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Wood Biofuel Initiative

03 Sep 2011

The use of wood as a sustainable biofuel is common overseas, but relatively new to New Zealand.  It was selected by GBC as a substitute for fossil fuels in its cement kiln because its source is renewable, local, readily available and widely accepted by the community as a fuel. In addition, the wood being burned is an industrial by-product that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.

As the wood biofuel is sourced from commercially grown forests, and is therefore carbon neutral, its use by GBC contributes to a reduction in greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions, and helps New Zealand to meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations.

In 2009 GBC had a 16.3 percent wood biofuel substitution rate. The move to an average 25.2 percent in 2010 was the largest increase since the biofuel initiative was commissioned. Over the past 12-months the average substitution rate has increased to over 28 percent. GBC’s biofuel initiative is now one of the most significant contributors to Fletcher Building achieving its target of a 5 percent reduction in 2007 Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CO2e) levels by 2012.

Using wood as a biofuel has greatly reduced waste which would have otherwise gone to landfill or been dumped back into harvested forests. When left to decompose in forests and landfills, this material releases 2.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per tonne of material. This is due to the more potent greenhouse gas (methane) that is released during decomposition. In this way, GBC’s use of wood as biofuel during 2009-10 has saved well over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent gases from being emitted.

GBC has plans to increase wood biofuel substitution beyond current levels. A recent trial of construction and demolition timber as a kiln fuel proved that the GBC Portland cement process is a very efficient and safe form of wood waste disposal, one which has received endorsement from the Northland Regional Council. 

The wood biofuel initiative’s contribution to a sustainable built environment for New Zealand is no more succinctly conveyed than through a single figure - 25 percent  - that being the approximate reduction of cement related CO2 emissions (from fuel) per cubic metre of concrete produced.

Raki Harding of Golden Bay Cement accepts the Excellence in Concrete for the
Community Award from CCANZ CEO Rob Gaimster