18 Feb 2014

Diesel from new multi-purpose crop

9:26 am on 18 February 2014

A company trialling miscanthus as a new crop in New Zealand expects to be producing diesel from it this year.

Miscanthus, which originates in Japan, is a perennial grass which grows up to 4m high and is closely related to sugar cane. Overseas, it's burned as a fuel and used for livestock bedding.

Miscanthus New Zealand managing director Peter Brown said it was aiming to step up production of the crop this year to supply a plant producing renewable diesel. That followed a series of successful growing trials nationwide.

"By the look of things, it'll be up in the central North Island. We'll probably start it off using sawdust, because it's readily available and getting sufficient miscanthus will take a bit longer because you really have to have it going for two years to get up to production levels," Mr Brown said.

"We'll be getting significant areas planted this coming spring, as long as we have sufficient interest from people."

Miscanthus was also being investigated as an alternative heating fuel at one a trial sites near Darfield, in Canterbury, where 2ha had been planted on Fonterra land.

It was planted in an attempt to assess it as a suitable crop to grow under the spray irrigation of effluent from the Darfield dairy factory, with the intention of harvesting it and using it to replace coal.

"It's looking quite promising and we're pretty confident now that if somebody like Fonterra said they wanted so many thousand tonnes a year, we could say 'you'll need to have this many hectares planted' and we could scout around the district and get that many hectares planted on various properties," Mr Brown said.

Other trials were looking at miscanthus as shelter belts and for its stock feed potential.