Methyl bromide destruction & recapture
Scion has conducted research for STIMBR on a destruction technology that can destroy available methyl bromide within one hour.
The bench trial results exceed the requirements defined by STIMBR. The initial proof of concept trial also showed that the methyl bromide had been destroyed – it could not be driven off the substrate when heated. This is a very exciting outcome, and one that has not been achieved elsewhere in the world. If it can be successfully ‘scaled up’ and then proven to work in demonstration and commercial-scale prototypes, there is potentially a large market internationally for the technology. Considerable financial benefit is likely to accrue to New Zealand.
Reducing methyl bromide emissions
Work continues to develop the efficacy data sets for both phosphine and methyl bromide. The request from Chinese authorities for efficacy data to support the reduction in methyl bromide treatment rates is a significant advance and indicates that they are prepared to consider the proposal. This approach to systematically determining the required data will produce enduring data that can be used to inform future fumigant research.
The Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPECentre) at the University of Canterbury has proved that logs can be heated using electricity to a temperature that will kill insects, making this technology a possible alternative to methyl bromide. This technology is a world first and, because it utilises electricity which New Zealand can sustainably produce, it provides the ultimate in a non-polluting sustainable approach to killing pests. Unlike fumigant treatments, it has the added advantage that it will potentially destroy fungi and viruses.
At this stage the technology has only been used to treat single logs, and plans are being developed to produce a multi-log rig. If successful, Joule Heating shows potential for use on high quality logs and is particularly suited to small ports such as Nelson.
Quarantine treatments for wood exports
The export wood industry is heavily reliant on the use of fumigants to ensure wood exports meet the requirements of our trading partners.
Current treatment schedules require that approved phytosanitary treatments are applied to exported products year round. Scion scientists have identified an opportunity to identify seasonal windows during which the need for fumigant treatments may not be required. If this can be demonstrated and accepted the use of methyl bromide and the costs to the industry will be reduced so that no methyl bromide is released into the atmosphere.
Scion is currently leading a collaborative six year, $8.2 million research project funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment and STIMBR, aimed at reducing the use of fumigants and to find acceptable and sustainable alternatives.
MBIE, STIMBR and the science providers recognise that the research outcomes will directly benefit New Zealand’s economy by ensuring continued market access of its third largest export sector, wood products. STIMBR currently has over 20 projects underway looking for alternatives to the current fumigation process.
Phosphine as an alternative
Phosphine has been used since 2001 as a phytosanitary treatment for logs in transit to China.
A technique to monitor in-transit levels of phosphine to provide assurance that the required minimum levels are maintained is working well, with 13 monitored voyages all exceeding the required 200 ppm in the duration of the 240 hour fumigation period.
A monitoring device that can accurately and reliably monitor phosphine gas levels has also been identified following rigorous testing.
Other fumigation alternatives
Screening trials are in place for an alternative fumigant, such as EDN or methyl iodide, for both horticultural and log exports.
Fumigation monitoring & modeling
New Zealand's Environmental Protection Agency requires the monitoring and reporting of fumigant use. Work is required to develop a monitoring protocol and scope a system for reporting data. To ensure fumigation safety is enhanced, a predictive model for gas dispersion after venting is also planned.