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Geothermal an important part of business sustainability

Tapping into geothermal energy while providing a unique customer experience in a sustainable fashion has Sequal finding a niche in the sawn lumber export market.

The Kawerau-based company source their wood from sustainable forests, and head of sales and marketing Rhys Arrowsmith says knowing the wood is dried in an environmentally friendly manner using direct use geothermal “just completes the picture for customers”.

“One of our philosophies is ‘give more’ – it is about giving more in our partnerships than we take and giving back to our customers. Our vision is of a world class wood processing business that continually strives for excellence, maintained by creating real value for our customers, staff and the community, whilst enhancing the position for our shareholders.”

About 20 per cent of Sequal’s product remains in New Zealand – the rest is exported to 17 different countries. Mr Arrowsmith says they began exporting to Korea and have now spread throughout the world.

Over the past decade the company has experienced significant growth. Mr Arrowsmith says recently the business has grown so fast it is now trying to rein it in a little. He says part of the success is down to doing things differently. While many businesses cut up to about 40 different finished sizes, Sequal cuts lumber to about 400 different sizes set to meet our customers specification.

With about 70 staff, Mr Arrowsmith says it is important to remain competitive in a heavily automated industry, something custom cutting and reducing wastage helps with.

“For some clients the custom cutting is the key, others place a significant importance on the sustainability and environmental elements. A requirement of IKEA for instance, is that the wood needs to be 100 per cent FSC.” Mr Arrowsmith says. Many Asian countries are also developing strong positions around sustainability in forest and timber processing operations.

“Geothermal completes that nicely.”

While Mr Arrowsmith admits the geothermal aspect can be difficult to explain to overseas markets, he believes it makes a difference that will only grow. “As consumers demand more sustainable products, it is a unique selling point.”

Without the geothermal, and the company’s strong relationship with geothermal supplier Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal Assets, Mr Arrowsmith says the options would be as a green mill not drying product, or having to use waste residue or fossil fuels for the energy supply for kiln drying.

“While the geothermal came later for our business it was always on the horizon and has natural synergy with our ethos. It has proven to be a great enabler. We are very lucky to have the geothermal asset on our doorstep here at Kawerau.”

According to Bay of Connections geothermal business development lead, Andy Blair, the Kawerau operation is a great example of the benefits of direct use geothermal.

Ms Blair was appointed to the role late last year, with the aim of connecting those with resource to those who can benefit, creating jobs in the process.

Ms Blair’s role has the ambitious target of creating 500 jobs attributed to direct-use geothermal projects by 2025, removing barriers and speeding up investment in the geothermal industry. A Bay of Connections initative, it is funded by Bay of Connections, Industry partners and the Government.

“The direct use happening in Kawerau by businesses such as Sequal show what can be done. We would like to see more business parks created around geothermal, as it suits a wide range of industries such as timber drying, aquaculture, tourism, horticulture and milk drying.”

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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