Wood Business

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Wasted energy

Sept. 16, 2014 - Canadian Forest Industries went to Sweden to attend World Bioenergy 2014 in the beginning of June. It was an opportunity to learn how the Swedish forest industry is able to make use of forestry waste to produce heat, power and biogas throughout the country.

One of the first stops was at a logging site in Southern Sweden where the sawlogs had all been harvested leaving only tops and limbs on the forest floor and in piles. Slash piles are left to dry under tarps that protect them from the elements and speed the drying process. Often left to dry throughout the summer, a contractor comes to chip the piles in the fall for delivery to the end user.

On the warm spring day Canadian Forest Industries visited the site, a contractor had driven a compact European-sized truck that sported a small loader and grinder combination with an open back to catch the biomass. His skill was evident as he made quick work of the pile. The loader sliced through the tarp into the slash pile and dropped it into the grinder (which was able to reduce even large trunks), spraying the debris into the top of the trailer.

The compact combo was efficient and powerful and matched the operator to make it a productive team. He would have a European-sized truck full of wood chips in about four hours, delivering it to the client and returning to the forest for a second load at another site (go to www.woodbusiness.ca/harvesting/forestry-waste-put-to-use to see a video of the grinding).

In Sweden, residuals aren’t always chipped in the forest. Sometimes it makes more sense to bring the slash pile to the sawmill where it can be chipped along with material from other sites. But whether or not the harvest byproducts are processed in the forest or at the mill, they are a valuable commodity that is in demand. In fact, at one of the sessions at World Bioenergy, a researcher shared a study that sought more sources of biomass at a typical harvest site. Its conclusion was that the best source of unused biomass is in the stump – a controversial practice that brings up the question, how much biomass can be sustainably removed?

In Canada, rather than seeking new sources of fibre, much of our wood fibre is going to waste. Remote cut blocks make for tricky logistics but the challenges run both ways: it is expensive to truck wood fibre out and it is expensive to truck heating oil in. Projects that make use of chips to provide heat and power to local communities make a lot of sense and provide additional income to everyone involved.

A plan is underway for the Kwadacha First Nation community in remote Fort Ware, B.C., to install some combined heat and power generators that run on woody biomass to community buildings. Located 570 km north of Prince George, this community is only accessible by air or a logging road, making it an ideal community to demonstrate the feasibility of sustainable power generation in a remote locale. The community has partnered with a local forest products company that is harvesting nearby and can provide its waste to fuel the energy project.

Projects like the one currently being developed by the Kwadacha First Nation are an excellent step in the right direction and there are many more opportunities across the country from bioenergy and biofuels to biochemicals and other innovative projects.

We’ve yet to figure out how to make the best use of all the forestry waste that is generated in Canada. Trucking it long distances to pellet mills isn’t the answer – rather, converting it to fuel that can be used close to the source is ideal. But this requires training and partnerships between communities and the forestry sector.

In Canada, we’re looking to extract value from every part of the tree harvested, and we’re making good progress, but until we begin to use all the residuals and waste from our forests, a valuable resource is escaping our grasp.


September 16, 2014  By Amie Silverwood

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