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Environmentalists in the NSW Hunter area have vowed to oppose a program to export woodchips

Environmentalists said they would fight a proposal to export nearly 60,000 tonnes of the woodchips per year from Newcastle for use in Japanese power plants. Sweetman Renewables has agreed to supply biomass to 4 biomass power facilities in Japan for the next 20 years under a 20-year supply contract with Sinanen Holdings. The business, which is looking for investors, also claims it plans to offer a woodchip-fed hydrogen facility in the Hunter region, which it would build in a partnership with the Singapore’s CAC-H2.

According to John Halkett, the company’s chairman, the idea is to build a hub in Hunter Valley that will “use biomass to make green hydrogen-rich syngas and allied goods like wood vinegar, biochar, and activated carbon.” The proposal has been slammed by NSW Nature Conservation Council, which claims that any intention to export the woodchips or utilize them locally for the biomass fuel was going to be disastrous for the state’s forests.

Chris Gambian, the council’s chief executive, said, “There is never a good justification to destroy our natural woods, but turning them into the woodchips to burn in the Japanese power plants is utterly foolish.” Sweetman Renewables owns a sawmill in Millfield, near Cessnock, that was previously run by the Sweetman family.

Woodchips for the new initiatives will be sourced from current sawmill and wood processing companies in the mid-north coast area south of Kempsey, according to Halkett. Some of the content could also originate from recognized forestry enterprises’ non-sawlog material, he noted. He explained, “We aren’t really about felling trees except than those that have previously been authorized for harvesting under lawful contractual wood supply arrangements.” “Sweetman is dedicated to sustainable, regulated forest management and forest biodiversity conservation.”

Woodchip shipments from Newcastle halted in 2013, according to Gambian, following a long conservation campaign. “Anyone considering a Sweetman Renewables investment should be warned that the environmental movement will not stop until this project is dead and gone,” he stated.

Christine Milne, the former leader of the Australian Greens, remarked that cutting and burning native forests were “nothing green.” “Trying to recast cutting native forests as well as the export of the woodchips as the ‘renewable biomass’ is logging industry’s latest greenwashing trick,” she said.

“In an era of climate and biodiversity collapse, biomass is simply the logging and woodchip industry’s last-ditch effort to keep a failing sector alive by harvesting native forests and shipping them to China and Japan to be burned for energy.”

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