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I have a rather uneasy feeling about some of Gunns comments recently - the comments that secured them their licences from the Federal Government. Suddenly they wanted to have more stringent regulations applied to them and asked for an extra week to have them evaluated. The most significant one was that they were going to reduce their use of chlorine by 30%. Just a flat statement, without any qualifications and a trumpeted campaign about ’Lite Chlorine’.

It was successful as a ploy, and gained them the licences they needed to commence construction if they found a JVP with some spare cash. It also improved their lagging share price. Not a bad campaign if it is true!

But has anyone checked this out?

The world’s first Lite Chlorine bleach plant?

Is this a new process or an old one dressed up?  Is this the result of changing from Old Growth processing and only using plantation chips?  If it is, then why aren’t the other mills across the world using this ‘Lite’ technology?  It doesn’t add up. There’s something wrong here.

If it is new technology, then this must surely mean a new design, so where are the plans. Does this mean that the old chlorine bleach system is now redundant and there has to be a new system, and the money spent on the old plant has to be written off? It’s a lot to pay to get a social licence, and I don’t think that Gunns in its present financial position can afford this.

There are certain immutable properties about bleaching. One tonne of raw material requires X amount of bleach to turn it from dark brown to white. It is a chemical reaction that breaks down the chips into cellulose, fibre, lignin and all the composite parts and removes the colour. You can’t do it with less chlorine and if you add more it is wasted. They claim a 30% reduction, but what are they making? Brown paper or high quality kraft pulp?

Perhaps there is a bit of sleight of hand here.

Maybe the process is like drinking Light Beer rather than Premium Lager. If the aim is to get drunk, then you have to drink a lot more of it. It also takes longer to achieve the required results and produces a lot more effluent, only more dilute, but nevertheless, as far as the alcohol is concerned, the quantities are the same whichever option you take.

But Gunns wouldn’t do a thing like that, would they?

Nice to see a technical report, just the same!


Forestry water plan urges size caps

A draft plan on water licensing for the forestry sector in the south-east of South Australia recommends a cap on the number of hectares grown.

Commercial forestry has not been included in the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan before.

The plan is five years overdue and the SA Opposition says that is mainly due to forestry’s inclusion.

The draft paper recommends water allocations for the sector be controlled either by capping the size of plantations or by issuing licences based on existing areas.

Studies by the Water Department show growing softwood plantations can use more than 1.5 million litres of water per hectare per year and 2.5 million litres per hectare for hardwood.

They have found forests are a direct cause of ground water decline in the region.

Industry stakeholders and the forestry union will meet Water Department in the next few weeks to discuss the draft plan.