3 July 1998

Can Cutting Down More Trees Help Save The Environment?

In Australia the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO) has come up with a way to help Australia reach its Kyoto greenhouse target using activated charcoal made from timber waste.

Activated charcoal is widely used in the food preparation and mining industries to remove toxins from water. Australia's mining industry uses huge quantities of imported charcoal for gold processing.

The new CSIRO technology, developed by Paul Fung, uses timber mill waste, traditionally discarded or sold as low-grade garden mulch. This waste is super-heated in a "fluidized" sand-bed where the gases from the burnt wood are used to maintain the temperature.

The partially burnt charcoal is recovered and sorted before being treated with steam to complete the activation process.

Excess heat can then be used for electricity co-generation and other energy saving processes.

If proven to be commercially successful the new technology has the potential to help both the environment and Australia's balance of trade. More importantly, the new process may help other countries meet their greenhouse targets too.