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New solid fuel business. Initial results show success
1 April 2015
New solid fuel business. Initial results show success

COMPANY CHAIRMAN: Peter Hutchison, pictured at the Barkette pilot plant’s furnace dryer, is one of five investors in Sustainable Solid Fuels New Zealand

 

A NEW industry is taking shape in Kawerau to make a solid cylindrical fuel suitable for domestic fireplaces from bark and wood waste.

Production of the carbon neutral product – Barkettes – could employ up to 50 people once a fully operational plant is built.

Sustainable Solid Fuels (SSF) New Zealand is operating a pilot plant on the Macaulay Metals site at the end of Manukorihi Drive. The Barkettes are 240-millimetres long and 90mm in diameter.

SSF chairman Peter Hutchison, one of five New Zealand-based investors in the project, said the initial results were “very promising”.

He said the plant was adapted from old and new technology and the company had spent in excess of $500,000 “to get here”.

The pilot plant employed five to 10 people now but once a fully operational plant was built it could provide employment for 40 to 50 people, he said.

The wood waste is dried by heat generated from a furnace and is then made into Barkettes under extreme pressure.

No chemicals are used in the process and the Barkettes are bound together by natural components contained within wood.

The plant did not use geothermal steam but Mr Hutchison said that was a possibility for a larger export plant, which was possibly six to 12 months away.

He said Kawerau was chosen as the preferred location for the project because of its readily available supply of raw material, skilled labour and suitable modern premises.

“We are appreciative of the support received from Kawerau District Council and the Kawerau community.

“From day-one the community embraced the company, offering assistance whenever possible.

“We’ve had favours from everybody and will return the commitment they have given us at some stage,” Mr Hutchison said.

The plant is another success story for the Kawerau business community’s Industrial Symbiosis project, which leverages business and jobs from Kawerau’s forest-based industries, geothermal energy and easy access to the Port of Tauranga

Mr Hutchison said the pilot plant had become operational over the past few weeks and had the capability to produce up to 1500 tonnes of Barkettes a month – a high-quality solid fuel for New Zealand homes.

He said the product also had export potential, making it a viable alternative to wood and coal.

SSF received its first domestic order on Monday last week.

“We won’t do export until we know we have consistent production,” Mr Hutchison said.

Mr Hutchison said SSF believed its solid fuel product met the latest international clean air emissions standards, and all the claims made by SSF about the product had been verified by the forestry research body  Scion and by company suppliers.

Mr Hutchison said the product’s price was competitive and when burnt it produced no dangerous emissions.

He said at 3 percent or less the ash content was low, and it was non-toxic.

“You can spread it on your garden.”

Mr Hutchison said the raw material was from a local supplier but he could not reveal the source.

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell said the plant showed that the industrial symbiosis project was starting to come together.

Earlier this year Kawerau sawmiller Sequal Lumber began operating two timber-drying kilns heated by geothermal steam, supplied by Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal Assets.

This development is also seen as underscoring Kawerau’s efforts to further-develop the town as a major wood processing centre.

Sequal Lumber has 50 employees and has been operating from Manukorihi Drive since 2008.

The new kiln driers are capable of drying 2000 cubic metres of timber a month and Sequal’s goal is to lift this to 6000 cubic metres a month by the end of the year.

 

Source: Whakatane Beacon

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