Pine plantations from Gympie to Bundaberg will be at the centre of research to turn logging offcuts and treetops into bioenergy and other bio-based products.
The joint project between USC’s Forest Industries Research Centre and Queensland’s largest forest plantation owner, HQPlantations, has received a $50,000 research grant from the Queensland Government’s $5 million Waste to Biofutures fund.
USC researcher Dr Michael Berry will lead the two-year study that aims to develop viable alternatives for timber waste left behind from annual log harvests of more than 1.25 million tonnes from the Fraser Coast plantation estate.
“With increasing electricity prices, and the drive for renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, we are hopeful a locally-suitable system to utilise harvest residues for bioenergy will soon become a reality,” he said.
The estate extends from east of Gympie to near Bundaberg. All areas of timber harvested are replanted – a total of about 5,000 hectares per year.
HQPlantations Science Manager Ian Last said the harvested pine was primarily used to supply local processing plants producing sawn timber, engineered wood products, medium density fibreboard, particleboard, poles and other roundwood products.
“Depending on the site, treetops and other offcuts are left behind and wasted after harvesting these areas,” Mr Last said.
“A research priority for HQPlantations is to treat this residue as a resource rather than waste,” he said.
“Funding for the two-year project will go towards field tests and evaluating the most feasible supply chain options to extract, process and deliver harvest residues for use by local industries.”
This will include sampling to better define the residues as well as trialling equipment such as mobile in-field chippers and grinders to recover the timber waste.
Dr Berry said the project could encourage the use of wood residues from forest operations for electricity and heat generation, transport biofuel production and other bio-based products.
Minister for State Development Cameron Dick said being able to turn timber waste into energy would deliver strong economic and employment outcomes for the region.
“Queensland’s southern pine plantations support an estimated 1,670 primary production and processing jobs, and for every job created by the forest and timber industry another job is indirectly created in the broader economy,” he said.
“If we can help unlock new revenue streams for our plantations and associated timber businesses, local communities that rely on our forestry industry will reap the benefits of the seeds being sowed.”
Bioenergy is a renewable source of power developed from organic material and currently makes up seven percent of Australia’s renewable electricity production.