Port Blakely’s award-winning project turns slash to wood chips and biofuel

Port Blakely's award-winning project
Wood residue – slash – that used to be left in forests and slopes is now being processed into wood chips and used as biofuel.

Port Blakely has implemented an “in-forest” storage and supply chain to recover wood residue (offcuts) from its forests in South Canterbury. What used to be considered waste is now being processed into wood chips and used as biofuel at the Washdyke Energy Centre.

This initiative along with other projects has been recognised, winning the Environment Canterbury Sustainability and Environmental Commercial Award at the 2023 South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards in Timaru on August 18.

Port Blakely South Island Regional Manager Andrew Cocking says it’s great to be acknowledged for the hard work Port Blakely does for other businesses and for people in rural communities, and the award is encouraging its long-term commitment to sustainability even further. “We continue to explore and adopt new environmental and sustainability initiatives, most recently our successful development of wood-residue recovery operations,” he says.

This bio-fuel operation has significantly reduced slash and woody debris that would otherwise be left on slopes and skids. It is also having economic and environmental benefits for contractors and local-processing businesses that have switched from coal to biofuels for energy needs.

Port Blakely has always been innovative in its forest management but has ‘upped the ante’ by developing and implementing wood residue recovery production from its harvesting operations, that is then sold “on skid” within the forest to a range of customers who then chip and supply energy biofuel to a range of local customers requiring heat processing solutions.

Port Blakely is now supplying 16,000 tonnes a year to Wood Energy NZ Ltd for its Washdyke Energy Centre in Timaru. Wood chips are coming via this in-forest system.

“For us, it’s important that we engage with the local communities in our operations and that we build genuine partnerships.”

The 2023 South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards judges were impressed that what had previously been waste was now being put to good use as biofuel. They also took note of the other initiatives Port Blakely is engaged in, including ongoing access to local community events for fundraising activities to the maintenance of mountain biking trails in its forests.

Port Blakely’s core business is forestry operations and the production of high-quality saw logs for both domestic and export markets. This all comes from its 40,000 hectares of sustainably managed forests here in New Zealand. It is also working closely with regional stakeholders and other industries to help achieve New Zealand’s decarbonisation goals agreed to internationally.

“We have also recently developed a subsidiary business to produce Douglas Fir Essential Oils from one of the forests in the East Otago region – this is a new and exciting business opportunity. We have built an in-forest essential oil manufacturing plant within a 4000-hectare Douglas Fir Forest planted back in 1997-1998.”

“For us, it’s important that we engage with the local communities in our operations and that we build genuine partnerships.” While Port Blakely’s core business is growing, harvesting and marketing production timber, carbon forestry has provided the opportunity to be more economically sustainable by adding value to its bottom line.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2023 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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