Biomass sources & availability

The New Zealand biomass energy sector is based on a fundamental principle: responsible sourcing. That means that biomass fuel is produced entirely from a combination of the waste or residuals left from harvesting and sawmilling activities, the limited quantities of low-quality logs that need to be removed for forest enhancement or salvage projects and material that can’t be used for any other purpose. 

In forestry or agriculture the residual biomass is that matter left behind after the primary production is extracted. In wood processing the residual biomass is that which is not able to be used to make other higher value timber products.

Sources of biomass

Generally New Zealand biomass fuel is sourced from residues from the forst growing and processing sector, and from organic waste. The bioenergy and biofuels sector is down stream processing of plantation forestry using residues from primary wood producers.

Because the biomass fuel is sourced from wood or waste residues it is sustainable and providing additional revenue to primary agriculture or forestry sector land uses. Biofuels from organic waste residues is also sustainable because it is based on the residues after material which can be recycled or reused is extracted.  

Biomass from a wide range of sources can be processed into a solid biofuel. Wood pellets, chip or hog fuel is the most common solid biofuel and can be produced from any woody biomass.The least amount of pretreatment is required for biomass sourced from wood processors. Herbaceous or organic waste sourced biofuels are generally processed into pellet or briquette form for ease of handling.

The market for biofuels from biomass. is emerging at a fast rate as the demand for solid biofuels increases. Biomass is in demand for other competing uses such as for, animal bedding, engineered wood products and the extraction of biochemicals for the production of bio-based materials to replace plastics such as which are currently produced from fossil fuel sources.

Municipal solid organic waste can also be chipped or briquetted and used as a solid biofuel. Paper and cardboard can be pelletised into a clean fuel. 

New Zealand

Bioenergy Association has identified that around 150 PJ of consumer energy could be derived from biomass and organic waste by 2050. This target of energy could be achieved earlier, with its consequential emissions reduction if Government adopted more supportive policies and programmes. An analysis of where the biomass and organic waste could come from is outlined in a scenario here.  This analysis shows that there is potentially adequate sources of biomass and organic waste if we adopt the policies and programmes recommended. Greater amounts of biomass are potentially available but that has not yet been addressed. There should be no concerned that with a managed biomass supply market, and programmes to assist the recycling of organic waste to produce energy, that there could be adequate resource for the bioenergy, biofuels, engineered wood product and other bio-based material markets. There will only be a shortfall if we do nothing, and that will be primarily due to policy failure.

Background sources of information on the potential availability of solid biofuels across New Zealand are:

All sources

Residual biomass fuel projections for New Zealand

Agriculture and horticulture

Bioenergy Association has established a project "Maximising the quantities of biomass recoverable from the agriculture and horticulture sectors for use as solid biofuel". This project has a has a target of getting 23PJ of our total demand of 150PJ of biomass sourced energy from agriculture and horticulture.

Bioenergy opportunities for rural landowners - potential value propositions for investment

Forestry and harvest residues

Process residues

Biomass from municipal waste


Information on biomass resources in Australia is found on the Biomass Producer website


In New Zealand biomass is derived from the residues from three sustainable sources: Municipal waste, agricultural and food processing residues, and plantation forestry and wood processing.

Using the organic waste or residues from communities and manufacturing is a key objective of sustainable living. It also makes sound sense and can lead to economic benefits of new products and employment. We are good at producing waste and we do it 365/24 so it is a no brainer that we should look at the value that we can extract from it. Energy and the co-products of energy is one of those products.

Bioenergy and biofuels are an integral part of a circular economy as they are produced from thre residues of matter which can not be otherwise reused or recycled.They potentiall ensure that all residual organic matter from communities and manufacturing is reused.

Biogas technologies can be used to reduce  animal effluent run-off to waterways and agricultural residues can be used to improve operating performance of anaerobic digestor equipment.