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Energy centre switches from coal in $2.28m project

4 July 2023

The elimination of coal at a Washdyke (in the north of Timaru, south Canterbury, NZ) energy business will reduce CO2 emissions by 14,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 3115 cars off the road, the company says. Washdyke Energy Centre, on Meadows Rd, has transitioned to 100% sustainable biomass, with the Pioneer Energy-owned asset commissioned at the start of April.

The NZ$2.28 million multiphase project also received funding in the second-phase with NZ$900,000 from the Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry fund. The centre’s two boilers, totalling 21MW, have been supplying steam to DB Breweries, Tasman Tanning, and Juice Products, in Washdyke for the past 10 years.

Last week, fellow Washdyke business Woolworks announced the removal of a coal-fired boiler from its wool scour. Washdyke Energy Centre site supervisor Chris Walsh said the decision to transfer from coal to wood had been made a couple of years ago, as it was better for the environment with lower emissions. “And personally working with wood is much better than coal,’’ Walsh said.

Pioneer Energy chief executive Fraser Jonker said the company had built its management system “around not just our physical sites, but to also include assets like our people and customers, commonly overlooked as assets’’.

The commissioning of the second boiler marked a milestone in Pioneer Energy’s journey to sustainability, having committed to eliminating coal as a primary fuel from all sites by April 2024.

To achieve this target, a resilient biomass supply chain was required, leading to a partnership with Niagara Saw Milling, forming Wood Energy New Zealand (WENZ). WENZ managing director Nigel Ellett said it had built a robust supply chain to ensure customers’ energy demands throughout the year were being met.

“Our supply chain has been tested in adverse weather conditions, and we always delivered fuel to our customers. This strength is vital as more companies move away from fossil fuels.” As well as supplying the Washdyke Energy Centre and other sites around the South Island, the WENZ partnership had been developing new strategies for the continued sustainable harvesting of timber.

Most recently, the company started harvesting material from wilding pine forests in the Mackenzie Country – meaning it increased the supply potential while positively impacting the environment through the control of the invasive pest species. Biomass trials and development continued at other Pioneer Energy sites as the effort to decarbonise New Zealand’s energy continued.

As part of the regions efforts to learn from early innovators like Pioneer Energy who are aggregating and supplying biofuels to operations such as Washdyke, the upcoming Residues2Revenues 2023 event running in Rotorua, NZ on 25-26 July will be profiling a raft of innovative residues extraction, drying, handling and transport systems.


Nigel Ellett, General Manager of Wood Energy NZ, will be outlining how a thermal energy generator and supplier has been able to supply growing volumes of biofuel to meet the significant growth in customer demand. Full details on the July programme and event can be found on the event website. Late registrations to what’s going to be again another major gathering of log harvesting, forest management and wood processing companies, aggregators of biofuels and heat plant operators from across NZ and Australia can be made by clicking here.

Source & Photo: stuff