clients include a range of well-known forestry businesses and private landowners. Nathan employs an experienced forester who gives additional forestry planning advice. But it’s hard work and not to everyone’s liking. Nathan always wanted to be a forestry contractor and he is now concerned that his experienced crew supervisors don’t want to follow his path because of the long hours and stress involved in this competitive, demanding environment.
“I love establishing new forests for clients, and many staff get that satisfaction too. They see some beautiful scenery and work all day outdoors. I’m humbled to be able to employ people. There’s a steady flow of work; silviculture doesn’t get turned on and off like harvesting does.”
Nathan is a recently-retired member of the Forestry and Wood Processing Workforce Council, whose work is supported by Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service. The Council has been set-up to oversee an action plan to make good workforce decisions, attract a larger more diverse workforce, ensure people have the right skills and knowledge, and that workplaces have good practices and work conditions.
The next LSV training courses finish in Christchurch on 12 March, in Auckland on 30 April and in Wellington on 21 May 2022.
Further information: interested employers can visit Hire an LSV graduate.
Photo: (From left) Inta-Wood Forestry MD Nathan Fogden, Central North Island Wood Council CEO/Generation Programme Manager Damita Mita and Inta-Wood Forestry operations manager Raumati Morgan at the Limited Services Volunteer career expo
Source: Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forest Service
Challenges of switching to electric vehiclesThis article appeared recently and puts into perspective some of the challenges being faced in switching from fossil fuels to electric vehicles. The range of new EVs available in this region is increasing all the time.
The European Union has just recently proposed an effective ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars as of 2035 which, as part of a broad climate package, will accelerate a switch to zero-emission electric vehicles. How feasible is this and just what sort of challenges come with setting a switch like this?
Europe will have 130 million electric vehicles on the road by 2035, according to a joint report from Ernst & Young and the electricity industry trade association Eurelectric. The report's projections show Europe's EV fleet growing from its current base of less than 5 million to 65 million by 2030 and then doubling over the following five years. EY estimates that the continent will need 65 million chargers to power these cars, trucks, and buses, with 85 per cent of plugs installed at homes.
Europe's rapid adoption of electric vehicles presents two large tasks for utility providers. The first is to build a network of 9 million out-of-home chargers along roadways, at workplaces, and at fleet-charging hubs. There are about 445,000 public connectors installed across Europe, according to the latest tally from BloombergNEF.
"It took us 10 years to install 400,000 chargers," says Serge Colle, EY's global energy and resources leader. "Now we'll need to do about 500,000 every single year until 2030 and about 1 million every year between 2030 and 2035." EY estimates that tab for this build will be NZ$93 billion, with another NZ$108 billion needed to instal 56 million residential chargers.
"It's much cheaper to build a bit too much today and to have that necessary buffer, than to wait and find out too late that we're short," says Kristian Ruby, secretary general of Eurelectric. The ramp-up of electric cars will coincide with an increase in renewable energy generation, the electrification of heating and an increase in extreme weather. "It's just absolutely critical that we don't sit on our hands and wait," says Ruby, "This is a decade of doing."
In addition to overseeing the installation of millions of chargers, Europe's utility industry will need to manage an increased load on the grid. Along highway corridors, where drivers will expect fast charging on demand, EVs could increase peak loads by 90 per cent, according to EY's calculations. Managing these surges, says Colle, will require on-site solar and energy storage systems at charging stations.
In urban residential settings, EY expects charging demand to surge in the evenings, when drivers return from work, causing potential increases in peak load of 86 per cent. To smooth these peaks electricity providers will need to offer incentives for drivers to charge at off-peak times and to put power from car batteries back into the grid, meaning both homes and cars will need two-way charging capabilities.
With such mitigations in place, according to the report, utilities could reduce EV demand spikes by more than a fifth.
WA native forestry workers packages commenceWA Minister for Forestry Dave Kelly has announced that implementation of the packages for native forestry workers to assist them to transition to a new industry before native forest logging ends in Western Australia in 2024 has commenced. Following feedback and extensive consultation through the Workforce Transition Sub-group, the final native forest workforce transition package was presented to the Native Forest Transition Group last Thursday.
Implementation of the packages will commence with details of the package to be communicated to every worker in a mill and harvest and haulage company, with workers needing to pre-register for the transition package by 6 April. Representatives from TAFE will also start visiting workplaces to speak with workers about retraining opportunities and conduct Recognition of Prior Learning and Skills Assessments.
Consultation on the business transition packages has now closed and the feedback received from businesses is being collated. The next business sub-group meeting will be held in the next few weeks once the feedback has been collated and some further discussions have taken place with key stakeholders.
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... and one to end the week on ... early Australian bush camps
And here's a blast from the past. Made by The National Film Board 1952 and directed by Bern Gandy. In post-war Australia, the milling of the nation's prized hardwood timbers was a rapidly growing industry. Mechanisation introduced economies in the handling, but the skill and stamina of the axe-men were still indispensable in "timber-getting". This short film looks at the work of the men living in the early bush sawmill camps.
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. And for all those
impacted by the flooding in south-east Queensland and across
New South Wales, our thoughts go out to you as the massive
clean up after the deluge continues. Cheers.
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