Australian forestry waste-to-energy research making global waves

Sam Van Holsbeeck, forestry waste-to-energy researcher.

Waste-to-energy research for the forestry industry is catapulting a researcher from the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) onto the global stage.

Sam Van Holsbeeck, Senior Research Fellow at USC’s Forest Research Institute, is researching how waste material from Australian sandalwood plantations can be used for fuel.

The parasitic sandalwood tree on average requires two host trees to grow beside it, which are considered a waste product at harvest.

“My research looks at opportunities to use these host trees for feedstock for clean energy and a lower carbon economy,” Van Holsbeeck said.

“Preliminary results show that an average of ten tonnes of waste per hectare is available.”

Van Holsbeeck was recently awarded the national Blue-Sky Young Researchers Innovation Award by the Australian Forest Products Association.

Taking place every two years, the award recognises the work of students and young researchers who are passionate about climate positive forestry and forest products, clean manufacturing, and the forest bioeconomy.

“Growing trees, storing carbon in wood products, and recycling biomass into renewable energy or char products for soil improvement are all positive actions toward the environment,” Van Holsbeeck said.

“Offsetting more emissions than it produces makes forestry the most carbon-positive industry on a local and global level.”

Van Holsbeeck completed a PhD in 2021 focusing on the logistical optimisation of processing forest biomass into energy. He was also recognised in 2020 for his part in developing a computer model for predicting the duration and landscape consumption of bushfires.

He will now represent Australia at the international round of the award, sponsored by the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, where three winners will be selected.

If he is chosen as an international winner, Van Holsbeeck will present his project at the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations Global Roundtable in April 2023.

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