11/06/2008 - 22:00

Carbon offset players plan to grow

11/06/2008 - 22:00

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A decade after embarking on its first major carbon offset tree planting project in conjunction with BP Kwinana refinery, the Forest Products Commission is looking to expand its carbon offset service to other corporations.

Carbon offset players plan to grow
GROWTH SECTOR: FPC Forester Andrew Bussau (left) and Katanning farmer Colin Beeck plant a banksia tree.

A decade after embarking on its first major carbon offset tree planting project in conjunction with BP Kwinana refinery, the Forest Products Commission is looking to expand its carbon offset service to other corporations.

BP has invested about $4.1 million on the project to date, planting almost 4 million trees across 70 properties in the Katanning, Collie and Albany regions.

The project has established native tree plantations on more than 2,600 hectares of land, primarily with the aim of sequestering carbon emissions from BP's Kwinana refinery.

In addition to sequestering 187,557 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to taking 43,620 cars off the road for a year, the project also provided on-farm benefits, including combating salinity, providing shelterbelts and soil stabilisation.

Colin Beeck, one of the first farmers in the Katanning district to support the project, planted almost 90ha of maritime pine on his farm, Grasmere.

He said the planting program had brought a valuable crop to his property, with the trees planted on an area of poor, unproductive deep sands.

"It has made a big difference. There has been a huge reduction in the watertable; some areas have become valuable for agriculture and there has been a reduction in salt encroachment," Mr Beeck said.

For the FPC, the project helped develop methodologies to measure stored carbon in tree plantations in leaves, stems, roots and soil.

It is currently in discussions with other potential corporate partners to embark on plantings to offset carbon emissions, as demand for climate change and carbon sequestration management grows.

The carbon offset industry offers private corporation, government departments and individuals the opportunity to offset the carbon dioxide produced by their daily activities.

While still a relatively new industry, it is expected to grow once the national emissions trading scheme is introduced in 2010.

One of the largest carbon offset companies operating in WA is Floreat-based Carbon Neutral, which is preparing to embark on its 2008 planting of about 840,000 native seedlings.

Since it started its planting program in 2002, the company has planted more than 1.8 million trees, equivalent to about 14,500ha of native forest, which will sequester 300,000 tonnes of CO2.

Companies such as Western Power, Rio Tinto, Pilbara Iron, Water Corporation, as well as major local councils and the state government fleet have all offset their emissions through Carbon Neutral planting programs.

Carbon Neutral general manager Angela Tillier said landholders could benefit from tree planting programs, with some even offered incentive payments for the land taken out by plantings.

She said the entry of new players into the market had created some hesitation by landholders, who were also waiting on the release of the emissions trading scheme before committing to programs.

Australian Securities Exchange listed CO2 Australia Group Ltd is the biggest player in the industry, signing multi-million dollar offset agreements with major corporations including Woodside and Qantas.

The company has 4,000ha of oil mallees planted in NSW and is looking to establish large plantations in WA.

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