Friday Offcuts 24 August 2018
As foresters or wood producers, the advantages of using wood we know are many. A story this week highlights the importance, following the recent woes of several construction companies in New Zealand, of mitigating risk by embracing some of these new construction technologies. Integrating building information modelling (BIM) early on is now also central to the successful completion and management of these projects. In line with wood innovation in construction, Sidewalk Labs, the urban innovation unit of the American multinational conglomerate, Alphabet, has just announced a plan to build about 3,000 residential units. If it gets off the ground, it will be the largest development yet with tall timber (using 3 million square feet of timber all at once). It’s being planned for Toronto’s waterfront.
In the tech space this week we have a couple of stories from the East Coast of the North Island. NZ Government funding has been secured to trial heavy electric vehicles for use at Eastland Port and log yards around Gisborne. The port has also just invested NZ$1 million in a new technology that’s going to reduce the time required to tie up ships alongside wharves. In addition to improving safety for those involved in mooring, the technology’s expected to reduce a ships mooring time by a factor of four as well as reducing wharf-side vessel movement.
Finally, again with new technology, the latest monthly newsletters for this region’s sawmilling and wood manufacturing readers, WoodTECH.News and forest resource managers and inventory foresters, ForestTECH.News have just been released. Either can be read or subscribed to (it’s free) using the links above. That’s it for this week. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
OneFortyOne purchase of Nelson Forests confirmedOneFortyOne (OFO) has received confirmation that the Overseas Investment Office has approved its purchase of Nelson Forests. The completion date for the purchase will be Tuesday the 4th of September 2018.
Nelson Forests, currently owned by investment funds advised by Global Forest Partners LP, is a vertically-integrated plantation and sawmill business in the Nelson Tasman and Marlborough regions of New Zealand.
“We are very pleased that approval has been granted by OIO. The decision is important, providing certainty for the Nelson Forests’ team, customers, the region and the broader NZ forest industry. We look forward to being a strong contributor to the region,” said OFO’s Chief Executive Officer, Linda Sewell.
Nelson Forests is a recognised leader in forest management and has been broadly used as the benchmark for performance in the New Zealand industry. “The acquisition fits nicely with the balance of OFO’s assets in the Green Triangle”, said Ms Sewell.
Linda will be in Nelson to mark completion date on the 4th September 2018 and to welcome the Nelson Forests’ team to the OFO family.
Record profits for North American and European sawmillsA surge in lumber prices and modest increases in sawlog costs have resulted in record profits for many lumber companies in North America and Europe in 2018, reports the Wood Resource Quarterly.
Sawlog costs, the largest cost component when manufacturing lumber, have gone up much more slowly than lumber prices in many countries during the past year, resulting in substantial increases in earnings for the international lumber industry, according to the WRQ.
Lumber prices in the US have experienced a spectacular surge in 2017 and the first half of 2018. By the end of the 2Q/18, the benchmark lumber price index reported by the market report Random Lengths reached its highest level in at least 30 years.
From January 2017 to June 2018, average prices for commonly traded lumber in the US increased by 40%. During the same period, sawlog prices were practically unchanged in the US South and rose about 28% in Western US, resulting in higher gross margins in 2018 for sawmills in both regions. Similar developments have occurred in Canada, leading to record high profitability for many of the country’s sawmills thanks to the high lumber prices in the US.
Wood costs are by far the largest and most important cost component when manufacturing softwood lumber and are often the factor that determines a lumber company’s competitiveness. The Wood Resource Quarterly (WRQ) has tracked quarterly sawlog prices worldwide since 1995. This publication also discusses quarterly sawmill gross margins for key lumber-producing regions around the world.
In its latest issue, quarterly sawlog costs, lumber prices and gross margins for sawmills in eight key regions worldwide are reported for the period 1Q/05 to 2Q/18. The gross margin is defined as the net wood costs (sawlog costs minus the income from sawmill residuals) deducted from lumber revenues and is a reliable indicator of the changing trend in profitability in a region’s sawmill sector.
In the 2Q/18, profits for sawmills in North America reached their highest levels since at least 2005, primarily because lumber prices have risen faster than sawlog prices. In Europe, the gross margins in early 2018 were close to the highest they have been in four years in the Nordic countries, while they reached levels not seen in over a decade in other parts of the continent.
However, not all countries have experienced positive earning trends over the past few years. Sawmills in Eastern Russia, New Zealand and Brazil saw their gross margins decline from 2015 to early 2018 as sawlog prices rose faster than lumber prices. In Siberia, the gross margin has fallen 21% in three years with the 2Q/18 levels being the lowest since 2013. Most of the decline has been the result of higher costs for sawlogs for a growing sawmilling sector in Eastern Russia.
Source: Wood Resources International LLC, www.WoodPrices.com
Construction solutions in technology, not concessionsAs the New Zealand Government lent a sympathetic ear to construction industry financial woes last week, it’s a misconception that these outcomes somehow rest completely with their customers. Leaders of these ailing companies should take responsibility for their poor performance. Part of this is a failure to embrace change in building technologies to mitigate risk.
As Naylor Love CEO, Rick Herd, told a construction conference last week, companies need to manage risk allocation more effectively. “If a client wants unbalanced risk, that client is one you can’t afford,” he said.
What Herd didn't say is what industry leaders like his are doing. Naylor Love’s project teams have embraced new technology bringing certainty to both client and builder: building information modelling (BIM) in concert with new mass timber components like cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL).
Naylor Love and other learning and earning companies in this space have, for some time, been quietly building technical and management capabilities in the application and deployment of high tech specification for their projects. BIM brings early and detailed information to multi-disciplinary construction. BIM combines exceptionally well with improved information and communication at the earliest stages of project.
The combined systems and products break the design-bid-build paradigm by introducing detailed 3D drawings to every possible specification and location of the full components of new engineered wood buildings. The precision and productivity also come from early engagement of sub-contractors and tradespeople who can then remove unnecessary contingencies from their tenders.
Why? Because they know the details from the outset as the wood components are fully detailed once the design is complete and ready for off-site manufacture. For construction project teams it’s summed up in two words: BIM and WOOD. For developers, just three words: This saves money.
Those interested in learning more about these solutions have the opportunity to register for the “Changing Perceptions” Conference which is running next week, on 28 August at the Distinction Hotel in Rotorua, New Zealand. It includes an evening reception on 27 August.
Full details and late registrations can still be made on connexevents.com/cpetc2018.
Fake News - California fires blamed on lumber importsCanada’s forestry industry is pushing back against comments by U.S. President Donald Trump that lumber imports are partially to blame for intense forest fires in California.
Trump said at a cabinet meeting last Thursday that the U.S. should harvest fallen trees from the forest floor, which he says are making fires worse, rather than import wood when “Canada is charging us a lot of money to bring their timber down into our country.”
The comments were troubling and a bit ridiculous, said Forest Products Association of Canada CEO Derek Nighbor. “At a number of levels, the president’s comments are just really off-base yet again.”
Lumber prices are higher in the U.S. because of the tariffs Trump has imposed on Canadian imports, said Nighbor. “It’s his tariff regime that’s really provided a 20 per cent hike to consumer prices in the U.S. on softwood lumber.”
Susan Yurkovich, president of the BC Lumber Trade Council, said Trump has the option at any time to lower the premium on lumber prices that the U.S. National Association of Home Builders estimates is adding US$7,500 to the cost to build an average home.
“They have an instant remedy available to them, and that’s to rescind the tariffs that we believe were unjustly placed on lumber and that would provide an immediate discount to American consumers.”
Nighbor said there is a conversation to be had about managing dead wood and fire threats, but that harvesting such wood is a complicated affair. “Even if they would be able to get all that wood, they wouldn’t be able to process it.”
The U.S. has seen increased investments in milling capacity, but still only supplied about 34 billion of the 48 billion board feet of lumber it consumed in 2017. The country won’t be able to close that gap any time soon, said Yurkovich.
“The gap between domestic demand and domestic supply is between 14- and 15-billion board feet. Putting that much production on in my view, that’s going to take years and years and millions and millions of dollars.”
New mooring investment improves safetyEastland Port has invested NZ$1 million in new technology to reduce wharf-side vessel movement helping ensure the safety of linesmen, shore personnel, the vessel, and the port itself. The new ShoreTension mooring system arrived on July 24 and with the help of experts from the company that made it, was used to moor ships a day later.
Eastland Port general manager Andrew Gaddum says the investment is safety driven. “There are significant risks associated with mooring and maintaining vessels in port during adverse weather and when there are long-period waves. Disruptive wave patterns in the harbour can have the effect of moving ships alongside the port and once ships start moving the momentum is extremely dangerous for staff, the vessel and shoreside infrastructure.”
Several different mooring arrangements and technologies were considered with the ShoreTension mooring system the most preferred,” says Mr Gaddum. Veteran linesman Winston Wanoa works for Right Track Security Services at Eastland Port. He and 11 linesmen and women perform the technical and challenging job of tying ships up alongside the wharf.
He says ships have always needed at least four mooring lines from the shore, and it could take up to two hours to moor one ship. Now ships need just one ShoreTension mooring line run from the shore. “With a bit more practice it will take only half an hour to moor a ship. It’s the most significant leap forward in technology I’ve seen during my time and it’s much safer for everyone.”
Mr Wanoa says it’s the differences in tension between the different mooring lines which cause a ship to move, and then potentially a mooring line to snap. “The ShoreTension system can hold 60 tonnes although today with the Alam Seri we needed only a 15-tonne hold,” adds Mr Wanoa.
ShoreTension expert Herme de Graaf flew from the Netherlands to oversee installation and staff training at Eastland Port. He says there are 100 ShoreTension units being used in ports around the world including eight in Taranaki. The ShoreTension dynamic mooring system generates a constant tension on mooring lines and dampens down the motion of the vessel.
“When the rope tension exceeds a pre-set limit, the ShoreTension system pays out. After the peak loads are over, the ShoreTension system heaves in the line using the energy previously stored to bring the vessel to its initial position.”
“Eastland Port’s ShoreTension units have been fixed to existing bollards on Wharf Eight. To activate the system the units are extended with a hydraulic powerpack. A line is fed to the ship, then fed back through the snatch block to the ShoreTension unit. Both the units are activated simultaneously to the desired tension,” explains Mr de Graaf.
Vessel movement and line tension can be monitored on a phone.
Photo: Linesman Winston Wanoa of Right Track Security Services, Patrick Boon and Herme de Graaf from ShoreTension in the Netherlands, and Eastland Port contracts project manager Mark Richards alongside the ShoreTension dynamic mooring system holding Alam Seri safely alongside Wharf Eight. Brennan Thomas, Strike Photography
Source: Eastland Port
Precursors to drones – way back in 1907In 1907, just a few years after the Wright brothers lifted off in Kitty Hawk, and while human flight was still being measured in metres and minutes, Dr. Julius Neubronner, a German apothecary, submitted a patent application for a new invention: the pigeon camera.
The device was precisely what it sounds like—a small camera fitted with straps and equipped with a timer so that pigeons could carry it and take photos in flight. Neubronner first used the device on his own flock of homing pigeons, which he sometimes employed to deliver prescriptions.
In the following years, he showed his camera at international expositions, where he also sold postcards taken by the birds. Additionally, he developed a portable, horse-drawn dovecote, with a darkroom attached to it, which could be moved into proximity of whatever object or area the photographer hoped to capture from on high.
These inventions represented a breakthrough at the time, allowing for surveillance with speed and range that was previously impossible. (Whether the cameras would actually capture the desired object, however, depended on luck and the whims of the pigeons).
The technology would soon be adapted for use in wartime—the cameras served as very early precursors to drones—although by the time of the First World War, just a few years later, airplanes were allowing people to do things that only pigeons could have done before.
Neubronner developed the pigeon camera for practical purposes. At first, he was simply hoping to track the flights of the birds in his flock. But his invention also represented a more sublime achievement. The images his pigeons captured, featured in “ The Pigeon Photographer,” a recent book from Rorhof, are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above (the earliest were captured from balloons and kites) and are distinct for having the GoPro-like quality of channeling animal movement.
That perspective that is so commonplace to us now, in which the rooftops stretch out before us as though they were made of a child’s blocks, and people crawl along like ants, was a rare sight when Neubronner took his pigeon pictures. The photos offered a glimpse of the world rendered pocket-size, as it eventually would be via a hundred types of new technology—by airplanes, or skyscrapers, or Google Earth.
Source: www.newyorker.com, AUAV
Ambitious timber building plan for TorontoLarry Page’s “city of the future” on Toronto’s waterfront may end up having one foot rooted firmly in the past. Sidewalk Labs LLC, the urban innovation unit of Alphabet Inc., is considering constructing buildings in the 12-acre high-tech community entirely with tall-timber technology — engineered wood products that proponents say are as strong and fire-resistant as those made from steel or concrete.
If the proposal goes through, Quayside, which will include about 3,000 residential units, would be the largest development built primarily with tall timber, Karim Khalifa, director of building innovations at Sidewalk Labs, said Tuesday. Using technology to help solve urban issues is a particular interest of Alphabet co-founder Page, who is using the Toronto project as something of a test case.
“It’s such an audacious concept to build these many buildings with 3 million square feet of timber all at once” that the project would need developer support to make it happen, Khalifa said in an interview with Bloomberg at a project update. Sidewalk Labs has talked to developers including Mattamy Homes Ltd. about collaborating on tall timber, which allows for less carbon intensity than traditional building materials, is more sustainable, faster to erect and cheaper to fund, Khalifa said.
Wood has been used in home building throughout history, but tall-timber construction uses materials such as cross-laminated timber — wood panels make from gluing layers of lumber together — and has slowly been gaining traction in countries from Austria to Japan. Silicon Valley construction start-up Katerra Inc., which is backed by Softbank Group Corp., acquired Vancouver-based Michael Green Architecture Inc. this year, a veteran of tall-timber construction. Tall timber buildings may also soon pop up in Toronto with “The Arbour,” a 12-story building that’s been proposed for George Brown College on the Eastern Waterfront.
But Sidewalk Labs has to overcome several challenges to make this tall-timber project a reality, including the fact that Toronto’s building code currently allows for only six stories of tall-timber construction. That is expected to be extended to 12 stories by 2021, but Sidewalk Labs has plans for towers of up 50 stories.
The company has already faced many hurdles in Toronto, including intense scrutiny on how it will handle the extensive data it may collect. The project will take up a chunk of 800 acres on the Eastern Waterfront, one of the largest undeveloped urban parcels in the continent. Sidewalk Toronto has dedicated $50 million to planning the project and expects to have a clearer outline by January. Dan Doctoroff, the chief executive officer of Sidewalk Labs, was CEO of Bloomberg LP and deputy mayor of New York City under Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg’s founder.
First heavy electric vehicle trial underwayA future where logging trucks and other heavy vehicles are quiet, cheap to run and environmentally friendly? That’s the possibility that Gisborne-based infrastructure company Eastland Group is about to explore, with co-funding from the NZ Government.
Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods announced last week that Eastland Group has been awarded NZ$177,000 from the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, administered by EECA. The grant will go towards the purchase of New Zealand’s first all-electric water truck, which will be used to suppress dust at Eastland Port and log yards around Gisborne.
But the project has larger ambitions: it will gather data on the vehicle’s economic and environmental benefits, and showcase electric innovation to logistics businesses and the public across the central North Island.
Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd says the project is part of the organisation’s wider strategy around emerging technologies and the electrification of the transport fleet. “Along with the port, our businesses include geothermal power plants in Kawerau and lines company Eastland Network. We also have a significant shareholding in retailer Flick Electric Co. Through Electric Village, New Zealand’s first community-focused energy hub, we’re promoting the testing and uptake of EVs in all forms.”
Last year, with support from the fund and Eastland Group’s shareholder Eastland Community Trust, Eastland Group established a region-wide network of high speed electric vehicle chargers. They previously committed to ensuring at least 75 percent of their non-commercial vehicle fleet would be electric by 2019 – a goal they’ve reached a year ahead of schedule.
The next step is to rigorously investigate the potential of electric heavy vehicles within the infrastructure sector. At the moment this is largely unproven, due to the lack of data and technology available.
“We’ve identified an immediate opportunity at the port,” says Mr Todd. “The EECA CO2 emissions calculator showed that our current diesel water truck produces a sobering 0.77 tonnes of CO2 in just 35 days, so this new truck will have an immediate impact in reducing our emissions.
“We’ll also be trialling it on a number of other transport tasks. Logging trucks, for example, are a major contributor to the region’s noise and environmental pollution. We envisage a future where these, and other heavy vehicles in the logistics and marine sectors, move from internal combustion engines to electric models.
“A range of economic and environmental advantages will follow. And from there, the whole community benefits. If a water truck can be electric, what else might be possible within diesel-dominated industries? We’re intending to find out.”
The project cost has been scoped at NZ$379,000, and includes the purchase of an electric terminal tractor and an on-site charging point. The vehicle is expected to be delivered and operational by the end of the year.
Forests, fire and a flawed conservation cultureHaving a strong culture of caring for the environment is a byword for healthy society. However, it can go too far, and in highly urbanised Australia where most live remote from nature, decades of alarmist environmental campaigning has fostered a misguided conservation culture that lacks perspective, is intolerant of human resource use, and sees environmental protection in overly simplistic terms.
According to this culture, forests are only ever protected when contained in large national parks or other forms of landscape reservation which are popularly presented as a vacant idyll that will magically restore itself to a natural, pre-European state.
Unfortunately, this misconception ignores: 1) the extent to which forests have already been changed by unnatural fire regimes and the introduction of an array of feral and noxious pests; 2) the role played by active human intervention in managing these problems; and 3) the extent to which this management is associated with renewable resource use that generates wealth, requires access, and employs workforces.
After several decades of acquiescence to this misguided conservation culture, Australia, which has been a world leader in integrating sensitive, renewable forest use and active management with high standards of environmental care, is progressively losing these skills.
Victorian IFA Fellow Mark Poynter has just had a book published by Connor Court. This new book examines our conservation culture and how it has attained a political- correctness which has permeated the most influential areas of society with damaging consequences, not least for the environment itself.
Books can be purchased by ordering online from the Connor Court website: ConnorCourtPublishing.com.au or, by contacting Mark Poynter by email: email@example.com.
Meetings to discuss changes to NZ’s ETSA series of stakeholder meetings are being held to discuss the changes proposed to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) as outlined in last week’s issue of Offcuts. The meetings will focus on the proposals outlined in the two consultation documents;
Improvements to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, and
A better Emissions Trading Scheme for Forestry.
The purpose of the meeting is to provide information on the proposals and to allow time for questions.
Each meeting will consist of a short welcome and then the day will be split into two sessions. The morning session on NZ ETS framework improvements will be led by the Ministry for the Environment and the afternoon session on NZ ETS forestry improvements will be led by Te Uru Rakau (Forestry New Zealand).
Please note that these meetings will only cover the proposals set out in the consultation documents. They will not discuss the potential for the agricultural sector to be covered by the NZ ETS as this is currently under consideration by the Interim Climate Change Committee. These meetings will also not be covering the issues raised as part of the Zero Carbon Bill.
- Wellington, Friday 31st August
- Auckland, Monday 3rd September
- Rotorua, Tuesday 4th September
- Christchurch, Thursday 6th September
- Dunedin, Friday 7th September
- Whangarei, Monday 10th September
- Gisborne, Tuesday 11th September
- Napier, Wednesday 12th September
- New Plymouth, Thursday 13th September
- Nelson, Friday 14th September
If you wish to attend, please register for the meetings here.
Call for Speakers - HarvestTECHX 2019, CanadaThe conference team from Innovatek, Logging & Sawmilling Journal and TimberWest are pleased to announce their latest industry conference for North America for leading loggers and forest managers for 2019.
Formerly called the Steep Slope Logging Conference, the new name – HarvestTECHX – covers all machined based forestry and logging operations for west coast operations in North America. The conference theme for 2019 is “Smarter Logging Automation & Technologies”.
Our HarvestTECHX 2019 conference is scheduled for 12-13 March 2019 at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, Vancouver, Canada. The conference will be highlighting how automation and technology are advancing operational safety and productivity and for operators, contractors and foresters in North America’s forest industry.
We are working closely with international technology leaders, logging contractors, service providers, researchers and industry and government agencies to develop a strong and innovative programme.
If you are keen to be a speaker at our conference and you are an early adopter, developer, innovator, contractor, technology supplier, service provider or researcher within the forestry sector, we’d like to hear from you.
The upcoming HarvestTECHX conference includes sessions on:
- Keynote presentations on key paradigm shifts to logging and forestry technologies
- Experts detailing key developments, technologies, issues and new opportunities impacting the sector. This will include a full line- up of award winning technologies, innovative new platforms, exciting applications and early adopters.
- Technology startup entrepreneurs discussing how best to connect and collaborate with early adopters and other operators.
- Case studies by passionate early adopters highlight how they have integrated technology in their business.
- A panel of young leading loggers to outline what they would like to see next in technology and future equipment trends.
- Short, sharp updates on commercial services and innovative products for loggers and forest managers.
Interested speakers or sponsors should contact our team by Friday 14 September:
- Anthony Robinson, Logging & Sawmilling Journal, firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel:(604) 990-9970, or
- John Stulen,Innovatek, email@example.com or Tel +64 7 921 1382.
Otago set to lead renewable wood energyA recent report on NZ wood energy has identified a means to reduce carbon emissions in Otago equivalent to removing 237,000 cars from the road. A committee will be formed shortly in Otago as the region looks to make resourceful decisions and increase the use of carbon neutral wood biomass as a source of energy.
There is no shortage of resource as the volume of planted production forestry in Otago would be sufficient to meet the wood fuel demand over the next 45 years – and suppliers like Azwood Energy and Pioneer Energy are already well-established.
Ahika Consulting’s report identified, of the 367 boilers operating in the Otago region, a list of 26 high-priority coal-fuelled facilities that could transition to wood fuel and thereby reduce emissions by a projected 84,000 carbon tonnes per year. Other boiler upgrades could bring the total of displaced greenhouse gas emissions to 640,000 carbon tonnes per year, (the equivalent of removing 237,000 cars from the road).
Director of Ahika Consulting and author of the scoping report, Lloyd McGinty, says promoting wood energy use means “the region is in control of its destiny”, it creates local jobs and prevents reliance on bringing in fuel from outside the region or the country.
McGinty says a “Regional Advisory Group will be set up to progress the project in promoting the ongoing use of biomass in Otago”. It will investigate funding streams for the project, potentially engaging with the Coalition Government’s Provincial Growth Fund. More >>
Rubicon's long-serving executives departingRubicon's founding executive duo Luke Moriarty and Mark Taylor will leave the forestry biotech investment firm following a recent boardroom shake-up. Chief executive Moriarty and chief financial officer Taylor have given notice they will leave Auckland-based Rubicon in the March financial year, the company said in a statement. They have overseen Rubicon since it was formed in 2001 to commercialise innovation during the break-up of Fletcher Challenge, taking assets from the energy and forestry divisions. Source: BusinessDesk
Scion’s 14th Log Price Outlook SurveyIn May, fifty-eight people from various parts of New Zealand’s domestic and international forestry products supply chains participated in this outlook. These participants represent a substantial component of the NZ forestry industry.
Log price outlooks remain stable. For the third quarter in a row, participants expect little immediate movements in log prices and anticipate a slightly higher future pricing regime. Volumes are also expected to be relatively consistent with perhaps a 5% increase over the next 6 months. However, various participants express a concern that harvesting crews, transporters and port infrastructure are starting to reach maximum capacity.
With the exception of domestic processors, business expectations over the coming 12 months are still relatively positive. In many cases more business optimism was voiced in May 2018 compared to February 2018, however, caution should be exercised since these indices have only been calculated twice and certain calculation adjustments have been made.
Figure 1: Wharf log price outlook (A Grade is used as a general proxy)
To access previous outlook reports please visit this web site.
If you operate a business anywhere along the forestry products supply chain then please consider casting your vote in our August Outlook. All information is treated as confidential and results are reported anonymously and at an aggregated scale only. The Outlook will be shared exclusively with participants in September and will only become available publicly in October.
You can start the survey by clicking here. Please participate before Friday 31 August.
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