Friday Offcuts 22 April 2022
With the ongoing focus on all things carbon forestry at the moment, the eagerly awaited programme for this year’s major carbon forestry event, Carbon Forestry 2022, has this week been posted onto the event website. Last year the event was packed. Well over 350 industry professionals attended the 2021 event in New Zealand. Since then, interest in carbon farming has ramped up exponentially with local and international investors, corporate emitters, a wide array of land owners and of course, local and national politicians all getting in on the act. It will run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 9-10 August. Check out the announcement in this week’s issue and programme on the event website.
In last week’s issue we covered a story where NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission had launched a new data product which was going to provide the first near-global estimate of above-ground forest biomass and the carbon it stores. The new product represented the culmination of numerous critical advancements that had been made in space-borne Lidar research. This week though, it appears that GEDI is due to be decommissioned in March 2023 and it's got remote sensing scientists up in arms. They’re pushing hard for the project’s end date to be extended by one more year so that they can fully capture the opportunities that have now been opened with Lidar to better understand how we can curb the impacts of climate change.
And in the wood residues space, registrations continue to roll in for the regions first major event, Residues2Revenues 2022. It will be showcasing systems for harvesting, handling and transporting wood residues and efforts being made to co-ordinate regional supplies of woody biomass to major industrial heat plant users. Interest in the last week or so has ramped up with the announcement that restrictions for travel and indoor gatherings in New Zealand finally have pretty much been removed. It’s time to travel and finally meet up with real people again.
Wood residues news this week includes a manufacturer in Sydney that’s replacing fossil fuels in steel-making with biocarbon bricks that are made out of woody biomass. In New Zealand, the country’s only oil refinery, Marsden Point, that’s stopped processing crude oil, is now looking at options to repurpose its infrastructure for biofuels and in the lower South Island, a new partnership has just been set up between a large forest products company and Pioneer Energy to combine the two company’s wood fuel supply businesses. Details for each of the wood residues stories can be read below. And that’s it for this week. Must be time for another long weekend.
This week we have for you:
Australia faces critical housing timber shortageAustralia’s housing construction sector faces a critical timber shortage and our reliance on imported timber will double by 2050 if our nation falls short of the plan to plant an additional One Billion Production Trees, a new interim report by Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA) has found.
The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) says the report reveals the demand for new housing will rise from 183,000 new dwellings per annum now to 259,000 per annum by 2050, driving an increase of almost 50 per cent in demand for timber.
International demand for timber continues to surge and, coupled with the COVID-led worldwide construction boom, Australia has not been able to source around 20 % of their housing requirements, needed from imports. The FWPA report expects reliance on imports to double by 2050 if we Australia doesn’t grow its plantation estate and meet the One Billion new production trees’ goal.
“The critical timber shortages of the past two years have exposed Australia’s over-reliance on timber imports, which have become more expensive and difficult to source, which has driven up building costs and significantly delayed construction,” AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said.
“The finding that our reliance on timber imports could blow out to double over the next 30 years should be ringing alarm bells among policy makers. Furthermore, the global push for more fibre to transform building systems, the pivot away from plastics and move to sustainable biofuels, along with the need to halt deforestation internationally, will only make gaining imports even more difficult.
“The good news is that there is time to avert this crisis if all levels of government work with industry to ensure Australia reaches its one billion new production trees goal and fill more of the supply gap with Aussie grown, renewable timber, and in the process support the hundreds of thousands of jobs forest industries underpin.
“The Coalition’s recently announced AU$305 million forest industries package to support new plantations and drive forestry and timber innovation is an excellent start delivered in the campaign. AFPA looks forward to seeing Labor’s response to Our Plan for Growth, including measures to achieve the One Billion Trees Goal,” Ross Hampton concluded.
Warning given on Australian building companiesA building insider has revealed the shocking state of the industry with half of construction companies in trouble and a “terrible” impact in store for customers.
A stark warning has been issued that half of Australia’s building companies are on the brink of collapse, and it could see thousands of people’s homes impacted in the coming months, according to an industry insider. Two major Australian construction companies including Gold Coast-based Condev and industry giant Probuild have already gone into liquidation this year, alongside smaller operators like Hotondo Homes Hobart. And it has sent shockwaves through the sector.
But it’s the “tip of the iceberg” according to Russ Stephens, co-founder of the Association of Professional Builders, who has estimated around 50 per cent of Australian building companies are currently trading insolvent – which means they can’t pay their bills. It could leave customers forking out hundreds of thousands extra to get homes completed once a company collapses, he said.
“Just one building company collapse could literally impact thousands of consumers,” he told news.com.au.
Carbon Forestry Conference launchedThe eagerly awaited 4th Carbon Forestry Conference has been launched this week. It will be running in-person on 9-10 August 2022 at the Distinction Hotel in Rotorua, New Zealand. A comprehensive conference programme has been developed featuring a range of practical and knowledgeable industry leaders.
With presentations from international investment perspectives to how carbon markets and ETS interact with carbon farming investments, this conference spans a range of important and dynamic aspects. There are a numerous factors in play with the potential to change the prospects of carbon farming landscape. They could have significant effects for both forestry and international investment within New Zealand in the longer term.
Industry leaders are being brought together as key speakers from the carbon farming investment industry alongside those delivering Government policy and advice from the Climate Change Commission. Adding in the importance of market impacts on how carbon farming and markets develop, carbon market commentators and analysts have also been brought together to explain how these factors interact.
Finally, the future of carbon farming relies on the attitudes and actions of landowners including farmers. Their influencer's and perceptions, impacted by the current He Waka Eke Noa process and those around them with farm forestry experience, makes for a complex setting for how these markets are going to develop.
We expecting that this year’s conference to sell out as it did last year. Be sure to get your registrations confirmed soon, as we expect this to happen again well before August.
Click here for programme and registration details
Scientists fight to keep Lidar on Space StationA controversy is brewing between remote sensing scientists and administrators from NASA and the agency’s international partners. The debate centers around how long the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) lidar system will continue to operate from the International Space Station before the system is decommissioned and left to burn up in the atmosphere.
Since 2019, scientists have used GEDI to discern characteristics of the land below. Among all the instruments in space, GEDI’s lasers have the unique ability to penetrate forest canopies and provide information about the height and structure of vegetation.
Remote sensing scientists say the system gives them unparalleled opportunities to assess how much carbon forests store—a capability that could be critical for curbing climate change. But GEDI is slated to be decommissioned in March 2023, and these opportunities may go with it. The GEDI team is pushing for the project’s end date to be extended an additional year.
Laura Duncanson, a remote sensing scientist at the University of Maryland and a member of the GEDI team, points to dire climate projections in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as clear justification for GEDI to continue operating. “To just burn up a mission that’s actually helping solve this problem is bonkers to me,” she said.
GEDI deputy principal investigator Scott Goetz agrees. “It’s just the worst possible time to be removing this instrument,” he said. Ralph Dubayah, GEDI’s principal investigator, started trying to get a vegetation-penetrating lidar system into space in 1997. NASA cancelled the first project he took part in—a mission to launch a satellite-based system—after the engineering team ran into technical problems.
A subsequent project aimed to launch two satellites, one carrying lidar and the other carrying radar, which provide complementary information. Budget concerns became the second project’s downfall. Dubayah said that he and his colleagues thought, “Well, maybe we can put it on the space station.” It took two attempts to get NASA to fund the GEDI mission, but in late 2018, the instrument finally launched.
Source: EOS Science News
Wood Energy New Zealand Partnership formedA partnership between Pioneer Energy and Niagara Sawmilling Company Ltd in the lower South Island of New Zealand has been formed to meet the demands of the biomass market to supply high quality product to the end users, with both organisations bringing together their respective wood fuel supply businesses.
Niagara’s wealth of experience in forestry, procurement, processing and transport coupled with Pioneer’s asset management, operational experience and energy expertise, will ensure both existing and future customers can depend on Wood Energy New Zealand to meet and exceed their service expectations.
Nigel Ellett has been appointed Managing Director in the interim to oversee and ensure the successful transition of each company’s wood fuel businesses to Wood Energy New Zealand.
“The creation of Wood Energy New Zealand is a strategic partnership whose goal is to be the preferred supplier of wood fuel products and comes off the back of growth strategies of both businesses. It’s an exciting time to be in the biomass market” says Mr Ellett.
Significant wood fuel supply contracts are in place with more on the horizon as industrial and process heat customers move away from fossil fuels. From 01 May 2022 Wood Energy New Zealand, will seamlessly transition to meet the requirements of existing South Island contracts and will move towards expanding its operations across New Zealand.
Brian Cox, Executive Officer of the Bioenergy Association said that “Currently around 9% of New Zealand’s consumer energy comes from biomass residues and it is expected that this will triple over the next few years as Government policies to transition from use of fossil fuels for process heat are implemented. While the existing supply of biomass for energy is sound the increased demand for biomass is incentivising companies like Pioneer Energy and Niagara to expand their business.”
It must be something in the water down South as much of the impetus in New Zealand currently in co-ordinating regional supplies of woody biomass and converting fossil fuels to biomass for heat plants of larger industrial operations has been occurring in the lower South Island. Presentations and insights from forest companies, those actively involved in extracting forest biomass and those who have successfully been working with businesses on heat and energy plant conversions and co-ordinating regional supplies of wood residues feature prominently in the eagerly awaited Residues to Revenues 2022 event being run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 26-27 July.
Full details on this new wood residues event – and associated workshops, can be found here.
Source: Pioneer Energy, BANZ
Autonomous drones fly through forestsExpert human drone pilots have proven incredibly adept at piloting UAV through complex courses at high speeds which are still unmatched by autonomous systems. But researchers at the University of Zurich and Intel Labs are collaborating to change that, and their work, recently presented in the journal Science Robotics, could have far-reaching implications for the future of commercial drones.
"Autonomous navigation in environments where conditions are constantly changing is restricted to very low speeds," explains Matthias Müller, Lead of Embodied AI Lab at Intel Labs. "This makes drones unable to operate efficiently in real-world situations where something unexpected may block their path and time matters."
That's obviously a big impediment to safely rolling out drones for commercial use. The solution seems to be harnessing the decision-making abilities of expert pilots to train drones to function autonomously.
"In partnership with the University of Zurich, we were able to show how a drone trained exclusively in simulation by imitating an expert pilot is able to perform in challenging real-world scenarios and environments that weren't used during the training of the convolutional network," says Müller.
"The trained autonomous drone was able to fly through previously unseen environments, such as forests, buildings and trains, keeping speeds up to 40 km/h, without crashing into trees, walls or any other obstacles – all while relying only on its onboard cameras and computation."
Carbon solution could decarbonise steel industryBIOCARBON, a manufacturer based in Sydney, has found a viable solution to decarbonise the steel industry via its manufacture of a 100 per cent renewable carbon material that can directly replace fossil carbon in Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steelmaking. BIOCARBON’s new sustainable carbon neutral product will enable steelmakers to decrease their carbon footprint without incurring large capital costs for modifying their equipment or processes.
The business is set to run a commercial trial of the novel product at Molycop’s steel plant located in Newcastle, Australia. The initiative is being supported by the federal government’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources through its Entrepreneurs’ Program, which recently awarded BIOCARBON an AU$293,840 Accelerating Commercialisation grant.
The initial trial will utilise 75 tonnes of the renewable carbon product (BIOCARBON bricks) in the production of 8,500 tonnes of steel. The University of New South Wales has tested the renewable carbon material for its efficacy and the product underwent an initial trial in Molycop’s EAF ahead of the now full-scale industrial trial set to take place in May.
Tim Wilson and Jason Falinski understanding the benefits with Molycop and BioCarbon. BIOCARBON’s product is made from low value woody biomass streams, which are converted to a high-grade raw carbon product through a thermochemical reaction called pyrolysis. The raw char product produced through this process is high quality with lower ash content and higher carbon content than the fossil coke presently used in EAF steelmaking.
BIOCARBON has taken out a provisional patent on its novel approach to convert this high-quality carbon product into a form that is similar in nature to the fossil coke that is currently used – that is to increase its density and mechanical strength without using typical binder materials that have no benefit to the chemical steelmaking process.
The added advantages of this sustainable product include converting a waste stream into a value-added raw material and reducing the volume of timber waste going to landfill. Just in NSW, over 22 million tonnes of woody biomass waste is underutilised annually and this scale of available raw material is well surpassing EAF sector requirements in Australia.
“The renewable carbon replacement trial at Molycop will demonstrate proof of performance of the product in making green steel at full-scale, against existing fossil carbon metrics,” BIOCARBON CEO Chad Sheppeard said.
Following the success of the trial, BIOCARBON expects to establish commercial product offtake agreements, allowing the business to attract investment and scale its production capacity at a facility at Bulahdelah in the Hunter/Mid North Coast region. Future planning involves scaling to those international markets seeking a solution that BIOCARBON’s technology offers.
Source: Manufacturers Monthly
Latest quarterly Australian timber report outThe latest edition of the quarterly Timber Market Survey (TMS) report has been released for the December quarter 2021.
Prices for untreated MGP structural timber products continued to increase in the December quarter 2021, with price movements ranging between 1.5% and 3.0% higher. Price movements for treated outdoor products were higher again and ranged between 4.9% and 5.6%.
Price movements for most panel products were also upwards and ranged between 1.8% and 2.6%, with particleboard products showing more moderate upward price movements. The recent trend of exceptionally strong price increases for engineered wood products continued, with price movements for LVL and I joist/I-beam products ranging between 5.4% and 11.8% higher over the quarter.
Price movements for kiln dried structural hardwood products ranged between 3.8% and 7.2% higher over the six months to the end of December 2021. Price movements for green sawn structural products were more moderate and ranged between 1.1% and 2.3% higher.
Hardwood flooring product prices also increased sharply over the period, with price movements ranging between 3.0% and 10.6% higher.
The TMS collects price data through quarterly surveys of a representative sample of timber market participants in eastern Australia. All quarterly TMS reports contain price movement information for softwood timber, panels and engineered wood products. The June and December quarter editions also include price movement information for hardwood timber products surveyed over a six-month period.
The TMS is prepared by Indufor and funded by nine major Australian forestry organisations: Forestry Corporation of NSW; VicForests; Hancock Victorian Plantations; HQPlantations; OneFortyOne Plantations; Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries; Green Triangle Forest Products; AKD Softwoods; and Sustainable Timber Tasmania.
Further information and the latest Timber Market Survey report is available here.
Marsden Point - a generational leap to biofuelsThe New Zealand Government's biofuel mandate will require Marsden Point's big oil tanks and Auckland pipeline – and that means it will be more efficient to go straight to high-tech second-generation biofuels.
New Zealand's only refinery stopped processing crude oil – and now its owner Channel Infrastructure confirms it won't run first-generation biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel down its pipe either. That will force the Government's hand this year as it decides the final shape of the biofuels mandate for the country's cars, trucks, trains and ships.
With the transition from refinery to import terminal, the company's Scope 1 and 2 direct emissions reduce significantly by about 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year – more than 1 percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.
But while that may be removed from New Zealand's ledgers, contributing about a third of the country’s first five-year Emissions Reduction Plan, that is somewhat deceptive. The crude oil will instead be refined in Asia, causing emissions elsewhere, then imported and burned here – again emitting carbon dioxide.
Channel Infrastructure is the company formerly known as Refining NZ, until its board, shareholders and the major fuel companies that own it agreed to shut down its refinery and lay off most of its staff. Coming into effect at the same time as the oil and gas crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the closure has sparked concern about New Zealand's fuel security.
Chief executive Naomi James said this country had always relied on imports for its fuel supply, but anticipated a reduction in fuel stocks here as the crude previously stored at Marsden Point to feed the refinery was no longer there. The company supported Government moves to increase the minimum refined oil stocks held here, and stood ready to support that with its Marsden Point storage tanks.
With the shift of refining offshore, the potential opened up to source New Zealand's fuel from much larger, modern refineries with lower energy intensity. "We believe this will open up more options for our customers, the fuel companies, to pursue opportunities to reduce emissions across the supply chain, right through the chain from the source of fuel to shipping to New Zealand," she said.
The company will no longer use any gas, and its electricity demand will reduce by 85 percent – easing pressure on North Island generation capacity such as the coal-burning Huntly power plant. But James acknowledged the big unanswered questions around reducing Scope 3 emissions – the fuels burned by the transport companies and motorists further down the value chain.
The company is looking to repurpose its infrastructure for biofuels, where James said the company had a "key role to play in the future". The biofuels mandate is due to come into operation in less than a year, but we are still waiting to see the details from Government of exactly how it will work. We do know though that it will come with infrastructure requirements, with biofuels requiring additional tanks and facilities for blending."
Local NIFPI to lead Tasmania’s forestry industryIn partnership with the University of Tasmania, the Australian Forest Products Associations has been leading a campaign for a new National Institute or Forest Product Innovation (NIFPI) to be based in Tasmania. Last week, that wish came true with, the Coalition announcing AU$100 million in funding to establish a Launceston based NIFPI at the University of Tasmania’s Newnham campus.
“This commitment, to base a national research institute for one of the world’s most in demand products is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to Tasmania’s sustainable forestry industry and their pro forestry stance”, said Nick Steel, CEO of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association (TFPA).
“This significant boost to R&D across our sector will help us lead the world on innovation for in-demand forest products and create thousands of new modern manufacturing jobs for the 21st century,” Mr Steel said.
As we reported last week, if elected, the Coalition has committed to:
• AU$100 million to establish a new National Institute for Forests Products Innovation (NIFPI) in northern-Tasmania, with up to five regionally located centres nationally
• AU$112.9 million in grants to boost adoption of new wood processing technologies to maximise log recovery, process smaller logs and create new products
• AU$6.6 million to extend Regional Forestry Hub funding for the 11 hubs.
Source: Tasmanian Forest Products Association
Pulp log trial for EWP receives fundingPlans are underway to use low-value wood fibre to produce a new structural timber product
One of Australia's largest timber-producing regions will explore using low-value wood fibre in engineered products to address the nation's growing structural timber deficit crisis. The Green Triangle forestry industry, spanning parts of western Victoria and the Limestone Coast in South Australia, has received a AU$1.3 million federal grant to explore the creation of new wood products using softwood and hardwood pulp.
The project comes amid the ongoing export log ban by China and structural timber shortages faced by homebuilders, renovators and the construction sector. A report by Forest and Wood Products Australia claims demand for new housing will climb from 183,000 new dwellings per year to 259,000 by 2050. This is expected to drive an increase of almost 50 per cent in the demand for sawn softwood.
Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union national secretary Michael O'Connor said action was needed. "Australia is not going to be able to build the new homes that it needs into the future if we don’t take urgent action now to ensure we have the softwood supply the country needs," Mr O’Connor said.
"The timber shortage crisis is a global problem, and Australia can’t look to other markets for solutions. We need our own plan." Forest and Wood Products Australia, in partnership with the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub, has received an Agricultural Trade and Market Access Cooperation program grant to explore opportunities to create new wood products using softwood and hardwood pulp.
Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub executive general manager Liz McKinnon said the project was potentially exciting for the regional industry, as it underpinned thousands of local jobs. "This project will determine whether it is feasible to manufacture an engineered wood product for use in building construction using this fibre."
CarbonCrop: New CEO and capital raise for AI startupFollowing a NZ$1.5M seed capital raise in 2020, led by WNT Ventures, Carbon Crop recently raised an additional NZ$1.9m ahead of plans to raise Series A funding later this year. The funding round was again led by WNT Ventures Fund 3, and supported by the Impact Enterprise Fund, K1W1 and Icehouse Ventures Climate Fund.
"Over the last year CarbonCrop has demonstrated market demand for a high quality, remote forest carbon assessment solution and succeeded in delivering this at scale. Along with our mission to support innovative technology in NZ, knowing that the team is already on track to direct tens of millions of dollars to landholders restoring native forest is huge. We’re excited to continue the journey with them as they expand internationally," said Carl Jones of WNT Ventures.
New Zealand AI startup CarbonCrop is on a mission to make carbon credits accessible to landholders across Aotearoa and globally, delivering free eligibility assessments underpinned by Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled technology. Launched in June 2021, CarbonCrop has grown rapidly and assessed over 400,000 hectares of land across New Zealand. It’s on track to deliver more than NZ$15 million in carbon credits to landholders in 2023 alone.
CarbonCrop provides high integrity carbon credit assessments using remote sensing and machine learning to analyse forests without the need for expensive site visits or time-consuming manual mapping. Once a customer signs up, its technology helps to date the forest accurately and compile evidence required to register land to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). This remote approach differentiates CarbonCrop from other forestry providers in New Zealand and lends itself to scaling internationally.
CarbonCrop’s model removes cost barriers to engagement, making carbon credits accessible to a wider range of landholders; instead of charging upfront fees for its services, CarbonCrop receives an ongoing percentage of the carbon credits earned. Since June 2021, over one thousand Kiwis have submitted land for an initial assessment via CarbonCrop. Sites range from small lifestyle blocks with just a few hectares to hill stations with five thousand-plus hectares.
CarbonCrop also welcomes Jo Blundell (pictured) as CEO to drive its ambitious growth strategy with current CEO and co-founder Nick Butcher stepping into the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Jo brings with her a wealth of experience scaling technology businesses including as Chief Revenue Officer at the recently acquired SaaS software provider, Timely.
For further coverage on the story click here.
Source: CarbonCrop, Stuff
Wood Resources International acquiredResourceWise, the newly formed parent company of Forest2Market, Fisher International and Tecnon OrbiChem, has acquired Wood Resources International (WRI). WRI is the publisher of Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ), a market report that tracks sawlog, wood chip, lumber, and pellet prices on a global basis.
Effective immediately, the company will be known as Wood Resources International, a ResourceWise company. Håkan Ekström, Wood Resources International's President, will join the ResourceWise team. Terms of the acquisition, which became effective March 31, 2022, were not disclosed.
ResourceWise is a group of companies that provide data, analytics, and market insight to natural resource-based commodity markets. Currently serving the global forest products and chemical value chains, the company's mission is to expand into other commodity markets as well.
"The addition of WRI to the ResourceWise family supports our long-term objective to be the leading source of data and analytics platforms to a range of global commodity markets," said Pete Stewart, the CEO of ResourceWise.
"With the acquisition of WRI, ResourceWise gains not only Ekström's more than 30 years of global forest products industry experience, but also wood fiber price data for more than 20 countries over the course of 25+ years. This data will augment the data that Forest2Market has collected in North America for 22 years, and Ekström's expertise will allow us to more robustly cover the analytics and consulting needs of our customers worldwide."
WRI joins Forest2Market and Fisher International in ResourceWise's data-driven vertical market services for the forest products value chain.
Buy and Sell
... and a few to end the week on ...
A few short ones for you this week. Police have confirmed a man has been
arrested after falling into a combine harvester while trying to steal it!
And on that note, enjoy your long weekend. Cheers.
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