Transformational adaptation for the wheatbelt: energy tree cropping - Richard Bennett

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  • role that energy tree cropping of oil malleesplay in the adaptation of Australia’s traditional farming systems to climate change. Using some recent economic modelling from FFI CRC demonstrates oil mallees a viable industry sets out the path to that industry.I’m working at CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences Thank Kevin – CEO at FFI and Amir - Dept Env Cons, WA assistance putting this together
  • picture of the production of oil mallees in Australiahere is a very efficient layout of production componentsbelts of small eucalyptus treesSpaces dedicated to growing crops or pastures. many farmers are already growing mallees for environmental benefits, such as this photoDespite no industry available for the trees.a recent economic analysis of the supply chain mapped out a path to the industry, demonstrates viable mallee energy crop industry can be created, Will also talk about the benefits of this system for farmers and how it will help them adapt to climate change.three stages of the Energy tree crop industry – the production, the harvest and transport and the processing.
  • The production side of the industry involves, as I mentioned, growing mallee trees in belts.The most efficient layout consists of two rows of trees in each belt, with alleys between the belts of up to 80 or 100m. In between the belts the farmers are free to continue their regular operations.trees are well adapted to dry conditions, have an adaptation to fire which allows them to regrow from a stump. trees can be harvested by cutting at ground level, trees are able to grow back rapidly. coppicing and is an important aspect that makes the industry viable, establishment costs are discounted over many harvests for 50 to 100 years that the trees are healthy and vigourous.
  • harvest and supply of the mallee biomass to a processing centre. analysis shows that to be economical, harvester able cut and chip trees at rate of 60 T/h. handling of the chipped material must be minimised as much as possible, Need to chip directly into a following truck. critical aspect of the supply chain transport from farm to processor should be less than 50km.photo is of a prototype harvesterdeveloped by Biosystems Engineering with funding from the FFICRC and the WA state government’s Low Energy Emission Development fund. Has ability to harvest 20 t/h is now under development to optimise the efficiency.
  • The final component is the processing of biomass to generate energy, but also biofuels and oils. photo is experimental scale 1MW Integrated Biomass processor at Narrogin was successfully trialled by Verve energy. Verve are now keen to start development of a commercial scale 5MW processor that is simpler and more efficient.
  • OK, on to the recent economic modelling that demonstrates that this mallee industry can be a viable enterprise for Australian farmers.The model sets out a path to a a viable industry by 2022 which generates 176MW of energy from Mallee biomass and will offset 9.1Million tonnes of Co2 over that period.
  • The first part of the model deals with the cost of the supply of biomass to the processor.Obviously farmers will need to be paid whatever it costs them to grow, harvest and transport the biomass to a processor and make some profit. So this cost is effectively the cost of biomass to the processor. The lower this cost, more competitive Biomass becomes as a source of energy to a processor.You can see that as it stands now, it costs somwhere around 90 to 100$ to get a tonne of biomass to the processor.
  • The first part of the model deals with the cost of the supply of biomass to the processor.Obviously farmers will need to be paid whatever it costs them to grow, harvest and transport the biomass to a processor and make some profit. So this cost is effectively the cost of biomass to the processor. The lower this cost, more competitive Biomass becomes as a source of energy to a processor.You can see that as it stands now, it costs somwhere around 90 to 100$ to get a tonne of biomass to the processor.
  • You will also note that the actual costs incurred in production of the biomass (the opportunity cost of displacing crops with trees, the competition effect of trees on adjacent agriculture and the cost of establishment) is a very small part of this supply cost.
  • By far the largest costs come when the farmer hires a contractor to harvest and transport this biomass to the processor.
  • Consultation with energy providers and the energy value of mallee biomass has set a price that processors can afford to pay farmers of 50$/green tonne of biomass.In order to make the industry viable, therefore, we must cut this cost of supply, and the most obvious place to start is the harvest and transport component of this cost.
  • To reduce this harvest cost FFI CRC, who are pushing hard for the development of this industry, and the WA state government, from their Low emissions energy development fund, have funded the development of new harvesters specifically designed to harvest mallees.
  • As I mentioned before, the prototype 1 harvester has been trialled and is now being optimised. In addition, over time the cost of all the other components is expected to decline as the scale of the industry increases and specially adapted technology becomes available.At the end of the prototype harvester development, the cost of supply of biomass is reduced dramatically to around 65$ per tonne.
  • At the end of the prototype harvester development, the cost of supply of biomass is reduced dramatically to around 65$ per tonne.
  • OK, onto the scale of demand.These bars represent the quantity of biomass that could be supplied and fed into processors over the course of the next 25 years. The different colours represent different processors in different states. orange bars on bottom represents a processor in WA that at maximum capacity could process 200 thousand t of biomass every year, the green and blue bars represent the scale of two other processing centres that would either be based in Victoria or NSW, and able to consume up to 1.2 M T biomass per year.You might notice that there is a period of a few years where biomass is being consumed by processors but the cost of biomass supply exceeds the processors preferred price. This is an impediment to the development of the industry that could be overcome through government intervention, possibly in the form of subsidies.
  • OK, onto the scale of demand.These bars represent the quantity of biomass that could be supplied and fed into processors over the course of the next 25 years. The different colours represent different processors in different states. orange bars on bottom represents a processor in WA that at maximum capacity could process 200 thousand t of biomass every year, the green and blue bars represent the scale of two other processing centres that would either be based in Victoria or NSW, and able to consume up to 1.2 M T biomass per year.You might notice that there is a period of a few years where biomass is being consumed by processors but the cost of biomass supply exceeds the processors preferred price. This is an impediment to the development of the industry that could be overcome through government intervention, possibly in the form of subsidies.
  • OK, onto the scale of demand.These bars represent the quantity of biomass that could be supplied and fed into processors over the course of the next 25 years. The different colours represent different processors in different states. orange bars on bottom represents a processor in WA that at maximum capacity could process 200 thousand t of biomass every year, the green and blue bars represent the scale of two other processing centres that would either be based in Victoria or NSW, and able to consume up to 1.2 M T biomass per year.You might notice that there is a period of a few years where biomass is being consumed by processors but the cost of biomass supply exceeds the processors preferred price. This is an impediment to the development of the industry that could be overcome through government intervention, possibly in the form of subsidies.
  • There are challenges to the development of the industry and ongoing sustainability must be considered. The costs of harvest and transport are the largest hurdle for the industry. But this may be offset by even very small public support in the early years.Sustainability considerations include the nutrients that trees will require to continue to provide crop after crop of biomass, and the extent of productivity decline once the excess soil moisture from years of annual crops is depleted. The harvest interval and management of trees must be carefully managed to minimise any long term productivity decline as trees age and we also do not fully understand the effects of this management of the net biomass or C balance of the tree’s roots.
  • The industry offers environmental benefits too, through salinity control and improved biodiversity; Intelligent placement of belts on contours will improve the management of water and nutrient balance; It can provide Carbon neutral or even C positive energy generation, and will displace the use of fossil fuels to the tune of 1.3MT/yr.
  • The mallee biomass energy industry is able to provide economic and environmental benefits to agricultural regions and farmers and play a significant role in the adaptation of Australian farms to climate change. Economic benefits to farmers include improved animal health and welfare by offering shelter to livestock, more diversified income streams that do not displace traditional income sources, minimal impact on cashflow from short rotation woody crops, lower year on year risk due to more stable yield over time, and higher overall farm productivity due to the tree’s improved access to otherwise wasted water and nutrient resources.Note extra diff from c is not a dealbreaker
  • Mallee tree cropping can also provide economic benefits to the regions where it takes place. New industries are created in harvest, transport and management of the supply chain and in processing the biomass. It will provide baseload power to regional areas and reduce transmission losses from a decentralised generation network.Also will result in improved energy security for Australia and especially these localised regions.
  • As a bit of perspective,bioenergy in one form or another currently makes up 10 % of global energy needs, half of which is in the form of simply burning wood for heating.Finland and Sweden are international leaders in the use of bioenergy, with Biomass used for 23% of Finlands primary energy needs, and 32% of total energy used in Sweden. In Sweden, the use of energy from Biomass exceeded oil based energy in 2009.Future projections by the Int En Ag indicate that bioenergy could make up a third of the energy market by 2050.In comparison to these impressive numbers, Australis’a Biomass energy market is tiny, currently accounting for 0.7 of a percent of total electricity supply and less than half a percent of fuels.What this suggests is that Australia has plenty of room for growth in Bioenergy. So I’m here to talk about one system that can help our agricultural systems adapt to climate change while providing for this market called Oil Mallee Energy Tree Cropping.
  • This graph models the cashflow available frommallee crops and the more traditional farm enterprises of mixed crop and livestock. First you will notice that over time the cash flow from the mallee system is higher, mainly due to more predictable yields by effectively smoothing out the year to year variation that affects the traditional income sources. I would also like to point out that although the cashflow from mallees is negative for the first five years while mallees are establishing and the farmer cannot harvest, the cost of this initial outlay is completely covered by just the first harvest. And cashflow is positive for each subsequent 3 yearly harvest. The other thing this graph demonstrates is that even if credits for carbon sequestration are included in the farmer’s income, this only makes up a very small portion of the cashflow and is not necessary to ensure a profitable crop.
  • To put some more numbers on the scale of the industry, the numbers in this box show the number of ha of mallees that are required to satisfy the demand from processors, and the greenhouse gasses that can be offset over the course of the model.
  • At the end of the modelled 25 years, 9.1 M T of co2-e has been offset, the equivalent of around 2 million cars for one year, and 1.3 m T, the equivalent of 3% of the cars on the road today can be offset every year .

Transcript

  • 1. Transformational adaptation for the wheatbelt: energy tree cropping Richard Bennett; Amir Abadi; Kevin Goss
  • 2. Australian mallee system
  • 3. Mallee system 1 - productionBelts ofcoppicing, droughttolerant trees• Integration with dominant grain, meat and wool enterprises• Coppicing trees allow regular and repeated harvests (3-5yrs)
  • 4. Mallee system 2 – harvest/transp.Contractors harvest andtransport woodbiomass Photo of harvester • harvesting & chipping at >60 T/h prototype in • economic transport action distance ~50 km
  • 5. Mallee system 3 - processing Biomass processing centres • renewable energy • fuel • char • oilEnergy source that is:• C neutral to C positive• Base-load – complements wind and solar
  • 6. The path to an industryA viable industry before 2025 Generating 176MW Offsetting 9.1 Mt CO2-e
  • 7. The path to an industry
  • 8. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 9. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 10. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 11. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 12. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 13. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 14. The path to an industry -- cost of supply --
  • 15. The path to an industry -- scale of demand --
  • 16. The path to an industry -- scale of demand --
  • 17. The path to an industry -- scale of demand --
  • 18. Challenges to industry development Cost of harvest and haulage largest hurdle –Prototype harvesters under development – Initial cost biomass cost offsets? Ongoing sustainability considerations – early reliance on stored soil moisture / nutrients – productivity decline long-term – Net C balance of roots
  • 19. Transforming agriculture Environmental benefits to farms and regions• Provide salinity and biodiversity benefits• Smart belt placement can improve water and nutrient balances• Neutral or positive carbon balance• Viable industry will displace fossil fuels emissions to 1.3 MT CO2-e / year
  • 20. Transforming agriculture Economic benefits to farmers• Improved animal welfare – shelter from elements• Diversify farm incomes – complement existing agriculture• Maintains cash flow – regular harvests• Stability of yield – lower year on year risk• Higher total productivity – use of excess resources
  • 21. Transforming agriculture Economic benefits to regions• New regional industries – harvesting, transporting and processing• Provide local base-load power to regional areas reducing transmission losses• Improved energy security• Mallees for bioenergy will be strategically important for Australias renewable energy future
  • 22. Key references• Future Farm Industries CRC (2010) Energy Tree Crops: Renewable energy from biomass could be the driver to large scale adoption of woody crops and to structural improvement to dryland agricultural systems in Australia• Bartle, J. Abadi, A. (2010) Toward Sustainable Production of Second Generation Bioenergy Feedstocks. Energy Fuels 24, 2–9.