Saturday, December 2, 2023

Wood fuel trial good news for Fonterra, foresters

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Genesis’ Huntly wood fuel trial confirms same fuel source can be used for different boiler types, says Whineray.
Fonterra COO Fraser Whineray says the wood pellet technology’s compatibility in boilers means Fonterra and Genesis can help underpin demand for the fuel.
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Fonterra has welcomed the success of Genesis’ Huntly wood fuel trial, and what it may mean for the companies’ combined energy options.

Fraser Whineray, Fonterra’s chief operating officer, said the trial confirms the two companies could use essentially the same fuel source for different boiler types.

Fonterra already uses a type of wood pellet in some of its factory boilers, and plans to have all coal-fired boilers gone by 2037. 

“This means they [Genesis] can extend Huntly’s life and we can use our existing boilers, which is of course a lot cheaper than replacing them,” he said.

The results provide assurance to the upstream market that  there is a definite application for the wood fuel. 

Whineray also said having two large corporate users with very different seasonal demand profiles helps spread the risk for a company wanting to invest in the wood pellet technology.

He said Genesis’s efforts in trialling the pellets have been admirable, given that any issues around safety and potential damage to a major national asset are always a risk in such a trial.

He suspected the pellet technology would have the greatest application in Fonterra’s South Island plants, but an end-to-end study would be needed to assess the logistics of supply, and where raw materials would be sourced.

Forestry companies have expressed an interest in a pellet plant in Te Tairāwhiti as means to deal with forest waste issues. 

Whineray said if there is to be any transporting of fuel product, adding value to its low-value raw material would have to happen close to that waste product’s source.

By his estimates Fonterra would require access to about 77,000ha of low-grade logs and slash from a forest on rotation to replace the company’s entire coal needs.

Suggestions that the government could contribute to kick-start a plant could come into play once there has been a full analysis of the wood fuel’s economics, he said.

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