Process and product: a Q&A with FPInnovations
Nov. 25, 2016 - As a way to learn more about the latest technologies and research underway to improve Canada’s forest industry, Canadian Forest Industries sat down with FPInnovations’ executive vice-president Dr. Trevor Stuthridge, to discuss the organization’s latest projects. In the second of a three-part series of interviews, we discussed some of FPInnovations’ current work related to developing innovative manufacturing processes and products.
By Andrew Snook
Q What is FPInnovations currently working on related to improving log breakdown?
Trevor: We probably have some of the world’s most expensive carbon in our forests so we need to maximize the value and recovery from that carbon and from that log resource.
The objective is to get as much knowledge about the quality of the log and the value that it’s going to create. As an example we are looking at how we can better separate the high-quality wood in the process, including better scanning technologies. This will allow us to know what’s inside the logs and better understand how to extract its maximum value. This means that, in the future, we may be cutting logs differently than how we are now.
Our current model is that we effectively make a round log square and cut the pieces out of it that we want. If we had better control and knowledge of the log we may be able to approach that differently in order to get more of the high-value wood recovered from the log. This may also result in higher-quality residue or chips to use downstream.
Q What other areas are FPInnovations currently looking at to help improve efficiencies?
We are also reviewing many other improvements to processing in sawmills and pulp mills in areas such as energy and water use, and waste generation. While these may seem small, they can add up significantly and affect a company’s bottom line.
Q What initiatives are FPInnovations currently undertaking to help improve the sustainability and life cycle of wood products?
One particular initiative that FPInnovations is currently working on is getting more mid-rise and tall buildings being built out of wood. The carbon in the wood is sequestered for 50 to 100 years and stored in a sustainable manner. The double-win is that we’re offsetting emissions from concrete and steel at the same time.
Q What kind of opportunities are you currently looking at related to growing the wood-based bioeconomy?
We are creating novel biomaterials and chemicals from wood. Wood is a wonderful chemical factory as it contains all sorts of different chemicals. Beyond the high-quality structural lumber that we generate in Canada, the residues can be maximized for use by producing lignins or sugars, then turning those lignins and sugars into replacements for chemicals. FPInnovations has worked on a number of pilot-scale operations to test these technologies and create a market for them.
There is great growth potential for both the bioproducts and biorefinery industries, and Canada and FPInnovations are well positioned to be part of it.