Economic and operational feasibility of establishing Biohubs in the Private Native Forests of SouthEast Queensland, Australia

Dec 2022

A sustainable bioeconomy optimizes the sourcing, processing, transportation and marketing of material to end users; this needs to be done economically to be viable. A biohub is a local/regional connection between supply and market demand of biomass. This report – produced in the frame of IEA Bioenergy Task 43 (biomass supply) – presents a case study to evaluate the financial and operational viability of biohubs in SouthEast Queensland, Australia. Research was conducted to evaluate biomass availability and the feasibility of biohubs (local and regional) related to biomass utilisation for product generation from forest management in the Private Native Forests (PNF) of Southeast Queensland. Biomass estimates were developed from four different coups to understand the complexity of the resource; this data was then connected to supply chain operational costs to perform an economic analysis of two different types of proposed biohubs (producing biochar and pellets respectively). An analysis of the resulting biomass and biohub operational costs was conducted in the context of regional product markets and feasibility.

Full report available here:
A case study addressing the economic and operational feasibility of establishing Biohubs in the Private Native Forests of SouthEast Queensland


It is believed that the private hardwood resource (PNF) in Southeast Queensland is strategically positioned (geographically, resource abundance and markets) to establish a sequence of viable biohubs with variable feedstock supply (industry, growers, small farms, etc.) and ample local markets (existing and proposed pellet mills, energy fuel, etc.). As a frame of reference, there are nearly 2.6 million hectares of PNF in SEQLD currently supplying more than 200,000 m³ of hardwood to local markets. However, no non-timber biomass is currently being extracted. This biohub project explores the prospect of using material currently seen as a waste product as well as other supplemental sources due to altered land management schemes support a bioeconomy infrastructure with high quality supply demands in excess of 400,000 tonnes per year.


This case study connects the potential supply options, processing technologies and market demands to evaluate financial and operational viability of biohubs. This project primarily focuses on financial feasibility of localized hubs. These hubs would amalgamate existing supply from private native harvest sites that have a residue by-product from harvesting operations (non-commercial logging by-products, tree tops, branches, etc.) and supplemental supply from proposed thinning operations for biomass generation, fire hazard reduction and productive land management. This local hub would serve as a locality for supply amalgamation, product processing (debarking, chipping, grinding, etc.), sorting (e.g. high-grade material for pellets and low grade for energy fuel or char), upgrading (moisture content, chemical and physical contaminates), and transport to final market (different commodity classes or niche markets). Additionally, a regional hub pathway including the raw transport of material to regional megahubs which could further combine forestry stocks with other supply to access greater processing, upgrading, infrastructure and transportation efficiencies is explored.

Conclusions and recommendations

This study highlights key considerations when looking at biomass availability and biohub configurations associated with the private native resource in Queensland, Australia. It was found that recoverable biomass in PNF coupes can vary from roughly 20t/ha to 50t/ha with roughly 80% of that material coming from a biomass harvest and the other 20% from tops.

It was found that local biohubs were preferable when generating biochar while pellets were better suited for a regional hub to capitalize on operational efficiencies associated with greater scale. It was initially found that the hub preference can initiate viable operations when compared to market prices and these incentives can equate to up to 500km in viable market distance.

Figure: Australian context of the regional case study.