Wide Bay Supply Chain Exporting Timber Biofuel

A simple conveyor belt joins Hyne Timber's Tuan Mill and neighbouring Altus Renewables. Such is the way for efficient transformation on one plant's sustainable by-product into another plant’s core business being biofuel.

It is certainly not unusual for large scale plantation softwood processing plants to exist as part of a supply chain hub and while each one of these hubs are unique, the manufacture of timber biofuel for clean, renewable energy production is common place.

In this case, the timber by-product is compressed through a manufacturing process of its own into small pellets which are highly sought after in Japan and some European countries to fuel clean energy production in what were once entirely coal fuelled power stations.

David Knight, Plant Manager of the Altus Renewables' 100,000 MT capacity pellet facility next to Hyne Timber near Maryborough said their customers want durable pellets with high calorific value.

"We essentially buy all the sawdust and shavings we can get from over the fence at Hyne Timber.

"Our plant then densifies the wood by-product including drying the timber to maximise fuel quality while making transport significantly more cost efficient.

"Pellets are transported to the Bundaberg Port by trucks where they are stored in a dedicated building prior to being shipped to customers in Europe and Japan who will co-fire the pellets in their coal-fired power stations.

"Well, at least that’s about 95% of our plants pellets. The other 5% service domestic customers ranging from equestrian bedding, kitty litter to home heating solutions.

"The latter continues to gain popularity in colder climates for the high heat, high efficiency with little ash and fumes, if any. Some heater systems reburn their own fumes for added efficiency and environmental benefits." Mr Knight said.

With products being shipped off overseas or bagged up for other domestic market needs, it’s hardly surprising that many locals don't know these two operations exist in the forest, collectively employing around 200 people directly, and hundreds more indirectly.

David joked that he is often asked what he does for a living and when he replies, "we make pellets", people assume they make timber pallets for transportation.

"Now, I tell people we make biofuel from timber. I might still have to explain that, but it makes for a more interesting conversation." Mr Knight concluded.

Hyne Timber was established in Maryborough in 1882 with the Tuan Mill, now one of the largest softwood processing plants in the Southern Hemisphere, established in 1985.

The company employs around 570 people, 300 of whom are in the Fraser Coast Region alone, a region faced with higher than average unemployment rates.

Altus Renewables, headquartered in Loganholme, QLD is also in the process of working on a new 500,000 MT pellet plant project in the Green Triangle in South Australia. The plant near Maryborough is an example of Advanced Manufacturing, operating a clean, lean process supported by robotics and technology.

Both Hyne Timber and Altus Renewables also fuel their own heat plants using timber biomass from sawdust or timber shavings.