Friday Offcuts 23 July 2021
This week we’ve included an in-depth story that covers both sides of the forest biomass debate. It summarises key studies, reports and it provides some useful links to primary sources. We’ve also provided a link to a raft of commentary and reports put out by the US Industrial Pellet Association last week to counter, in their opinion, the “one-sided climate reporting that lacks any pretense of objectivity, omits key facts, presents half-truths and stacks sources with a single point of view”. We’ve also built in an article that’s received a lot of media coverage recently that argues the case for wood-based bioenergy and its carbon neutrality. Certainly, the debate’s getting heated.
Locally, with increasing Government, business and environmental drivers pushing larger scale industrial energy users to switch across to renewables, the forestry industry’s starting to sit up and take notice. Demand in the regions is already there – and it’s growing. Announcements already made for large industrial scale boiler conversions point to considerable potential for forest owners, suppliers and buyers of wood residues to better aggregate supplies and co-ordinate the collection, transport and processing of woody biomass. With this in mind, a tech event, Residues to Revenues 2022 is being set up at the moment with industry, principally aimed at forestry companies and harvesting contractors. It’s scheduled to run in mid- March next year. Further details will follow.
And as Australia has grappled this week with short-term supply interruptions with a number of States going back into lock-down, the unprecedented surge in lumber prices seen in North America, has fallen away. Earlier in the week, a drop of 70 percent from the earlier record highs was being reported. The situation’s moved from lumber shortages to one of ample supply – all just in the space of a few months. Lumber production has been substantially boosted with North America adding 1.4 billion board feet of sawmill capacity in the past 12 months, with another 1.6 billion board feet of capacity coming online in the second half of 2021. Home building demand has also eased as Covid restrictions are relaxed and American’s head away on holiday again instead of spending time on their renovation and building projects. Forestry and wood processing industries are still living in a period of significant uncertainty, as the flurry in South Australia mid-week can attest. Enjoy this week’s read.
This week we have for you:
SA mills to recommence operationsTimber mills across South Australia recommenced operations after being listed an essential service.
The billion-dollar industry was forced to shut down for about 24 hours after it was left off the list of essential services released mid-week. It was a significant blow for the industry, which has been working to address the national shortage of structural timber available to the construction sector.
Key stakeholders worked around the clock to seek clarity on the issue, which was eventually provided by SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens at a press conference. The uncertainty also left thousands of forestry workers in limbo amid the state's seven-day snap lockdown.
Commissioner Stevens said timber mills were considered to be primary industries. "There was some concern about the impact of the direction, which was an earlier version of the direction that restricted timber mills from operating," he said. SA Forest Products Association chief executive Nathan Paine said the industry received written confirmation that operations could recommence.
"Our initial reading was – certainly for larger mills – that they wouldn't be able to operate under these rules and there was a risk that we might not even be able to get harvesting activities occurring in the forest," Mr Paine said. "That was yesterday — today I'm really pleased to be able to say that the government has recognised the concerns of the industry and consumers of wood products."
But the delay did come at a cost. Green Triangle union official Brad Coates said the lack of clarity from the outset caused "massive disruption" to the industry. "The two largest sawmills, OneFortyOne here in Mount Gambier and Timberlink in Tarpeena, they shut down, so it's the cost of shutting everything down and sending everyone home to then have to start up the following day," he said. "It is a cost that the companies and the employer will have to bear."
The current forest biomass controversyA major political and environmental dispute has been heating up as the forestry industry and governments promote forest biomass — cutting trees, turning them into wood pellets, and burning them to make electricity. They claim the science shows biomass to be sustainable, with the energy produced resulting in zero emissions.
Forest advocates and many researchers sit squarely on the other side of the argument, providing evidence that forest biomass is destructive to forests and biodiversity, is dirtier than coal, and destabilizing for the climate. Moreover, they say, the carbon neutrality claim is an error that will greatly increase carbon emissions.
These diverging viewpoints have been colliding as the European Commission wrangles with revisions to its legally binding Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), with recommendations to the European parliament due last Wednesday, July 14, Analysts say the EU rules counting biomass as carbon neutral are unlikely to change.
A recent story from Mongabay reviews the science on both sides of the forest biomass debate, summarizing key studies and reports, and providing links to these primary sources to help readers decide for themselves.
Further responses to recent criticism and reporting being leveled at the industry can also be read here.
Source: mongabay, US Industrial Pellet Association
Additional Workshops for ForestTECH 2021ForestTECH is this region’s most popular annual independent forestry technology series. This year, in addition to advances being made in remote sensing and forest inventory, like ForestTECH 2020, one of the two days has been set aside to profile the very latest developments in forest establishment, mechanised planting and silviculture.
This year, in addition to two days of conferencing and exhibitions three additional tech workshops and meetings have been set up for Rotorua delegates around ForestTECH 2021. This capitalises delegates who will be travelling into Rotorua to attend ForestTECH 2021. All are free to ForestTECH 2021 delegates but a booking is required.
What’s being covered?
1. A short two-hour workshop on Imagery & Remote Sensing with ArcGIS is been given by Eagle Technology on the morning of Monday 22 November at the conference venue.
2. A half-day workshop focusing on changes to the Forestry Emissions Trading Scheme and an update on National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry is being given by Te Uru Rākau at Scion on the morning of Monday 22 November.
3. A half-day Remote Sensing Cluster Group meeting will run at Scion on the afternoon of Monday 22 November. The meeting will combine recent research focussing on tree inventory and detection with an update on the “Tools for Foresters” initiative. Presentations will be given by both researchers and industry and will focus on key end user applications of remotely sensed data.
Note: Programme details for the event and further information on the workshops that have been set up can be found on the event website, foresttech.events/ft21.
5G pilot project for remote forestry operationsTelenor and Ericsson supply private 5G networks to Skogforsk, the Forestry Research Institute of Sweden. Jointly they will run a pilot project exploring how 5G can be used for remote control of forest machines thus making a positive difference for both the forest industry and the employees in the industry. The project will be the first to compare connectivity of local 5G with other technologies to see at what distance remote control is possible and what tasks can be performed remotely.
Petrus Jönsson, Deputy Program Manager, Skogforsk, says: "Remote control can increase efficiency and strengthen the competitiveness of both Swedish and Nordic forestry. It can also fundamentally improve the working environment for operators, reduce the number of accidents and lead to increased interest in forestry professions."
For remote management in a forest environment to work safely, high transmission speed of video in real time, low latency and high reliability in different types of terrains and weather conditions are required. Today, WiFi is used to a limited extent. With 5G, significantly better range and power can be achieved.
Andreas Kristensson, Head of IoT and New Business, Telenor Sweden, says: "There is no doubt that 5G will be superior to WiFi, create new opportunities and solve many needs. Since it will be a while before 5G is so developed that it can be used widely in the forest industry, we are now testing with local 5G which will be an important complement."
Thomas Norén, Head of Dedicated Networks, Ericsson, says: "The forest industry's communication needs match the possibilities of private 5G networks very well. These networks create local areas with extremely high capacity and reliability where coverage has previously been lacking or deficient. This gives the forest industry access to modern communication in order to take the next step in digitalisation. We see an exciting development of new advanced applications for 5G in the industry."
The research will be carried out in the Troëdsson Forestry Teleoperation Lab. Skogforsk will lead and document the project that will compare remote control solutions locally and over longer distances. Private 5G will be compared with WiFi and 4G as well as combinations of these.
Ericsson will support the project as a supplier of 5G equipment and Telenor has been appointed supplier of 5G equipment and system integration. Telenor delivers in collaboration with partners and in the ecosystem that Telenor develops within the framework of 5G.
Biomass energy from forests can be sustainableThe issue of carbon neutrality for wood-based bioenergy just won’t go away. In recent months, Politico, The New York Times, and CNN all have run high-level stories that take the Europeans to task for using wood pellets from the U.S. South because of concerns that wood-based biomass is not carbon neutral.
The problem with all these stories is creating biomass energy from forests in fact is carbon neutral. There may be equity issues, as CNN raised, or local problems with the implementation of sustainable forest practices, but economic analyses consistently show that wood-based bioenergy is not only carbon neutral, but it reduces the net climate impact of household electricity consumption when it substitutes for fossil-based electricity.
Many scientists don’t want trees planted and harvested for anything, let alone energy. So, they argue that wood bioenergy isn’t carbon-neutral at all. This was basically the argument of a group of 500 scientists who wrote a public letter to several heads of state last winter. Many of the arguments made against wood bioenergy – high emissions when trees are harvested and a carbon debt – sound compelling, but fall apart when contrasted with reality.
Consider the “carbon debt” idea, which says that after trees are cut and burned for electricity, it takes a while for trees to regrow, and in the meantime, their emissions cause the same kinds of damages as the fossil energy they replace. Anybody can see that burning trees releases carbon. But this carbon has been stored in those trees for 30 to 50 years, not millions of years like coal or natural gas. Furthermore, trees regrow fairly quickly.
Look, if we were harvesting old-growth trees and converting them to electricity, then biomass-based electricity would be a problem. We would be taking carbon that had been cycling in a natural system for perhaps thousands of years, and burning it up. Trees that replace those old-growth stands would take hundreds to thousands of years to rebuild that carbon. More importantly, we would be losing amazing natural assets that host incredible biodiversity.
Yes, society has the capacity to do something as stupid as that, but in this case, it turns out we aren’t that dumb. Most trees burned for electricity today were planted or grown specifically for the purpose of harvesting them. This idea is really hard for people – even Ivy League economists – to get their heads around, but the truth of market economics is that when trees are valuable, people plant them as an investment.
Source: inside sources
Ships line up at Port of TaurangaA week or so ago we reported on the situation at EastPort where the largest build-up of ships at anchor were lined up off Gisborne since World War 1 when coastal shipping was at its peak. At the time it was expected to take about a month or so to clear the backlog of ships.
Move South and a similar situation is now playing out. This time at the Port of Tauranga. Continuing issues in the international supply chain and reduced capacity in Auckland is causing a build-up of marine cargo traffic waiting to enter the Port of Tauranga. Peak export timings for kiwifruit and a high demand for logging exports has also been attributed as a factor behind the issues.
At least 17 ships were at anchor in Tauranga harbour on Wednesday morning, according to Shipfinder. A spokesperson for the Port of Tauranga said the anchored ships are mostly log and container vessels. They say the stationary status of these vessels is a “symptom” of the current and ongoing disruption in the international supply chain.
“A lot of ships are arriving outside of their scheduled times, so we are processing them as they arrive,” Port of Tauranga communications manager Rochelle Lockley said. “There is also still congestion and reduced capacity at Ports of Auckland, so we are handling large volumes of diverted import and export cargo.”
The global supply chain remains problematic due to varying factors, including Covid-19 and the running impact of the EverGiven container ship running aground and blocking the Suez Canal in March. The Port said it has increased their train programme to avoid delays on land. “On top of this, we are in peak kiwifruit export season and there is high international demand for New Zealand’s export logs.
Honouring a retiring OneFortyOne iconA retiring OneFortyOne employee has been gifted a special surprise this month after 43 years of service – a forestry road named in his family’s honour. Higgins Lane, north of Nangwarry, has been named after the Higgins family following a collective 55 years of work in the Green Triangle forestry industry by 68-year-old Terry and his late father John.
Terry described the naming of the road in the plantations where his family had lived and worked for decades as ‘a real honour’. “My family are quite taken by it, after all our history here and we’re looking forward to getting out there and getting a photo with the sign,” he said.
The location of the plantation track holds special significance to the Higgins family as it is situated near the forest reserve Muddy Flats, where the family lived for several years after emigrating from London in the mid-1960s. Following in the footsteps of his father John, who worked for the department in the forests around Penola and Nangwarry, Terry also began working in his school holidays, clearing firebreaks and hand weeding in the nursery.
During his 43-year career, Terry performed nearly every role imaginable, working his way up from maintenance to machinery operator to geographic information services work and then supervisory roles. “From hanging around so long, you get to know it all, from handplanting to machinery to hand marking. You name it, I’ve done it,” he said.
In 2016, he was made the Area Foresters and District Manager for the Penola forests – the pinnacle of his career and what he referred to as his ‘spiritual home’. Terry found his forte in silviculture, saying he found creativity and satisfaction in seeing the growth and development of the plantations. “It’s about creating a forest that can be the best it can possibly be in 32-years’ time,” he said. “To see a tree in the ground as a seedling and then watch it grow to its full potential is very satisfying.”
Being able to spend time in the peace and quiet of the forest environment is something Terry will always value as his favourite part of the job and an experience he enjoyed initiating his fellow colleagues in. “It’s quiet and the enormity of it – when you’re in a 32-year-old plantation, it’s extremely peaceful,” he said. “I think the term is far from the madding crowd’.
During the last twelve months in OneFortyOne’s Transition to Retirement program, Terry helped develop a fire training video series for the company. Utilising his decades of experience fighting and managing forest fires, Terry interviewed 100-plus workers about their fire experience, wrote scripts and helped direct the series of short films, which will be used to help prepare employees for busy fire seasons.
OneFortyOne Fire Manager Justin Cook said Terry always put his heart into his work and had earned respect from his many colleagues over the years. “Terry is so proud of the OFO plantations that he and his family have worked on for more than 50 years,” he said. “His dedication and commitment show’s through in everything he does. “Terry has always made a conscious effort to pass on his knowledge to the next generation and to mentor and develop people.” Terry encouraged anyone considering a career in forestry to take the opportunity, saying the sky was the limit.
“Honestly, it’s the best job in the world,” he said. “You can go to university and get a forestry degree but there’s also jobs in harvesting, transport and mechanics. There’s so much you can do. I cannot believe how lucky I’ve been.”
NZ forest roading update to international audienceSchool of Forestry staff members Rien Visser and Campbell Harvey recently gave a presentation on “Forest Roads in NZ” to an international audience. The presentation includes an overview, details current construction practices, as well as highlights issues and research of forest roading. It was part of a Webinar series on ‘Forest Roads around the World’ coordinated by IUFRO (International Union of Forest Research Organizations).
The 45 min video presentation can be found here and is followed by 45min of questions and discussion from an international audience. It compliments presentations given on Forest Roads in Western North America, Europe, South Africa and Asia. These presentations can be found here.
A key point of difference was NZ’s over-arching ‘fit-for-purpose’ design approach in our plantation forests. This means aligning the road performance expectation to the harvest activity - both in terms of covering the cost of construction and also actual road standard.
Source: Rien Visser, School of Forestry
Sustainable wood to feature at World FairWork is progressing well in preparation for the construction of the 2025 World Expo site on Osaka’s Yumeshima Island. The Expo will focus on promoting sustainable development goals (SDGs) and is expected to feature extensive use of green building technologies.
The Osaka Federation of All Wood Industries, of which Canada Wood Japan is an active member, is working with Expo organizers to develop a massive wooden boardwalk ring which would surround the Yumeshima Expo site (Artist’s rendition here).
The wooden ring would have a diameter of 700 metres and a circumference of 2.2 kilometres. The boardwalk would measure 30 metres in width and would be elevated up to 10 to 12 metres in some sections.
Following the Expo, the proposal is to re-cycle and re-use the structural wooden members in public infrastructure projects and parks. Final construction plans for the Osaka 2025 Expo are expected to complete within this fiscal year.
Tech Update: New Zealand’s WoodWorks 2021 Conference being run for local architects, engineers, specifiers, building project managers, designers, quantity surveyors, BIM specialists, engineers and wood producers will run in Rotorua on 21-22 September.
The conference brings together leaders in architecture, engineered wood design and construction. Register now to secure your place on the Red Stag CLT factory tours – seats are strictly limited and will sell out fast. Details and online registrations are on the event website.
Source: Canada Wood
Source: Canada Wood
US lumber prices falling 70 per centUS lumber prices have crashed in a short time span, taking only eight weeks to tumble 70 per cent from record highs as the party ends for forestry companies.
The price sawmills charged wholesalers – known as the cash price – was US$485 for 1,000 board feet this week for two-by-fours made from Western spruce, pine and fir (SPF), compared with US$1,630 in mid-May, according to Random Lengths, an Oregon-based company that monitors wood markets.
“The deep slide from record-shattering levels extended to an eighth week, with triple-digit price drops common across all framing lumber species,” Random Lengths said in its newsletter. This week alone, cash prices for two-by-fours fell by US$210 for 1,000 board feet of Western SPF, or a 30-per-cent decline, compared with last week’s survey.
“Despite the growing threat from wildfires in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, any sight of a bottom remained elusive for many producers,” Random Lengths said. The lumber craze has quickly dissipated since mid-May. Instead of wood shortages, the scene has changed to one of ample supply amid softening demand.
“Western Canadian sawmills slashed their prices again this week as apathetic buyers continued to generate tepid demand at best,” Madison’s Lumber Reporter, a Vancouver-based industry newsletter, said in its weekly commentary. Industry analysts say lumber cash prices have dipped to levels below the costs of production for some sawmills in British Columbia, where costs are higher than in the United States.
CIBC World Markets Inc. analyst Hamir Patel estimates break-even levels for sawmills in the B.C. Interior are at about US$500 to US$580 for 1,000 board feet. Despite the swift decline in prices for two-by-fours to the lowest level since November, softwood lumber markets are still stronger than in the early months of the pandemic.
Source: the globe and mail
WorkSafe reminder on forest safety(WorkSafe) Health and Safety Paramount On Forestry Sites A tragic forestry fatality on the East Coast could have been avoided if industry guidance had simply been followed, says New Zealand’s WorkSafe. Businesses are being reminded once again to make sure work is being done correctly, safely and to higher industry standards or risk seeing their workers injured or killed.
Two companies appeared in court on 24 March 2021 for sentencing following the incident with the sentencing decision being released on 16 July 2021. Earnslaw One Limited engaged Pakiri Logging Limited to assist with harvesting at West Ho forest in Tologa Bay.
In February 2019, a breaker out worker for Pakiri Logging Limited was struck by a log being hauled out of the valley on a skyline cable. The victim died at the scene as a result of his injuries. A WorkSafe investigation found both parties had failed to ensure the dangerous work was being carried out safely.
“Pakiri were not ensuring crew were following correct protocols while breaking out and harvesting work was taking place,” said WorkSafe’s Area Manager Danielle Henry.
“Our investigation found that the parties’ workers were not abiding to recommended safe retreat distances. At the time of the incident, the victim was 18-20 metres away from the skyline cable when he should have been at least 45 metres away. More >>
Further local coverage on the decision and commentary on the lessons from this particular case can be found here.
Sources: Scoop, WorkSafe, Gisborne Herald
World's first woman forestry graduate celebratedA path through the trees: Mary Sutherland — forester, botanist & women’s advocate, by Vivien Edwards - The NZIF have just celebrated a new book on the life and times of Mary Sutherland, the first woman forestry graduate in the world. She was a foremost New Zealand forester, a pioneer akin in stature to Kate Shepherd. She was also an active advocate for women’s right to higher education.
Her career began in Britain during the First World War, and she emigrated to New Zealand in 1923 where the fledgling State Forest Service employed her until forestry retrenched in the 1930s. With her forester’s skills, she moved into botany at the Dominion Museum, and farm forestry with the Department of Agriculture.
Sutherland played an important role in New Zealand’s afforestation and in creating community awareness of the value of forestry. At the time her expertise was largely undervalued and the importance of her contribution overlooked. However, her career and life gently broke down barriers and prejudices towards professional women, and she was highly regarded by many of her male peers.
A Path Through the Trees tells the professional and personal story of this remarkable woman. Vivien Edwards, the author, has drawn on reports, photographs and journals, as well as through interviews, to document this determined woman in an early era of forestry.
To order online click here
Ikea sister Co may be shopping for NZ forestsIkea's sister company Ingka Investments has registered a New Zealand company with forestry on its mind.
A sister company to Swedish furniture retailer Ikea is on the hunt for investments in New Zealand, and not necessarily of the retail kind. While there’s no news on when exactly Ikea’s stylish shops will open in New Zealand, Ingka Investments Management NZ and Ingka Investments Forest Assets NZ were quietly registered with the Companies Office last December.
Both are described as related to forestry and are owned by Ingka Investments, a Dutch-based investment arm of Ingka Group, Ikea’s largest owner-operator. An Ikea spokesperson said: “Ingka Group is considering different opportunities, including forestry investments in the country. We will share more information as it becomes available.”
Overseas, Ingka Investments holds a diverse portfolio including stakes in a truck sharing business, a logistics co-ordinates firm and various plastics recycling businesses. According to its website, it invests in both early stage and mature companies, and “in people before companies,” only aligning with businesses that share its values.
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... and one to end the week on ... a quick test
Below are four (4) questions and a bonus question. You have to answer them instantly. You can't take your time - answer all of them immediately. OK?
And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.
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