Production of renewable diesel based on cellulosic feedstocks will be coming to New Zealand very shortly, with at least two parties seriously interested in investment in this business. Miscanthus is an almost ideal feedstock for such renewable diesel production and has shown itself to be cost-effective. This is not only because of its low moisture content when harvested, but also because of its low sulphur levels when compared with many crop alternatives.
MNZ is able to organise the planting of quite large areas of Miscanthus for this use. This is expected to commence as soon as funding for the first such renewable diesel project is finalised. MNZ would be interested in talking with anybody who is keen on planting commercial sized areas of Miscanthus – at least 10 ha – to see whether they can be fitted into such a scheme, with a guaranteed long-term off-take agreement for the product that they will produce and a guaranteed price, indexed to inflation.
The benefits to New Zealand in replacing imported diesel or imported crude oil to make diesel are obvious, as are benefits in terms of reductions in net carbon dioxide emissions through the use of this very low carbon technology. In fact one of the co-products of the production of renewable diesel using the technology to which MNZ has access, is very high quality biochar. When used for soil improvement, this means that this carbon is effectively permanently sequestered and as such has the prospect of creating carbon benefits under the New Zealand emissions trading scheme, after it is revised in late 2015.
There are reputedly other benefits from such biochar relating to livestock growth and reductions in ruminant methane emissions. Thes are currently being formally documented with a plan for them to be verified by follow-up research in New Zealand. If these proved benefits to be real, the benefits to New Zealand agriculture, the benefits to New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions, and the benefits to the purchasers of farm products will all be clear.