Bioenergy currently contributes just 0.5 per cent to Australia’s total electricity supply, with energy generation from wood related waste and residues occurring on a very small scale. Research projects in this category sought to promote the development and deployment of sustainable bioenergy generation based on forest industries resources on a commercial scale. Research was also focused on identifying the resources required to realise the opportunities presented by bioenergy. There were six projects funded in this group to the order of $1 million. Their areas of research were diverse and spread across many aspects of the utilisation of forest products for bioenergy.
The six projects, outlined in further detail below are:
- Forest based bioenergy generation in Australia
- Conversion of eucalyptus forest waste residues to biofuel
- Sawmill biomass fuel study
- Mitigating climate change through the sustainable production and use of forest biomass for bioenergy production–identifying native forest species as potential biofuel crops
- Assessment of the environmental and economic opportunities and constraints associated with bioenergy production from forest biomass in two prospective regions of Australia
- Adapting and mitigating climate change through the sustainable production and use of forest biomass for commercial scale bioenergy production
Forest based bioenergy generation in Australia
The objective of this study was to analyse the impacts of bioenergy on Australia’s forests, conduct an audit of the resources available for energy production and make recommendations on where further research should be targeted. Through the project an audit of the wood resources available for bioenergy production was conducted along with an analysis of the extent of existing wood based bioenergy generation in Australia.
The project found that the total biomass residues available from Australia’s forest and wood processing sectors is approximately 18 million cubic meters per annum. While the majority of this material is currently committed to existing domestic and export markets it may be potentially available in the future. These residues have the capacity to be used for bioenergy in power generation, liquid fuels, wood pellets, and heat production. These various uses can be selected and optimised on a regional basis by considering factors such as the size of a given processing facility in the region, feed availability and the size and proximity of the proposed product market. This study will contribute to the understanding of the opportunities for bioenergy in Australia’s climate change mitigation efforts and help meet energy demands for the industry.
Conversion of eucalypt forestry waste residues to biofuel
University of New England
This project examined the use of renewable resources from forestry for biofuels production. It was the first to provide further insight into pre–treating eucalyptus forest thinning with dilute–acid and enzyme hydrolysis for biofuel production making it a significant project. In order to get optimal use of lignocellulosic biomasss, pre–treatment is required to allow effective enzymatic hydrolysis to take place. This project looked at the biochemical pre–treatment options for cellulose processing and lignin separation of eucalypts. The outcomes of the project support a eucalypt forest–thinning based second generation biofuels (bio–refinery) industry in regional Australia, particularly Northern NSW.
Sawmill biomass fuel study
South East Fibre Exports
This project looked at the use of hardwood and softwood biomass generated by debarking and chipping operations at both the South East Fibre Exports (SEFE) woodchip facility and eight other processing plants in south east NSW and east Gippsland. These waste biomass outputs were measured for quality and quantity to determine fuel handling and transport options to meet the needs of developing an economically viable method of bioenergy production.
Outputs created by the project include a Biomass Fuel Cost Model, which determines the cost of landing wood by–products suitable for use in bioenergy generation from sawmills and wood processing facilities to a suitable bioenergy facility. The generic Biomass Fuel Cost Model could be applied to other potential bioenergy sites. The report also improved understanding of the size and bio–physical characteristics of the biomass resources and provided a literature review identifying knowledge gaps, risks and opportunities for expanding existing sawmill and timber processing practises to allow biomass production. Finally, the report created a handling manual for production of biomass for bioenergy at timber processing facilities to minimise environmental impacts and maximise economic and environmental benefits. This manual has national application and could be used by other timber processing facilities.
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Mitigating climate change through the sustainable production and use of forest biomass for bioenergy production–identifying native forest species as potential biofuel crops.
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)
This project conducted a practical appraisal of potential for near–term bioenergy growth in Australia and assessed the commercial potential for forest based biomass usage in the bioenergy industry. The benefits from this project can be applied on a large scale as Australia has a large proportion of land that is marginal for food production but suitable for lignocelluloses production from trees.
The project identified a selection of 38 ‘best–bet’ eucalyptus species for biofuel production in South East Queensland and New South Wales. The information was gathered through a workshop with researchers from Florasearch and others working on species selection as well as through laboratory analysis of selected species. This research will help guide future research into species used for biofuel production.
Assessment of the environmental and economic opportunities and constraints associated with bioenergy production from forest biomass in two prospective regions of Australia
This project assessed the economic cost and greenhouse gas benefits of using forest biomass for bioenergy and biofuel production with different energy technology strategies in two case study regions in Australia. By using forest production data and models, economic modelling, life cycles and GIS data this project has determined that co–firing is competitive with coal fired electricity production and the inclusion of incentives will increase the competitiveness.
Adapting and mitigating climate change through the sustainable production and use of forest biomass for commercial scale bioenergy production
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC)
This project aimed to quantify biomass left behind after harvest operations in the Macquarie region of NSW. A stakeholder survey of land managers was also conducted to determine how a bioenergy–based agroforestry industry may provide potential economic and social benefits, contribute to landscape–scale natural resource management goals and what incentives and barriers exist to uptake the industry. Results identify a number of potential barriers and benefits of creating a bioenergy–based agroforestry industry.