“It’s a big pile.”
David McGinness, Risk Manager at timber processor AKD Softwoods, and director of their woodchip export facility in Geelong, is describing 250,000 tonnes of timber residue produced each year from the conversion of logs to solid timber product at its Colac facilities. Structural timber is the mainstay of the Colac-based business, which was founded by an association of families in 1955. But the company produces bulk quantities also of pine woodchips, shavings and sawdust for export, particularly to Asia.
AKD is interested in working with Cluster members to extract more value from the residues, which currently only attract around a seventh of the price of the solid timber it sells to large truss and frame manufacturers, wholesalers and retail and trade outlets such as Bunnings.
While all the residue is currently repurposed — with much sold to China and Japan for paper and packaging or biomass power generation, and the balance used on site to generate heat to dry timber — Mr McGinness wants to explore more advanced options for extracting greater value from the long-term resource.
“At the moment it is all in demand – in other words, it all goes. But is it going into the best product it can go into?” he tells the Cluster. “That is the key: can we find a higher and better use? And can we do it locally?”
The Australian-owned business – the AKD part stands for Associated Kiln Driers – has operations in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and operates six sawmills, three timber preservation businesses and a softwood chip export operation.
The six sawmills produce more than a million cubic metres of timber a year. The company also owns a 9,000 hectare pine estate.
“I think the idea of creating an industry around a supply source, a technology base or infrastructure makes sense. In that respect, Geelong is ideally placed for value-adding to wood fibre. There is ample raw material, easy distribution to major cities or export and the city has the technology and research capacity on hand.”David McGinness |Risk Manager, AKD Softwoods
“By cutting square timber out of round logs, you end up with something left over – that’s our residue – sawdust, shavings and chip – which is all valuable wood fibre,” Mr McGinness says.
“Wood fibre can be used for so much more than just pulp and paper; cellophane, sponges, bioplastics, textiles and biodegradable packaging to name a few.”
AKD is interested to make connections with local organisations via the Cluster to investigate and exploit opportunities that can create value.