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Nature's Flame and Contact Energy partner on geothermal project

In New Zealand, energy utility major Contact Energy Ltd., and wood pellet producer Nature's Flame – a subsidiary of Norway-headed forest industry major Norske Skog ASA – have signed an agreement and broken ground to build a geothermal energy supply system that will provide process heat to Nature’s Flame’s wood pellet manufacturing plant in Taupō on New Zealand's North Island.

In New Zealand, energy utility major Contact Energy Ltd., and wood pellet producer Nature’s Flame – a subsidiary of Norway-headed forest industry major Norske Skog ASA – have signed an agreement and broken ground to build a geothermal energy supply system that will provide process heat to Nature’s Flame’s wood pellet manufacturing plant in Taupō on New Zealand’s North Island (photo courtesy Contact Energy).

Contact Energy is one of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators, with five geothermal power stations, and a combined gross installed geothermal capacity of 431 MW. At Nature’s Flame, wood fibre in the form of sawdust and shavings is obtained from sawmill operations in the central North Island; the fibre is dried, resized and then compacted to form a durable, low moisture, low ash, energy-dense fuel which burns efficiently and cleanly.

Contact will provide direct heat energy from our geothermal facilities to the Nature’s Flame plant which will be used to dry the wood fibre. The majority of the energy used to dry the wood will be derived from “used” geothermal fluid downstream of the Tenon Sawmill, which Contact has been providing with geothermal energy since 2007. This will optimise the efficiency of the production well for both companies, explained James Kilty, Chief Generation and Development Officer at Contact Energy.

Direct-use heat customer

Nature’s Flame operation is the latest to join Contact’s family of geothermal ‘direct use’ customers, which includes the Huka Prawn Park aquaculture and tourism business, Wairakei Resort Hotel, Wairakei Terraces geothermal bathing experience and the Tenon Sawmill.

Nature’s Flame is thrilled to sign this deal with Contact, as we currently only operate around 45 percent of capacity, burning some of our own product or dried sawdust to provide heat for wood drying, Following the conversion to geothermal energy, we will be able to increase to 100 percent of capacity, creating jobs for up to 2 new staff, and we will no longer have to burn any of our own product for drying. The geothermal energy supply system is also capable of supporting further expansions of the Nature’s Flame plant, said John Goodwin, Operations Manager at Nature’s Flame.

This extra capacity has enabled Nature’s Flame to enter the Korean and Japanese markets, where the pellets will be used to provide a sustainable alternative to burning fossil fuels. By ramping up operations using direct heat from geothermal energy. Geothermal energy provides a reliable and low carbon process heat.

Contact Energy is committed to lowering carbon emissions through collaborative partnerships that will support New Zealand’s emission reduction goals. Contact is enabling Nature’s Flame to increase productivity with no additional CO2 emissions released, as well as displacing particulate matter (PM) emissions from the use of the existing biomass boiler. Deals like this help us towards our decarbonisation goals, said James Kilty.

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