Tuesday, March 4, 2008

[PBN] NZ: Plans to produce ethanol from pine plantations



Plans to produce ethanol from NZ pine plantations
By Kent Atkinson of NZPA

State-owned forestry researcher Scion says radiata pine plantations can
be used as a bio-ethanol crop to provide biofuel for motorists.

Scion has been investigating bio-refineries to process waste from pulp
and paper mills.

A plant in the Central North Island could produce 90 million litres of
ethanol a year, it said today.

This would make up the Government's target of a 3.4 percent biofuel
component of petrol and diesel by 2012.

Scion has been working with another state science company, Agresearch,
and wood processor Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) to investigate adding a
bio-ethanol manufacturing plant to the infrastructure at either of CHH's
pulp and paper mills in the central North Island.

Scion has used enzymes from a United States-based company, Verenium
Corporation, to enable wood to be used as a sustainable source of
cellulose to refine into ethanol and other products.

Scion and its partners today released a report showing that biofuels
from softwood at future plants around the country could run the nation's
entire vehicle fleet on biofuels refined from New Zealand tree waste.

Motorists now used about three billion litres of petrol a year.

The technology could switch the national economy from one based on
petrochemicals to one based on carbohydrates, said Scion chief executive
Tom Richardson.

"This type of research is capturing the attention of the rest of the
world," he said in a statement.

The project has been exploring way to use the existing pulp and paper
industry to produce bio-ethanol from radiata and other softwoods.

"Internationally, softwood feedstocks have largely been undervalued as a
potential source of biofuels as they are considered technically too
difficult and too expensive," he said.

Most international research had been based on using grains, such as
corn, sugarcane or grasses.

But biofuels produced from wood wastes would avoid recent concerns about
diverting land used for food crops to food crops.

"Biofuels produced from wood are a sustainable and environmentally
beneficial option," said Dr Richardson.

CHH executive and project manager James Flexman, said the next step was
to refine the technology and the research, and develop a strategy.

About $1 million in taxpayer funding has so far been used in the study,
but "additional investment is now vital if the vision is to become a
commercial reality," he said.

Transportation fuels will need to be a major contributor to the
Government's targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Flexman said.

"The logical strategy would be to establish a purpose built bio-ethanol
plant that maximises the use of existing pulp and paper infrastructure
without impacting on the mill's current activity".

The bio-ethanol project's US partner Verenium Corp is also working
overseas on issues such as including land use practices, sustainability
demands, and economic drivers, according to Geoff Hazlewood, the senior
vice president, research at Verenium.

"We're very pleased with the progress we have made in New Zealand and
look forward to continued involvement".

Agresearch chief executive Dr Andrew West said the study gave New
Zealand an opportunity to become a pioneer in the technology of
manufacturing bioethanol from plantation wood and wood residues.

Dr Richardson said that the forestry industry could support Prime
Minister Helen Clark's goal to be one of the world's first
carbon-neutral economies.

Dr Richardson will release another report within the next month, on
bioenergy options, detailing the volume of plantation forests that would
be needed, and how they should be managed, for New Zealand to fuel
itself from renewable resources.

Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/

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