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Biomass study could boost biofuels sector in New Zealand

A report in New Zealand regarding its forestry sector believes downstream industries like biochemicals and biofuels are ‘unlikely to flourish’ if established industries, like sawmilling, do not sell on their waste.

The Woodscape study came about after collaboration between the forest and wood products industry, the NZ Ministry for Primary Industries and NZ Trade and Enterprise. It examined ways the country could boost wood exports from NZ$4.5 billion (€2.6 billion) to $12 billion over the course of a decade via the country’s Wood Council’s Strategic Action Plan.

Wood Council chairman Doug Ducker says the study has highlighted a single key imperative – viable primary wood processing industries are vital to investment in further downstream secondary processing.

‘If sawmillers, for example, sell their wood residues on to supplement their income this will, in turn, enable many new and emerging technologies like biofuels and biochemicals to generate acceptable positive returns on investment. Without the primary wood processing sector, these new opportunities will be less viable,’ Ducker says.

And, with a reported 23 saw mills having closed across the country in the past five years, Bioenergy Association executive officer Brian Cox was quoted as saying he was ‘baffled’ that sawmillers and forest owners did not see waste products as revenue.

‘I see this as the biggest barrier to getting wood fuel as a mainstream energy source for New Zealand. Businesses are keen to move away from coal, but their main concern is over security of supply,’ he added.