Friday, November 30, 2012

The Emerging Carbon Economy in North Australia

The print media is all over this today, with syndicated versions of the press release on line and in print at many regional newspapers.

It could be a good thing - but there is work to do beforehand, and it will not happen overnight.

There are some issues also worth considering, that are not in the report.  Algae production has started at Karratha - growing algal cultures and harvesting for conversion to biofuel or other materials including animal feeds is promising.   So is use of duckweed especially in wastewater ponds, or any nutrient rich water source, even irrigation tailwater [ ther ewill be more of that] to clean it of nutrients before it re-enters downstream rivers.

Northern Australia has and is suffering from disinvestments in agriculture [broadly interpreted term] over many years.  There are few if any crops specifically with varieties developed for the region [ sugar may be an exception] and with major seed companies now dominating this sector I cannot see them investing in the region as the market is so small.

It may be possible to identify crop varieties from eg Brazil, or possibly through varieties developed in international centres eg IRRI or ICRISAT and used in Asian or African / Indian areas, but some work will be needed to identify them.  And governments have little appetite to spend those $$ at the moment.
While it is possible that the beef herd could expand significantly, the Australian government has not helped over recent years with their activities in curtailing the live cattle trade.  Yes, new abattoirs are coming, but they may not necessarily quickly allow for herd increases.  And can these animals be more methane efficient anyway?  If feed quality went up - maybe, and that often involves more legume in the diet - will we see more of a pangola / leucaena finishing system?  It works and that was demonstrated in the 1970s at Kununurra.

Do not hold your breath........but actively offer ideas.

The media release by the Federal government is below but the report is more difficult to find.  Try the link here for the report, and there is a summary also available -

The report is brief, 20 pages and easy to download.

Media release

Tapping the carbon market of northern Australia could provide a valuable new revenue stream for the region – once key obstacles are removed, according to a government report.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions from fire and livestock, sequestering carbon in soils and vegetation, and the production of renewable feedstock for aviation biofuel are three of the main opportunities identified in The Emerging Carbon Economy for Northern Australia report.

"These opportunities will provide northern farmers the potential to reap a billion-dollar return," Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean said.

"CSIRO found the benefits of the carbon economy will not be confined to climate change action, but could generate environmental and livelihood benefits," he said.
The region covers some 300 million hectares north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Mr Crean said the federal government would work with state and local governments to help regions "embrace the carbon economy" by generating credits that they can sell to big emitters under its carbon market.
While the report identifies possible areas of income generation – such as a potential of $200 million dollars a year in abatement of carbon emissions through better savannah-burning management and $240 million from the livestock industry – it also specifies how much work still needs to be done.

For instance, the property rights to carbon would need clear ownership rules, while the scale of carbon stocks in the soil and its potential enhancement "warrant continued scientific enquiry", the report said.

Similarly, while indigenous groups have been able to earn carbon credits for savannah-burning under the government's Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), the report found "practical barriers to wider implementation of this method remain".

Likewise, the government is yet to approve a methodology allowing farmers to earn credits under the CFI for methane abatement efforts in the livestock industry. The northern beef herd counts some 13 million animals.

The biofuel potential could amount to 5 per cent of the jetfuel use in Australia, although that assessment also is based on "early stages of investigation", the report said.

The Coalition has vowed to scrap the carbon tax and planned emissions trading market if it wins office, although it has signalled it may continue with some of the government's carbon farming program.

Read more:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chinese Win Right to Develop Ord Stage 2

One of the worst kept secrets is now public knowledge - The Chinese company has been the winning bidder for Ord Stage 2 to develop the irrigation extension, and will develop a sugar mill and sugar farming.

It is a 50 year lease, not a sale.

It is expected that further development of the Wyndham port will occur, as the obvious export point for the sugar.  There are other complementary issues - co-generation of electricity, probable bioethanol production, along with the farming and general developent of the area. begs the question.......will the NT side of the border be the next to be developed??  That is still probably 5-7 years away, maybe even 10 years, but it is a logical step to take.

The ABC has quite an article on the web site -

But I expect there might be a lot more detail to be available later today.

A big development issue for the north to get a tick.  It has been a long time coming!

UPDATE - As expected, more information is becoming available on this story, with this link providing more details from the ABC WA country hour web site:



Monday, November 19, 2012

New Abattoir for the Kimberley - Second for North Australia

Now not one, but a second abbattoir in north Australia.  It is not really a surprise as a processing facility for cattle has been mooted in the Kimberley region for several years.  It now seems as if it is actually going to get built.

It would be an additional facility to the one proposed for near Darwin, and owned by AA Co, which has already commenced construction, or is just about to start.

This week apparently will see construction start on a $20 million abattoir in the Kimberley with 50 per cent of produce destined for the Asian market.  This is an interesting strategy, as it seems to imply that some product may go onto the Australian market - read north Australia - where all beef is currently imported from southern areas [except for a few small local facilities eg Gumbulanya in the NT supplying local aboriginal areas].

A joint venture between Yeeda Pastoral Company and Kimberley Pastoral Investments said that an agreement had been secured to supply free-range beef to Singapore.  Beef prices in Singapore are very high - around S$60 per kg for scotch fillet steak, which is roughly double Australian prices in equivalent $$.  And all is deep frozen - no chilled beef at all.  The bigger market is probably for cheaper cuts for asian meals, but maybe not necessarily ground beef.

Jack Burton of Yeeda Pastoral Company said the abattoir would be built between Broome and Derby and estimated that by 2014, 55,000 head of cattle would be processed at the site each year.  There is no indication whether it would operate seasonally or year round, but the latter is assumed.  The Darwin facility will be a year round operation, except for a brief maintenance period [4-6 weeks expected].

Burton said the new facility would help process heavier cattle which have been unsuitable for export since Indonesia introduced weight restrictions in 2010.  “This would never be for the replacement of live export, but for cattle that don’t suit live export,” Burton said.

The announcement has been supported from the local Kimberley pastoral industry as well as by the local and state government.  WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said he was pleased to see confidence in the industry.  "I’m looking forward to the day we cut the ribbon on that facility and see this become the sharp point for agriculture in the north," Redman said.

The facility is expected to be built by late 2013, which would be slightly ahead of the larger facility proposed for Darwin.

There has not been an abattoir functioning in the Kimberley since the Broome meatworks closed in 1994.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Big Future for NZ XSTOL Aircraft

A relatively new  NZ aircraft has made some very positive steps to being a very useful aircraft for low maintenance and remote regions use.

This is the aircraft known as a P-750 XSTOL, which shows some links with the old Fletcher FU-24, a stalwart, tough agricultural aircraft of the 1960s, used as a crop duster.

With recent sales to both Russia and China and interest from African countries as well as positive sales developments in both NZ and Australia the future does look quite bright.

More details are on their web site -

The ability to operate in a variety of modes including passenger and freight configurations, even within a single route and on an outwards / return run has some strong positives for many smaller operators in remote areas.  Couple that with an apparent low maintenance schedule, and what appears to be a tough aircraft capable of operating on very short and rougher runways - often typical of remote regions, and certification for RPT operations would seem to be an attractive package.

It has a low stalling speed and can operate in place of helicoptors for survey work.  There has been design work go into factory incorporated alterations that can allow easy changes for cameras and sensors for geophysical work [for which the mining industry has a big demand] and similar types of work often carried out in rural areas - including water bombing.

While it is a single engine aircraft, it is getting some strong endorsements in reviews within industry magazines.

Sounds very suitable to operate in the remote regions of the Northern Territory as a dual passenger / freight aircraft.

Oh more thing - also well suited to jump out of, if that way inclined!!