Time to get real about sensible development of bioenergy | RenewEconomy

Time to get real about sensible development of bioenergy

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Australia is only OECD country with significant supply of biomass that has no coherent development strategy for bioenergy. The debate around native wood waste highlights that.

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Bioenergy, with all its array of feedstocks, technologies and products, has the potential to be providing far more of Australia’s renewable energy, though even now it provides more all the other renewable energy sources combined. This potential, using mature technology available for up to 30 years, will be mainly in the form of heat and cooling, of transport biofuels, and only last and least as electricity. This has been the situation for a decade or more across the EU, and in a number of other OECD countries, and in a number of US states.

Australia is the only OECD country that produces a significant annual supply of biomass but that, as yet, has no coherent development strategy for bioenergy. In any another country this would be inexplicable, since bioenergy is the renewable energy source that generates most jobs per unit of energy produced, is most cost-competitive with fossil sources, is associated with the greatest sequestration of atmospheric CO2, and is the only renewable that produces all three of the required energy forms.

In any country where there is a significant part of the population strongly supportive of development of renewable energy options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the option for using mature technologies to produce up to 30% of final or utilised energy from an estimated 50 million tonnes a year of available biomass would surely be advocated by every group committed to this goal. But not in Australia.

The blocking or obstruction of bioenergy in Australia has resulted from the blinkered push to close down all native forest logging. So, in effect, the opponents of native forest logging, who also appear to the public to be the most vocal advocates of ‘low emissions energy’, are prepared to see the development of the most effective of the renewable energy sources blocked in order to achieve their anti-native forestry aim. And in this drive they are prepared to lie or misrepresent to their followers, the general public, the media and policy makers, about the relative effectiveness of the various renewable energy sources in their real potential to substitute for fossil-fuels.

A relevant saying is that ‘if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem’. Because of their irrational but effective obstruction of development of bioenergy the Greens, The Wilderness Society, Markets for Change, GetUp!, and their array of follower organisations and supporters are clearly part of the problem. Their campaign against eligibility for inclusion in the RET accounting of electricity produced from native forestry harvest waste, is based on no solid facts. Their case against ‘eligibility’ simply does not stand up for one glaringly obvious reason.

It is for the simple reasons of economics and logistics that the instatement of the eligibility will not result in the outcome so hysterically forecast by the Greens of ‘forest furnaces’. Quite apart from the restrictiveness of state regulations, to chip and transport the necessary large amounts of forest residues will simply be too expensive. At under about $150/dry tonne it is not economic to produce woodchip for export. But the break-even price that a power plant of economic size (usually regarded as a minimum of 15 MW-e capacity) can afford to pay for dry woodchip is far less than this.

A second reason why the anti-native forestry groups are part of the problem is because they studiously ignore the fact that native forests in Australia are the most renewable and sustainable source we have for hardwood timbers. These timbers are otherwise imported and coming from far less sustainable forestry practices in countries with far worse governance. Where the imported timber is a plantation timber (like Acacia mangium) it has almost invariably been grown where rainforest has been cleared, and where forest dwellers or indigenous small holders have been displaced and have no rights. This is often the case even when the product has an FSC certification swing tag.

In reality, it is the native forests of more temperate Australia that have provided the timber that makes up the flooring, cladding, beams, studs, joists, roof trusses and battens of the many millions of Australian homes and other buildings built before the 1990s. Of the millions of family homes built until this time most will contain 3-5 tonnes of hardwood timbers, equating to almost that many tonnes of atmospheric CO2 being sequestered for 50 to 100 years or more. In most cases the forests that produced this timber are still there, being managed for the third or fourth rotation.

A further key issue is that the residues from hardwood (and softwood) logs at milling and later processing constitute over 50% of the initial log volume. Elsewhere this biomass is used locally for production of heat and electricity, and this energy is produced on-demand, and so able to fully replace or displace use of fossil fuels. This means CO2 emissions otherwise coming from fossil fuels are cut by this actual amount of this substitution. This full displacement is not something that happens with wind and solar PV. This is a key reason why, for example, Sweden is getting over 34 % of the national final energy (i.e., energy actually utilised) from biomass, and less than 2% as electricity from wind turbines.

But it needs to be repeatedly emphasised that whatever the amount of biomass from native forest log processing it is still only a tiny part of the biomass we have available. Far larger amounts come from agriculture, urban waste wood streams, municipal putrescibles wastes (including sewage and food residues), plantation harvest wastes, and flammable non-recyclable municipal wastes.

However, the decades of reviling of bioenergy by the various anti-native forestry groups has meant that the utilisation of all these waste streams for reduction of greenhouse gas missions has been stalled, so we are now up to 30 years behind the leading countries in this respect.

This has been the unacceptable consequence of a cynical and ill-informed opposing of bioenergy, so that the population at large, the media, and many politicians and policy makers, are either ignorant of Australia’s largest form of renewable energy, or regard it as illegitimate.

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  1. Peter F 5 years ago

    Apart from inviting scorn by bagging your opponents your argument is well worth considering. However it would be nice to have a few more facts. For example, what does it cost to collect, dry and bale or pelletise wood waste, straw etc. and how does that compare to other fuels, or energy sources including the fuel for processing and transport. Given the relatively small scale of the boilers/generators, even allowing a premium for despatchability how does it compare with solar + wind + storage.

    Biomass also fits in well with European district and municipal heating requirements, this model does not translate easily to Australia.

    Generally speaking with the rise of high efficiency heat pumps and higher ambient temperatures here it can be argued that electrically powered heat pumps are more suitable than direct biomass heating in Australia.

    Finally it is interesting to note that investment in biomass energy in Germany was prompted early in the Energiewend process but it has now almost collapsed, for a number of reasons but mainly due to the continuing rapid fall in the cost of solar and wind.

    I am all for using rather than wasting existing resources but can you provide some answers even if only in general terms to the above questions.

    • andrew Lang 5 years ago

      They are not my opponents, they are the ill-informed and short sighted opponents of bioenergy. The cost of baling straw is generally given as a farm gate breakeven price of about $60/tonne before transport and usually with minimal cost of farm labour.
      Cost of harvest of thinning and extracting to the side of a farm plantation is about $40/tonne and chipping adds another $20/tonne (this is on a greenweight absis so approximately doubles for dry weight). It is the cost of trucking of volumes by semi-or B-Double any distance that is the principal cost of extraction and supply of biomass to an energy plant. Any return to the landonwer as a royalty payment would add to this..
      Hoever levelised cost of production of a wood-fuelled biomass plant 9assuming this is maybe 15 MW-e production) is given by the DOE in the uS as about the same as onshore wind at about 110/MWh or so, and this is less than for solar PV. The value of heat is not usually added in to this but it is a relevant figure in the economics.
      Re investment in biomass energy in germany – I’d need to see the figures. you may be talking about the production of electricity from biogas from maize grown on farm land due to high FiT and this is obviously a nutty thing that should have been anticipated. But investment in bioenergy in Germany is across heat, electricity and fuels and it is a very significant sector and includes biowastes to energy as well.

      • Robin_Harrison 5 years ago

        You claim the ill-informed and short sighted opponents of bioenergy are not your opponents. However your ill-informed and short sighted insults could well make it so.
        If you don’t know by now the constant pressures on high conservation native forests by highly influential people keen to make a low grade fast buck, then you really haven’t been paying attention. Maybe you think there are no politicians venal enough to allow clear felling of those forests with the excuse of bioenergy. If so, again, you really haven’t been paying attention. Or maybe you don’t know the real value of those forests, in which case you might like to become a little better informed.

  2. Craig Allen 5 years ago

    Andrew, if you want to get “real” it might be worth admitting that harvesting native forests does have an impact on conservation values and that the concern that this will exacerbated by use of forest ‘waste’ for bioenergy is legitimate. Then you can address those concerns rather than pretending they are greenie nonsense. Reports of the impacts of biofuel harvesting in the US to supply wood pellets to European generators are worrying – http://fsc-watch.com/2014/08/12/guest-post-how-fsc-is-helping-to-greenwash-the-destruction-of-us-forests-for-european-power-stations/
    The Australian forestry industry has a reputation for chipping high conservation forests. How can we be assured that their use for bioenergy will not follow the same path?

    On the one hand you say that the forest derived biomass resource is tiny in comparison to the potential of agricultural waste. On the other you blame people who are concerned about forestry practices for knobbling biofuel generation.

    Surely you would be better off enlisting environmentalists in support of an agricultural waste based industry.

    I’m not saying that we should not use forest waste products for energy generation under any circumstances, just that the concerns are legitimate, and that you would be better off trying to find common ground with the people and groups you are picking your fight with.

    • andrew Lang 5 years ago

      Bioenergy is potentially able to provide an enormous amount of energy in Australia, and electricity is a small fraction of this and any use of native forest harvest waste would only be a small part of that.
      The issue of conservation value of native forest is valid of course, and well regulated native forest management only affects tiny areas relative to the whole, far less than the average 100-200,000 ha that burns every year in Victorian native forests. In terms of ‘conservation value of native forest’ his is a far more important issue and one that does not get the attention that it should.
      The harvesting in SE USA of planted forest that had largely been managed for pulp and paper production and is now being used for production of pellets should be under a strict regulatory regime at federal and state level. What does concern me is the use of these pellets in condensing power plants such as the DRAX plant that is under conversion. But overall in Europe the use of pellets is mainly for domestic heating with or in small district heating backup systems, since this is a far more expensive form of biomass fuel.
      In the end it is a decision of how best to reduce actual GHG emissions within the guidelines of levelised cost of energy production, sustainabily and energy efficiency. And this is about not just electricity but also heat nd transport fuels. We are retarded in all this due to the blocking of development of bioenergy by use of simplistic and ill-designed scare campaigns.

  3. Alistair Spong 5 years ago

    Andrew you seem entirely ignorant of the way native forest logging transitioned from a saw log based industry to a woodchip based industry . During this transition thousands of jobs were lost and millions of hectares of old growth and high conservation forest destroyed . Rules and regulations were ignored and Jeff Kennett even managed to sign an in confidence agreement to log forests that didn’t exist. The conservation movement rightly has no trust in the major parties when it comes to waste wood from forests being used to make electricity . Forest operations are often highly subsidised by government and run at a substantial loss . The situation could not be better highlighted in WA , where

    • andrew Lang 5 years ago

      I think you have got the drivers for the loss of thousands of jobs from the rimber industry a little reversed. Better talk to some people in the industry to get this straight. Similarly that the sawlog got itself replaced by the woodchip – it was not that simple.
      But I am advocating a far more rational development of bioenergy across the board, and am not defending bad forestry practices where they exist and obviously the last 200 years is littered with them. Much of the arable farmland we have is due to clearfelling of good quality forest.
      State and federal regulations should be as tight as necessary to allow sustainable forest production while keeping abuses from happening. I do know this is possible here and I see it in northern and central europe.
      By contrast what I see and hear of in SE Asia and East asia and Africa existence of practices that are often appalling. and at best unsustainable.

      So this is not a reason to hold bioenergy hostage while some forestry management issues are fixed here. The issue of minimising damage from extensive forest wildfire needs to be a part of all this , and including the potential for fuel reduction thinning around otherwise undefendable urban populations – I am thinking much of NE Melbourne, and places like Daylesford and coastal towns in the SW of Vic, etc. But my point about the costs of extracting native forest wood harvest residues (or thinnings) still holds – it is an expensive process, and when you have to have a fleet of trucks costing up to $1 milion each bringing a low density product out over 100 km of back country roads the cost of the material is in the order of $135-145 per dry tonne delivered. You can talk ‘trust’ and ‘subsidy’ but when we have brown coal costing about $1 per tonne at the power plant it is not a proposition even for the likes of Jeff Kennett..
      At the very least we need some demarcation and that bioenergy as a major renewable needs to be talked about more positively for its ability to drive reduction of GHG emissions, and its potential for jobs, C-sequestration, and stimulus of regional economies recognised.

      • Alistair Spong 5 years ago

        Well you can talk to the industry and I’m sure they’ll be about as honest as they’ve ever been … If you don’t mind I’ll stick with Abs stats .
        In 2004 during the Latham/Howard election contest Twis tasmania republished Abs stats which found that employment in the industry had collapsed by 50% over the previous 10 years and that sawmills had reduced from 200 to I think around 20 over the prior 20 years .
        The lifeline in Tasmania and probably Victoria of an unsustainable industry was woodchipping , but it didn’t help employment .
        Many I think rightly conclude that the nex

  4. Pedro 5 years ago

    At best bioenergy is carbon neutral. If burnt poorly it is highly polluting.

    I am all for saw mill waste and sugar cane waste to be used as an on site energy source to run the processing plant. Even fermenting plant waste to make ethanol. But wood chipping native forests and throwing it into a power station furnace and then claiming REC’s is ethically wrong and definitely not in the spirit of the RET.

    It may even be that plant waste is better off being left to decompose into the soil and add to soil carbon, water holding and soil fertility.

    • andrew Lang 5 years ago

      If burnt poorly (i,e, inefficient and smoky) anything is a problem. The point being that the modern biomass fuelled plants are among the most efficient energy plants in the world. So the Averdoere 2 plant just south of Copenhagen when built in 2002 was the most efficient power plant (furnace-boiler-steam turbine type) in the world, producing up to 48% of fuel energy as electricity in condensing mode, and in normal CHP mode with probably over 90% of fuel energy being utilised as both electricity and heat. Similarly the modern pellet and chip-fuelled heating plants for households and apartments are up to 94% efficient. None of these modern plants produce the smoke being attributed to the burning of wood fuels by the Greens and others so carelessly.

      ‘Chipping native forest’ is a very uneconomic thing to do in order to produce a furnace fuel.
      The ‘spirit’ of the RET is to stimulate production of electricity from renewable sources in such a way that it makes up 20% of Australia’s electricity (or that was the plan).
      An amount of electricity produced from from wind turbines or solar PV does not actually displace electricity from fossil fueled plants by the same amount (since it is not an on-demand source and is variable and/or unpredictable, and so fossil fuelled baseload plants have to be kept on stream).
      Is it ethical to claim that it does or to imply or suggest that it does? Wouldn’t it be more ethical to put the same amount of taxpayers money into stimulating a renewable amd more cost-effective electricity source that actually does displace the same amount of fossil electricity as that renewble produces, and so causes reduction of GHG emisssions by that amount (plus produces industrial heat that displaces yet more fossil fuels).

      ‘Letting organic matter decompose’ – is just another way of saying let it emit free release of greenhouse gases including methane. The idea that organic material becomes soil carbon is very flakey – sorry. Some does or might in a moist enough location but it is generally carbon in a very ephemeral form. And breakdown of carbon rich material in any amount will tend to decrease soil nitrogen content.
      but for really good smoke and lots of release of ‘soil carbon’ a good wildfire is the way to go and this is the future we now have for all our forests ‘protected from logging or management of any sort, due to gloabl temperature rise.
      One way to keep global av temp under 2 C is by a rational development of modern bioenergy systems urgently – in Australia and in other developing counries, though not throwing ‘chipped forests’ or ‘dead koalas’ in to ‘forest funaces’ or all the other bogeys we are getting hit with by dumb counter-productive campaigns. Just economically accessible sustainable types of biomass of all sorts. .

      • Pedro 5 years ago

        Thanks Andrew for your well thought out reply. Bioenergy fuel sources is definitely something you are passionate about. And there is a place for it in the energy mix.

        It is an area that I have done research on 20 years ago. In particular methane digestion which I thought had good applications for sewage treatment plants, pig, chicken and dairy farms and perhaps even the municipal domestic organic waste stream.

        I will stick to my view that bioenergy should be well down the list of renewable energy sources in terms of carbon reduction. Bioenegy at best will only ever displace a small amount of FF power generation. My reasoning is that you would require vast amounts of good agricultural land just to grow feed stock for fuel. In my opinion it is a waste of resources that can be better used producing food, a much higher value item.

        As for decomposition and soil carbon. Only part of the organic mater is transformed into CO2 and methane, the rest sits on top of the soil to be eaten or transported into the soil column (mostly ants and worms do this). Otherwise how do we get soil carbon in the 1st place? There are also other benefits of mulch and soil carbon. In general the more you have the more soil moisture you have and the less prone to wildfire. There is ofcourse many other factors involved with wildfire.

        Reading between the lines you seem to be advocating stripping the forest floor of dead fall fuel sources to prevent/reduce wild fire. I would call this tantamount to environmental vandalism as the cure is far worse than the disease. A controlled cool burn for fuel reduction is the way to go and in fact helps regenerate the bush.

      • Robin_Harrison 5 years ago

        The latest release from Tesla of far less expensive battery storage has just put wind and solar on an economic and on demand par with fossil fuel generation. Judging by the reactions of other battery manufacturers, that is going to improve quite rapidly. You really ought to become better informed.

  5. Mark Jackson 5 years ago

    The timber industry has to a some degree got the plantation horse in front of the value adding cart (over decades and kicking and screaming all the way). However we have still failed as a nation to undertake sustainable and biodiverse reforestation and revegetation to support adequate catchment protection and biodiversity conservation, let alone to provide additional wood and timber resources for durable timber products, bioenergy and to substitute for more emission intensive materials. Meanwhile the timber industry continues blinkered and short sighted lobbying for increased access to the relatively few wild forest areas left. We need plantations that look like native forest, and support natural ecosystem functioning as well as providing for human needs, on a vast scale, rather than treating our remaining native forest like rotationally managed plantations, as seems to be the agenda in this article. We also need to lift our sights to closed cycle, beyond emission-neutral, best practice technologies for utilisation of biomass to produce charcoal, industrial chemicals and substances, liquid and gaseous energy products and so on through fractional distillation and refinement.

  6. David Osmond 5 years ago

    Hi Andrew, thanks for an interesting article.

    I understand your article is primarily about energy, however my comment is mainly to do with electricity. I certainly agree we need to do source more of our electricity from bioenergy. Most of the 100% renewable studies include some bioenergy to get us through the depths of winter for those occasional periods when the wind may also not be cooperating. It seems we currently get about 1.3% of electricity from bioenergy, which certainly needs to be increased to atleast 6% (according to the UNSW 100% renewables study), and perhaps a fair bit more. In comparison, we get about 5% of our electricity from wind, and about 2.3% from solar.

    However, I am concerned you seem to be repeating claims from the anti-wind crowd that additional spinning reserve needs to be kept on as a back-up for wind (or solar generation), and as a result, they do not fully displace fossil fuels. There have been many studies showing the displacement is very close to 100%, at penetration rates far higher than Australia currently has. As a real life example, we have seen the emission intensity of South Australia’s electricity supply drop dramatically (by over 30%) as wind generation increased to 30%. The wind displaced primarily coal power, and was the main reason for the closure of one coal power station, and another for several months of the year.

    The spinning reserve that is currently required to cope with the sudden and unexpected loss of our largest (coal) power stations can easily cope with the much smaller sudden changes in wind or solar generation, even at wind or solar penetration levels significantly higher than our current levels.

    Looking at longer time scales, changes in demand in Australia over the day typically exceeds 8,000 MW per day, ie, from ~18 GW up to 26 GW. This dwarfes the daily variation in wind generation, which averages about 900 MW from about 4 GW of wind farms. So the amount of flexible generation required to cope with changes in demand can easily cope with the much smaller changes in wind or solar output, again even if they are scaled up dramatically.

    I look forward to hearing more about bioenergy, but perhaps you could spend less effort bagging rival renewable technologies.

  7. Farmer Dave 5 years ago

    I’m associated with an effort to develop wood waste into renewable energy (heat, not electricity) in Tasmania, and I have a great deal of sympathy for Andrew’s frustration. I’m more charitable towards environmentalists than Andrew, but then, I have not had any direct experience of opposition towards the kind of bioenergy application that most interests me.

    The thing about bioenergy is that it is a big field with a wide variety of potential feedstocks and potential uses. One of its greatest strengths is that it can work at different scales. In our case, we are interested in turning locally available sawdust from local sawmills into pellets. We see the use of pellets for heat (heating buildings, water, swimming pools, etc) as competing with gas, both pipeline methane and bottled butane. This would be a small scale operation; it would use local sawdust to supply local customers with pellets, and we think that similar operations could be established at several locations in Tasmania. These local operations would replace the use of fossil gas and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions; they would also employ local people and would keep in Tasmania the money that currently leaves Tasmania to pay for the gas.

    The kind of local use of bioenergy we are interested in mirrors very successful models in Europe, and there local economies have benefitted greatly from such local initiatives. Indeed, such uses will clearly make the road to getting off fossil fuels much easier in places with an existing forestry industry.

  8. Peggy Fisher 5 years ago

    Most state logging already needs taxpayer subsidy. The woodchip industry was initially to use the waste of the native forest logging. Now it is the mainstay of the logging industry and whole areas of forest are cleared just to fulfill contracts. The same will happen with burning wood for energy. We have plenty of area for plantation forest so should not be clearing any native forest. A new growth forest holds a fraction of the carbon that an old growth forest does so the draw down of carbon dioxide (equivalent to that released) from the atmosphere would be well over 100 years. We don’t have that long.
    Yes there are many other forms bio waste (e.g.sewage) that could and should be persued; but logging state forests does not make sense.

  9. Neil_Copeland 5 years ago

    I am far from an expert in bio energy but to bring it down to a simple level, it seems common sense to me as long as a couple of conditions are always met.
    1. Only plantation forest is used.
    2. Overall the area of forest (quantity of mature trees) is always increasing so that more trees are grown than are being cut down.
    I know this is what is known as forest management, but we must be absolutely sure that this is what happens.

  10. Nigel B 5 years ago

    Andrew, it seems to me you have resolved your own issue. I agree with you that biomass represents an extremely important source of energy, which maybe suffering because of an association with the highly emotive issue of native forest logging.

    But as you say, native forest biomass contributes only ‘a tiny amount of the biomass we have available’, why bother? Society and the biofuel industry would both be better
    served if the Biomass industry moved to less contentious source materials
    and was able to work with the otherwise ‘obstructive’ green groups.

    The best example I can think off is the Wesex Water spin off Geneco, who are using a methane powered bus to popularise the notion of generating biogas from human waste, an idea that many people find utterly distasteful.

  11. Robin_Harrison 5 years ago

    Quite apart from the vandalism done to native forests, burning things for energy is so 15 minutes ago. We are currently in transition towards a sustainable future. Part of that transition is the understanding that far more energy is available without having to burn anything. Cynical and ill-informed better describes this article.

    • Farmer Dave 5 years ago

      Robin, by “energy” do you mean electricity? If you include heat in your use of “energy” in your comment, then I don’t agree with you. Sometimes, burning something to produce heat is perfectly OK, and can be the most sustainable solution, particularly if the quality of the energy source is being matched to the quality of the energy needed. (Thermodynamically, electricity is a very high quality energy type, while heat, particularly low temperature heat, is a low quality form of energy.)

      Consider a dairy farmer. Cleanliness in the milking operation and the milk handling is of paramount importance, and I have been told that a farmer who milks 200 to 300 cows will use 1,000 litres of water at 90 degrees C to clean up after each milking (therefore, twice a day). What is the best way to heat that water? Using electricity via resistive heating uses a high quality energy to provide a low quality outcome and is usually therefore very expensive. My understanding is that heat pump hot water systems struggle to achieve temperatures much over 60 degrees, let alone 90. In this situation, farmers might use bottled gas, as being a bit cheaper than electricity – but it’s a fossil fuel. This is a great opportunity for locally sourced wood pellets made from wood waste used in one of the high tech automated clean burning boilers already installed in many thousands in Europe. Achieving the desired outcome sustainably and cheaply any other way looks pretty difficult to me – but it does require burning something.

      • Robin_Harrison 5 years ago

        The burning is already being done. It’s that big shiny ball in the sky. It will provide any amount of hot water and, if it needs boosting, will provide power to do that. What’s more, once you have the infrastructure in place, it’s all for free.

  12. Don Coyne 5 years ago

    Dear Andrew, I am a big advocate of Bioenergy as long as it is created through the process of pyrolisis (heating biomass with limited oxygen). This produces syngas for electricity generation, charcoal/biochar & wood vinegar, tar and bio-oils. The emmissions have been approved and the products produced can be sold for many uses from building materials to Agriculture applications. It will slow the carbon cycle down as biochar doesn’t decompose for up to thousands of years in some cases. The burning of biomass into ash is a toxic fomrula which won’t solve the issue of global warming that we are facing and is causing the division between the Greens and the other side. Chars!! [email protected]

  13. Don Coyne 5 years ago

    Dear Andrew, I am for Bioenergy but only if it done through the process of pyrolisis (heating biomass in limited oxygen) You get 4 productsbesides the syngas for electricity, charcoal/biochar, tar, wood vinegar and bio-oil. These products have many uses that will bring environmental and social outcomes. Burning biomass to ash like we do coal is futile and won’t solve the issue as it is toxic to people and will get groups like the toxic Network offside. Biochar once added to soil will not decompose for up to a thousand years so it will slow the carbon cycle down as well and therefore is a solution to global warming. Carbonization not combustion is the way to go in my opinion and there is a lot of research now been done on the topic of biochar. Chars Don [email protected]

  14. Alex 5 years ago

    Given the subsidies paid to destroy native forests in Tasmania and elsewhere already, the loss of CO2 sucking forests and associated biodiversity, I am suspicious of the “real man’s job” approach to creating renewable energy (big trucks, chainsaws and bulldozers). The “energy” may be renewable, but the forest ecosystems are not. I propose another source of bioenergy- Australia is currently being invaded by high-calorie pasture grasses which are the real carriers of bushfires and are presently changing the environment through destroying shrub layers and old, hollow-bearing trees. If some bright engineer can come up with a means of harvesting Coolatai Grass, Buffell Grass, Gamba Grass and Mission grass, compacting and or pelletising it, we can kill two birds with one stone. Having a device attached to roadside slashers may be one way..

  15. Martin Male 5 years ago

    We must consider in this supposed “green” fuel the full impact of the destruction the ecosystem/forest, the carbon that is released in the production of the biomass, the collection of the materials and finally the removal of the biomass from the ecosystem. The removal the biomass must create an impact , at least deficit of organic matter and nutrient from the matter not decaying as it would naturally. There are also the associated impact of loss of habitat for life forms that are reliant on the ecosystem that the biomass is removed from. I really see no need for such a practice. We have much more fully sustainable energy available from solar and wind . It seems to me this is an attempt by vested interest to continue with unsustainable energy veiled in greenwash.
    I also have no problem with shutting down the destruction of mining or logging in native forests. By the way I am a member of Getup , the ACF , TWS and a supporter of most of the Greens policies, so I am obviously part of the problem;). I also studied ecology as part of my BSc, so I feel I stand on fairly firm ground with what I have professed here.

    I note that you Andrew have a vested interest( I checked out your Linkedin profile)
    in the pushing of this agenda , given your interests, fair enough. Maybe your perspective is not one that is fully sustainable. I seriously question your statement that biomass is “Australia’s largest form of renewable energy,”as mentioned here the increased availability of storage for power is a significant development.

    For me also there is a vast difference between “municipal putrescibles wastes (including sewage and food residues), plantation harvest wastes, and flammable non-recyclable municipal wastes.”and forest waste and harvesting native forest for this practice. I would argue that most of the appeal you blame for preventing the use of biomass would have no problem with the identified sources. We mostly hear about harvesting native forest. Even the most recent RET the discussion went down this path.

    I would suggest that you focus on the non wood material . Finally I would offer if you really wish to present this as a sustainable concept, stop attacking the people who are supportive of alternative/sustainable energy and start engaging with them, I am sure you will find we are a passionate and generally well educated group .

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