Friday Offcuts 29 September 2023
In tech news this week, a Swedish company has been able to commercialise vacuum impregnation and nanotechnology technologies to apply nutrients to improve both the rooting and growth of tree cuttings in nurseries with the first commercial agreement set up with Chilean based CMPC, one of the world's largest pulp and paper companies (producing 20 million cuttings annually). In wood transport, researchers suggest that all new trucks being registered in Germany from 2035 could be battery-electric if a broad-scale charging network can be rolled out and as a first for New Zealand, to aid in the transition to alternative fuels, a 1MW electrolyser hydrogen refuelling station package for hydrogen production and dispensing, both for cars and trucks (a unique dual pressure dispensing system enabling refuelling at 350 bar and 700 bar is being supplied) is planned for Auckland.
As we move closer to the annual forestry technology event, ForestTECH 2023, we’ve highlighted in a story this week some of the key presentations on mechanised or automated operations for planting and silviculture planned. In mechanised planting, operational trials have already been successfully undertaken in Australasia with commercial mechanised planting undertaken in both the central North Island, New Zealand and in Victoria, Australia for at least a couple of years now. As registrations continue to come in, please note that both pre-and post-conference workshops have been set up for delegates in both Rotorua and Melbourne. And in New Zealand, the afternoon before ForestTECH 2023 runs, a Remote Sensing Cluster Group meeting has also been set up for local foresters. Workshop details for all five Australasian workshops can be found here
And finally, maybe a little bit out of left field, we cover in this week’s issue how a Queenstown business, Wilding & Co is taking Douglas fir wildlings off local high-country farmland and then processing them to extract high value essential oils. In line with their own environmental credentials, they’ve teamed up with Canterbury based start-up Mackwell & Co to develop a 35hp Steam tractor that’s going to meet all of their energy needs. It’s being fed forestry slash, woodchip and firewood to fuel a new modern steam engine which will drive their processing business. Check out the video clip in this week’s story. We’ve also got a story on a huge ancient forest world that was discovered 630 feet underground, down a sinkhole in China last year. And, that’s all for this week.
This week we have for you:
September 2023 NZ log market updateOpinion Piece: Marcus Musson, Director, Forest360
It’s amazing how a spell of fine weather and some increased temperatures improves the general fettle, especially those that haven’t really seen a decent summer for a few years. Unfortunately, the impending dry spell is about the only good news as most China-exposed primary markets are looking down the barrel of a medium-term period of queasiness thanks to reduced demand and hence pricing.
Our meat and milk cousins are suffering from the same issues of lack-lustre global demand and increased costs resulting in red ink on most balance sheets that would make even the most steeled bank manager wince. If we thought the 2022 balance of payments was ugly, 2023 will probably knock it out of the park.
It doesn’t matter which news feed you look at, there’s generally a story about China’s economic woes somewhere near the top. Country Garden is the latest Chinese property developer to get the wobbles and has only just managed to pay a $US22.5 million interest bill. There have so far been over 50 large Chinese development companies that have gone to the wall in recent years, and around 70% of the remaining large developers have missed debt payments over the same period. The worry is that if more of these bizarrely named developers tip over, China could be in for their very own Lehman moment which would mean anyone relying on China as a primary market would likely be in for a good dose of the trots.
The Chinese government will most likely be chewing through herculean volumes of Quick-Eze as they try to figure a way out of the debt crisis in the property sector which accounts for around 25% of the economy. Beijing has started releasing some stimulus measures including a lowering of existing mortgage rates, reducing deposit ratios and providing preferential loans for first home buyers in larger cities. This easing has seen shares in property developers jump somewhat but it's very unlikely to quell the fiscal indigestion.
September at wharf gate (AWG) prices have been published with a reasonable range between exporters and an average of around $NZ116/JAS for A grade for SNI ports. Actual sales prices in China (CFR) reached $US119/JAS on a rally during August but quickly dropped back below the $US113 level as Chinese wholesalers struggled to pass increases on to customers. Shipping costs increased over the same period due to reductions in inbound cargos putting further pressure on AWG numbers.
The general consensus for the rest of the year is that trying to lever any CFR price increase will be like eating miso soup with chopsticks – long and arduous. We are starting to see reductions in log inventory volumes on Chinese ports as a result of supply reductions rather than demand increases. We are already below the magic 3 million m3 inventory number that historically creates buyer panic, and this will keep dropping for the rest of the year. NZ supply will be reduced further as the Taupo windthrow salvage becomes unmerchantable and the Pan Pac mill in Napier restarts later this year.
Domestic sawmills are seeing very average lumber demand as NZ construction bumbles along, however salesmen peddling exported lumber products are having to take pointers from the politicians on one-upmanship as competition gets tighter. Domestic demand for outdoor products should increase over the spring and summer as we all start building decks and fences with our newfound tax relief.
Pruned sawmills in the central region are starting to get tight for supply as the windthrow in Taupo has taken out a number of years’ future supply. This, combined with the general price related reductions in harvest volume, will see significant shortages of pruned logs going forward, and, unlike the China conundrum, we will see some price increases with reduced supply.
Carbon has been the favourite child lately as the price of NZU’s has steadily climbed following the high court ruling against the government’s fiddling which saw prices crash to a low of $35 in July. Current spot prices are in the mid $60’s, still short of the peak of $88 in late 2022 but, like the poll results, heading in the right direction. The latest NZU auction failed yet again (for the third successive time) as bids didn’t meet the reserve price. Bids were received for only 7.7 million of the 13 million on offer and as a result the government is now short around NZ$900 million in revenue which one would suspect would be reasonably handy.
The interesting thing here is that if the fourth auction were to fail in December this year, the expected 18 million credits would be taken away from the market and the government would effectively lose out on over a billion in revenue. This will be seen as a positive for the carbon market which is currently viewed as being in an oversupply situation and expectations are that a fourth failure will give NZU values a Redbull rush.
So, all in all its bloody hard to be positive at the moment. We had hoped that the All Blacks would clean up in the opening world cup game and that we would see wins for the Warriors, Black Caps and Israel Adesanya but none of them obviously got the memo. Having said that, we’ve got a fantastic product in our radiata resource and even though there’s a few potholes in the road and plenty of road cones, the future looks bright. Greater use of natural fibres domestically is the key to a strong primary industry so please build with wood, print your emails in triplicate, be generous with the purex and use wool carpet.
Wood products policy signals the way forwardSupport for New Zealand’s wood processing and manufacturing industry, as proposed in the National Party ‘Forests for a Strong Economy’policy will advance New Zealand’s economic and sustainable future. The policy can be downloaded here.
“New Zealand’s wood industry is one of the few sectors able to promote regional growth, strong communities, and environmental benefits,” says the Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association of New Zealand (WPMA) Chief Executive, Mark Ross.
The National Party policy carves out initiatives such as implementing a scheme under the Emissions Trading Scheme making carbon values available to wood processors, introducing a streamlined consenting process to establish new wood processing facilities, and facilitating growth in our export markets for value-added wood products.
“As a major industry in New Zealand we are at the forefront of delivering economic growth, long-lived carbon storage and emissions reduction,” adds Ross. ‘Having a high-ranking Minister for Forestry (incl. wood) will also be a critical component to driving the industry forward’.
A strong domestic wood processing sector will benefit foresters, processors, contractors, manufacturers, and the building sector. This increases employment, investment in our regions, and helps meet our climate change emissions targets.
Creating and selling our wood product story, plus working closely with policy makers and the wider industry to encourage greater support and investment will provide the opportunities to lift growth in the wood processing and manufacturing sector.
Mechanised silviculture technologies being profiledForestTECH is this region’s premier forestry technology series. It’s been going now for 17 years. It’s the one forestry technology event every year that brings together forest resource managers, inventory foresters, remote sensing, GIS, mapping and forest inventory specialists and researchers from throughout Australasia.
For the last three years, tree crop, forest establishment and silvicultural managers have also been actively involved with data capture technologies moving beyond mature stands to pre-and post-planting operations.
In the last 3-4 years, there has been a resurgence of interest being shown by forestry companies in Australasia on mechanised or automated operations for planting and silviculture.
The economics are now starting to stack up. The technology addresses the growing issue of labour shortages that are being faced over the planting season. Mechanised or machine planting is already successfully being used across Scandinavia, Brazil, the USA, Canada and more recently, New Zealand and Australia.
Operational trials have successfully been undertaken in Australasia and now commercial planting is being undertaken in both the central North Island, New Zealand and in Victoria, Australia.
Key presentations at ForestTECH 2023 include;
1. Lessons from two planting seasons in Victoria using a fully mechanised planting operation – results, lessons and payback from a forest owner’s and contractor’s perspective
2. A new concept in mechanised planting. Results from the first Australasian trials by Pan Pac Forest Products using the Swedish designed and produced PlantMax mechanised planter
3. Results from operational trials using remote controlled mechanised tree pruning
4. Using smart phone and drone collected data to improve the quality and productivity of Chilean mechanised thinning operations
In addition to the conference programme and trade exhibitions, a series of pre-and post-conference workshops have been set up for ForestTECH 2023 delegates in both countries. Workshop details can be found here.
Full programme details and further information for the NZ leg of the series (14-15 November) and for the Australian event, one week later (21-22 November) can be found on the event website, www.foresttech.events/ft23
Inaugural National Bushfire Preparedness SummitAs Australia gears up for a warmer and drier summer season, Cambara hosted the inaugural National Bushfire Preparedness Summit this week. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Emergency Management both spoke to around 250 crisis management, response and recovery specialists from governments, industry and the community.
The aim of the two-day event was to better share resources and build national-level coordination and consequence management in an engaging environment. The Summit included a range of scenario exercises based on the seasonal outlook, to examine how each organisation will respond individually and collectively.
The Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt said since the Black Summer Bushfires, two-thirds of Australians have been impacted by natural disasters - some more than once.
"We know that due to climate change, disasters will become increasingly frequent and intense, which is why we have taken significant steps to build our resilience and response capabilities," Minister Watt said.
The Summit was also attended by representatives from the forestry sector.
The President of Forestry Australia Dr Michelle Freeman said, “It’s great to see the national spotlight on the critically important issue of bushfire preparedness, but this must be more than just a two-day flash in the pan.”
“Being bushfire ready doesn’t happen overnight, it is a 365-day-a-year job that demands a long-term commitment to evidence-based approaches.
“To protect human life and forest biodiversity, fire must be strategically planned and managed at a landscape scale and over long timeframes.
“Fire in forests must be supported by legislation, government policy, and ongoing research. Fire must be managed by professionally trained, experienced, and accredited forest managers in partnership with Traditional Custodians, not just emergency service or defence agencies.”
Source: Forestry Australia & Mirage.News
Wood fired steam powering wilding conifer businessDeveloping commercially successful projects from environmental challenges is bread and butter for the Central Otago social enterprise Wilding & Co. By extracting high value essential oils from invasive Douglas fir, the Queenstown business has removed thousands of the unwanted conifers from local high-country farmland. Constantly seeking to improve the environmental and economic performance of their business, Wilding & Co. have set an ambitious new goal of cutting out diesel fuel.
In order to decarbonise their operation, Wilding & Co. is working with Canterbury based start-up Mackwell & Co. to develop a 35hp Steam tractor that meets all of their energy needs. Capable of generating clean energy from abundant forest available fuels, including green wood-chip, hogged forestry slash and dry firewood, the Mackwell A35 is a modern steam engine unlike any other. For Wilding & Co., the Mackwell A35 will generate all of the steam power they need for distillation, hauling feedstocks and running PTO powered chippers and generators.
Wilding & Co. founder Michael Sly recently travelled to Mackwell’s Christchurch workshop to test his distillation unit with their 400hp (2MW thermal) prototype boiler. Michael was impressed with the Mackwell boiler’s speed to reach full pressure, ability to use a high moisture content fuels and the clean and safe, low volume - high temperature combustion system.
Predicted to come to full pressure in just 10 minutes, Michael considers the A35 Engine to be a "game changer" for small to medium scale operators, who generally find biomass boilers unviable due to safety concerns and the length of time they take to reach full pressure.
In recent years, diesel has become one of Wilding & Co.’s major operational expenses so the adoption of Mackwell’s advanced-steam technology promises to significantly improve the enterprise's bottom line. Having crunched the numbers himself, Michael says the ability to use waste biomass steams to displace their most expensive input is a "no brainer”.
Further, the A35 promises to slash Wilding & Co.’s operational carbon emissions by over 96%. Wilding & Co. already leverages ecological benefits of removing wilding pines to market his premium oil product and sees an opportunity to further enhance their band position through decarbonisation.
Source: Mackwell & Co
Best Practice Study Tour grant awardedThe WIDE Trust is excited to announce Rachel Millar as the latest recipient of a Best Practice Study Tour grant. This grant will enable Rachel to embark on an international journey, delving into cutting-edge practices and innovations in the forestry and wood processing industries. As we celebrate Rachel's achievements, we want to remind everyone that applications for a Best Practice Study Tour grant remain open at all times, providing a rare opportunity for others to apply and follow in Rachel's footsteps.
Meet Rachel Millar: A Visionary Environmental Manager
Rachel Millar works as the Environmental Manager for the New Zealand Forest Owners Association ((FOA) and the Forest Growers Levy Trust (FGLT)). Her dedication is highlighted by her co-ordination of the FOA submission to the Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use in Tairāwhiti-Gisborne and Wairoa – demonstrating her commitment to developing comprehensive solutions for managing environmental impacts. Rachel's multifaceted role within FOA/FGLT involves providing advice to boards, engaging with stakeholders, and promoting work on sustainable best practices that contribute to industry growth.
A Compelling Business Case for a Study Tour
Rachel's application to the WIDE Trust for a Best Practice Study Tour grant is driven by a compelling business case that revolves around two key study themes.
The first centres on solutions for woody debris and sediment management, directly tied to the outcomes of the Ministerial Inquiry. Drawing upon her involvement in the FOA submission into the inquiry, Rachel seeks to gain insights from international counterparts who have effectively managed similar environmental challenges. Her goal is to bolster the forestry sector’s response to the inquiry’s recommendations and ensure evidence-based decisions lead to optimal outcomes for both the industry, our taiao (environment) and the affected communities.
The second theme focuses on addressing the social licence crisis currently faced by New Zealand's forestry sector following Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle. This crisis underscores the importance of enhancing public perception and navigating backlash related to environmental impacts. By exploring successful strategies employed by other nations, Rachel aims to equip the forestry sector with the tools needed to regain public trust and build a stronger social licence to operate.
A Global Perspective Study Tour Proposal
Rachel's study tour itinerary well-considered, encompassing several priority locations that hold the potential to provide valuable insights for the New Zealand forestry sector. Her proposed destinations include:
1. Pacific Northwest, United States: This region's forest harvesting practices on steep slopes mirror the settings found in Tairāwhiti-Gisborne, Wairoa, and other New Zealand locations. Rachel aims to learn from the prescriptive regulations, good practice guidelines, and innovative biodiversity protection measures in place.
2. Southeast United States: Given the vulnerability of forest ecosystems to climate variability, this area offers valuable lessons in adaptive management and strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change on forests.
3. Tasmania, Australia: With similar challenges to New Zealand, Tasmania's forestry practices, including the Forest Practices Authority's successful implementation of clear operational standards, serve as a beneficial framework for addressing issues such as social licence and environmental performance.
4. Chile and Brazil, South America: Both nations provide unique insights into mixed forest management, remediation of degraded land, and the harmonious coexistence of production and conservation in the forestry sector.
Anticipating Positive Impact
Rachel's study tour itinerary isn't just about personal growth—it's about creating a positive impact on New Zealand's forestry sector as a whole. By sharing her learnings with the Forestry Sector Environment Committee, FOA and FGLT boards, wood councils, and other relevant stakeholders, Rachel aims to catalyse positive change.
Rachel’s application highlights the immense potential of the WIDE Trust’s Best Practice Study Tour grant to shape the future of forestry and wood industries in New Zealand. If you're passionate about exploring innovative practices, learning from international counterparts, and making a positive impact on the sector, we encourage you to apply for this transformative opportunity. Applications for a Best Practice Study Tour grant are open year-round, ensuring individuals with a vision for progress always have a chance to contribute to the industry's growth and sustainability.
Source: The WIDE Trust
Komatsu Forest appoints new Australian Sales ManagerKomatsu Forest has appointed Dean O’Connor National Sales Manager for Australia. He will also retain responsibility for Komatsu Forest operations in New Zealand.
Dean is an experienced timber industry professional who has been in the industry since the early nineties. In 1995 he became the Product Support Manager for Timberjack covering the Asia Pacific & South African region and then in 2001 was appointed as the General Manager Waratah in Australia.
Komatsu Forest Australia first recruited Dean in early 2004 to look after the international business in S.E. Asia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Then in 2006 Dean took up a company transfer to the USA to set up the new West Coast Attachments Division for Komatsu Forest America and then returned to New Zealand in 2009 where he assumed General Manager’s role for Komatsu Forest in NZ.
Dean made a company change in late 2015 to become involved with the new innovations in steep slope logging as General Manager at EMS Ltd NZ. He rejoined the Komatsu group in 2018 with the responsibility of the SouthStar product in the Asia Pacific region shortly after Komatsu acquired the company. Now with Dean’s return to Australia he takes up the National Sales Manager role within the Komatsu Forest Australia organisation.
Brenton Yon has also stepped down from National Sales Manager’s position after dedicating over thirty years to the role, but he will remain a part of the senior management team assuming responsibility for the growing market of the Aztec – Peterson range of Grinders & Chippers for Aust & NZ. Brenton will also be supporting the SA & WA sales regions.
Source: Komatsu Forest
New public housing construction for regional NZThe latest NZ public housing plan update was released by the Housing Minister highlighted significant boosts of public housing for regional New Zealand over the next two years
“We’re delivering the most public homes each year since the Nash government of the 1950s with one in six homes in New Zealand’s entire public housing stock having been delivered in the last six years,” Megan Woods said.
“Most of the 13,000 public homes delivered are brand new builds, and we’ve provided over 4,000 more transitional homes with wrap around services, but we’re just getting started.
“The Updated Public Housing Plan: Including 2024 -2025 delivery outlines where in New Zealand, the 3,000 additional homes announced in Budget 2023, will go.
“We are on track to provide the 21,000 public and transitional homes we have funded, by 2025,” Megan Woods said. We can't forget this is also an election year and National has also promised to do a better job of building and managing social housing if they win in October.
Does NZ have the capacity?
Increased funding for public housing was initially announced in May's national Budget to address the housing crisis and ensure a solid pipeline of work for the building sector. Industry experts welcomed the news, but questions remained about how it would be rolled out given the KiwiBuild experience. Read here for further details.
Sources: Inside Government NZ, Stuff
OptiCept agreement with Chilean forestry companyThe Swedish PlantTech company OptiCept Technologies has entered an agreement with the Chilean forestry company CMPC. Cuttings will now be boosted with nutrients using a unique vacuum impregnation technology called OptiBoost.
During a couple of weeks this spring, the Chilean company CMPC have evaluated the technologies effect in their nursery. As a result, they now enter a long-term partnership with the Swedish company behind the technology.
The Optiboost technology is a symbiosis of two technologies, vacuum impregnation and nanotechnology. Cuttings are impregnated with a functionalized nutrient solution based on the third generation of patented nanotechnology. The process is executed in a small vacuum chamber that can manage up to 15,000 cuttings per hour. The OptiBoost vacuum impregnation (VI) is done with the purpose to improve the rooting and growth of cuttings and thereby decreases losses of eucalyptus and tropical clone cuttings propagation.
The parties have entered into a commercial agreement for OptiBoost for cuttings that runs over 6 years. The focus in 2024 is on the treatment of high-yielding cuttings and on developing the concept together with CMPC towards their annual production of 20 million cuttings. CMPC is the first commercial agreement signed. Two more forest companies are currently evaluating the method in South America and one in China.
CMPC is one of the world's largest pulp and paper companies. The company has 17,000 employees and is a listed company with a turnover of approx. 6.5 billion Euros in 2021. The business includes Forestry, pulp, paper and paper products. The company plants around 20 million cuttings annually.
All new German trucks battery-electric by 2035?All new trucks being registered in Germany from 2035 could be battery-electric if a broad-scale charging network is available by then, according to the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Institut).
“The key entry point for ensuring the market success of zero-emission drive technologies is the rapid and targeted rollout of a charging infrastructure for heavy-duty commercial vehicles,” the Öko-Institut states. “Greenhouse gas emissions from road freight transport will then decrease significantly, particularly post-2030, reaching zero in 2045.”
Evaluating various drive technologies to identify their technical and economic potential, the research project found that battery-electric trucks will offer advantages over trucks powered by overhead lines or fuel cells, even when ranges and charging options are taken into account.
The findings are in line with those of other researchers. According to the total cost calculation, fuel cell vehicles are far more expensive than pure e-trucks due to the high level of uncertainty surrounding hydrogen prices.
Source Clean Energy Wire, Photo: Volvo
Fabrum supplying 1MW hydrogen refuelling stationFabrum to supply 1MW electrolyser Hydrogen Refuelling Station package for hydrogen production and dispensing, with a unique double pressure system for cars and trucks – a first for New Zealand
New Zealand company Fabrum, a world leader in zero-emission transition technologies to enable a lower-carbon economy, has been selected by Japan-based Obayashi Corporation as the supplier of a Hydrogen Refuelling Station (HRS) package for a refuelling station project in Auckland. Fabrum has several other green hydrogen projects under construction internationally.
Fabrum’s flagship 1MW electrolyser Hydrogen Refuelling Station enables hydrogen production via electrolysis and renewable power. The system utilises Fabrum’s cryogenic technologies alongside a Membrane-Free Electrolyser (“MFE”), developed by UK-based CPH2 and manufactured under agreement by Fabrum, to create a hydrogen production system.
In a first for Fabrum and New Zealand, the Hydrogen Refuelling Station in Auckland will feature a unique dual pressure dispensing system that enables the refuelling at 350 bar and 700 bar. Fabrum is supportive of Obayashi‘s approach to providing the multiple options for potential customers in emerging hydrogen mobility.
Ancient forest discovered more than 600ft undergroundThe sinkhole was found by scientists in Leye Fengshan UNESCO Global Geopark. It's reported to be 306m in length, 150m in width and 192m in depth. Researchers say it could be home to previously unidentified animal species.
A huge ancient forest world has been discovered 630 feet underground, down a sinkhole in China. The underground mystery was stumbled upon in a Chinese 'Geopark' by a cave exploration team of scientists, in May last year. The phenomenon is also known in China as 'tiankeng' or 'heavenly pits'.
Leye Fengshan UNESCO Global Geopark, where the sinkhole was found, is located in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Southwestern China. The Geopark is described on the UNESCO website as 'primarily sedimentary with more than 60% of 3000m thick Devonian to Permian carbonate rocks.' It's known for being 'the territory of caves and of the world’s longest natural bridge'.
Researchers have said the primitive forest could be home to previously unidentified plant and animal species, reports The Washington Post. Giant sinkholes are not unusual for areas like this in China. The Chinese governments state-owned news agency, Xinhua, released an official report stating that the new discovery brings the county's number of sinkholes to 30.
Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer at the Institute of Karst Geology of the China Geological Survey, also told Xinhua that the site had ' a well-preserved primitive forest at the bottom' and three caves in its walls. They added that the sinkhole measures 306m in length, 150m in width and 192m in depth, with its volume exceeding 5 million cubic meters, meaning it can be officially categorised as a large sinkhole.
Chen Lixin, leader of the Guangxi 702 cave expedition team, said the dense shade plants are up to one's shoulder and said the ancient trees growing at the bottom are nearly 40 meters high. The Chinese governments state-owned news agency, Xinhua, released an official report stating that the new discovery brings the county's number of sinkholes to 30.
The cave expedition was completed by a team who abseiled down more than 100 meters and 'trekked several hours to reach the pit's bottom'
Source: daily mail, washington post
Buy and Sell
... and one to end the week on ... all aboard
It wasn’t that long ago, just last year in fact when he was still the English coach, that Eddie Jones was using his “teabag theory” to decide if the rookies on parade against the Barbarians were ready to participate in England’s tour of Australia. The theory according to Jones at the time was, “You don't know how good it is till you put it in hot water.”
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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