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European pellet industry visits QC

A recent gathering in Quebec of international experts involved with bioenergy research and policy development was held in the hopes ensuring that Canadian wood pellet producers continue to have access to the European market.


October 9, 2012
By John Tenpenny

According to Gordon Murray, executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), who attended the event, the meeting was an attempt to find a solution to the impending European prohibition on biomass sourced from primary forests.

By the end of the year, the European Commission Directorate General of Energy (DG Energy) is expected to release its sustainability criteria, which will supersede all EU national criteria and the potential exists that current rules prohibiting “primary forest and other wooded land” would have serious consequences for he export of Canadian wood pellets, including additional reporting requirements, an increase in costs and the inability to access the EU market.

“The purpose of the event was discuss the sustainability of forest bioenergy with key stakeholders through field vistits, scientific presentations and moderated discussions,” said Murray. “In particular, we wanted to demonstrate Canadian forest practices and sustainability.”

Some of the key messages from the Canadian Biomass Sustainability Field Tour and Workshop, held at Forêt Montmorency, were that only wood identified in approved forest management plans is available for harvest and biofibre harvesting, and it must follow the same strict standards that presently govern wood harvesting in provinces, including protecting biodiversity and soil productivity. Participants were also told that most of Canada’s wood pellet capacity is supplied from ground and compressed wood fibre, which originates from sawmill waste (90%) or forest harvesting waste (10%) and are entirely composed of fibre obtained from sustainably management forests.

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Murray said participants obtained a first-hand view of Canadian forest management and that most were impressed with what they saw. He is also optimistic that a solution can be found.

“This event definitely helped European regulators to understand the Canadian situation infinitely better than they could simply by sending letters or holding meetings in Europe,” he said.

“The result is likely to be that when the EU mandatory sustainability criteria for solid biomass are finally released, they will reflect the Canadian situation and be written in such a way that Canadians will be able to comply under existing practices. In particular, the regulators recognized that a blanket prohibition on biomass from primary forests as defined by FAO would be catastrophic for Canada and that a better approach has to be found.”

Some of the organizations who participated included, Natural Resources Canada, EU Directorate General of Energy, UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets, Greenpeace, Drax Power, EON, Vattenfall and RWE Npower.

Click here to read the full WPAC report.