All New Zealand’s vehicles could run on locally made softwood ethanol

The results from a study by an international collaboration between New Zealand’s Scion and AgResearch research institutes, Carter Holt Harvey and Verenium Corporation has found that there are no significant technical or supply barriers to producing ethanol from New Zealand’s softwood feedstocks, despite previous concerns that it was technically too difficult and too expensive.

The recently completed study into the development of biofuels for New Zealand evaluated the infrastructure, technology and economics of a transportation biofuel facility using New Zealand softwood plantation forests as feedstocks. It also considered opportunities to utilise existing infrastructure from the pulp and paper industry and Verenium’s proprietary enzymes to convert wood and wood residues into sugars which are then be fermented and refined into ethanol.

The study found there is both sufficient wood and wood residues available in New Zealand to supply a commercial-scale ethanol refinery, and a domestic market large enough to support it.

The results of the study provide a potential scenario where New Zealand’s entire vehicle fleet could run on nationally grown and manufactured wood-derived biofuels.

Biofuels generated from softwood feedstocks actively addresses key aspects of the 2007 New Zealand Energy Strategy, a major focus of which is on transitioning New Zealand to a low-carbon energy future.The New Zealand Government has established a Biofuels Sales Obligation of 3.4% transport biofuels by 2012 and set a target to stabilise the country’s net greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 equivalent levels by 2030.

Carter Holt Harvey’s James Flexman says:

A facility located in the Central North Island producing 90 million litres of ethanol per annum could fulfil the petrol component of the government’s BSO by supplying a 10% ethanol gasoline blend (E10) to the North Island.

Needless to say, all parties to the collaboration are enthusiastic about the results. You can read their comments in the press release.

Scion expects to release another report within the next month: Bioenergy Options for New Zealand, which outlines the volume of plantation forests that would be needed, and how they should be managed, for New Zealand to fuel itself from renewable resources.

Source: Scion via SMH

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