Over 16,000 hectares of tree plantations will be established in the Markham Valley within Morobe Province, PNG. The final plantation development will have more than 20 million trees and will be planted over a three to five year period to enable the project to generate 30 MWe of power.
Plantation-grown and harvested trees will be the feedstock for the power plant to produce energy. The plantation will be developed using short rotation species such as Eucalyptus pellita, a species of tree that is indigenous to PNG, has been selected as the principal feedstock for the PNG Biomass Power project. Over 250 superior quality mother plants have been selected during the evaluation stage to breed the best quality seedlings to maximise growth and survival rates. Tree spacing will be approximately every 3.5m by 2.2m and will cover an area totalling 16,000 ha.
The trees will be harvested every 4 – 7 years to produce approximately 160,000 – 180,000 bone dry metric tonnes of wood annually to supply 30 MWe power plant. This will be about 25 truckloads per day of wood fuel for each 15 MWe power unit.
The plantations are being designed to ensure that they comply with international sustainability criteria and can be certified sustainable by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), which is the highest recognised international standard for environmental and social sustainability in forestry. The project will also work to the principles of the Round Table for Sustainable Biofuels including the principle of ensuring food security for the local communities.
Land in Papua New Guinea is for 97% still customary land. The ownership of land is largely restricted from state and private capital acquisition, however landowners can voluntarily choose to register land and obtain a legal title to enable leasing of land.
Access to land is one of the most crucial assets for PNG Biomass. The project will require 16,000 ha to be planted with trees, for which it estimates to need access up to 24,000 ha to account for environmental buffer zones, cultural heritage, roads, and unsuitable planting conditions. Plantations on customary land will all be under voluntary customary lease agreements with Incorporated Land Groups (ILGs), while State land will be leased under a State lease or land occupancy agreement. A further 53 ha is required for the power plant site and central nursery which will be leased for 99 years. PNG Biomass will only gain access to land through voluntarily lease arrangements and is avoiding land acquisition through (compulsory or voluntary) purchase.