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Methyl Bromide gets clearance for continued use

Methyl bromide (MeBr) is a gas used by many countries for the phytosanitary treatment of logs (and other products) for export. The particular importance of MeBr for New Zealand is that it enables us to fumigate export logs at certain ports in NZ (currently Picton, Tauranga and Marsden Point) and load these logs onto the deck of log vessels for sale to China and India. Both these countries require a fumigation treatment of the logs. Korea, on the other, does not require such treatment. Without the availability of MeBr, it would be very difficult to export logs on-deck to China or India. With deck cargoes being approximately 30% of the total cargo, this would create significant shipping inefficiencies. For more information about MeBr take a look at prior articles in Wood Matters:

To the relief of log exporters and forest owners, the recent ERMA review of MeBr has resulted in clearance of its continued use for quarantine purposes in NZ. It is basically business as usual for the next 10 years. The key decisions are:

  • Approval of the continued importation, and use of "Gas containing 1000 g/kg methyl bromide" (HSNO Approval HSR001635) in New Zealand with controls.
  • The controls imposed on MeBr are part of a revised management regime which involves three main elements:
    • the setting of short-term (1 hour and 24 hour) tolerable exposure limits (TELs) in addition to a chronic TEL;
    • air quality monitoring and reporting requirements;
    • requirements for minimum buffer zones.
  • In addition, 10 years from the date of this decision, all MeBr fumigations are to be subject to recapture.

The short term TEL of 1 ppm within 1 hr after venting is low, but achievable. Air quality monitoring was already an ongoing project at most ports anyway. Minimum buffer zone of 100 metre for MeBr use of over 1,000 kg (12,500 m³ log) in ship's hold within 24 hrs may be problematic for some ports.

Currently, MeBr recapture can only be done in containers and few logs are exported in containers these days. In the future, it may be possible to recapture MeBr in large specialized concrete bunkers covered with a tarpaulin. However, the process involves using carbon to recapture the MeBr. Dumping the MeBr soaked-carbon is going to be the major challenge as every tonne of MeBr needs at least four tonnes of carbon for recapture.

At this stage, the industry has been given some time to address pressing issues relating to the use of MeBr. PF Olsen will continue to take an active role developing technology, practises and protocols that ensure that forest owners are given the greatest opportunity to trade as freely as possible with global log markets.