Dec. 19, 2016 – Ever since the Tolko sawmill in Merritt, B.C. officially closed its doors on Dec. 16, one big question remains.

Where will the fibre for Merritt’s biomass power plant come from?

The $235-million power plant, which is being built by Spanish energy firm Iberdrola, had 95 per cent of its construction phase complete as of Dec. 9.

Fengate Capital Management and Veolia are the developers and equity investors of the biomass plant. The Merritt plant is one of two green energy projects in B.C., as part of the Merritt Green Energy Limited Partnership (Merritt Green Energy). The other is in Fort St. James, B.C.

Delays in the Merritt construction process so far were due to one of the subcontractors in the U.S. going through a bankruptcy.

In a past press release announcing the financing closure on the plant, Merritt Green Energy stated, “Fuel will be provided by local partners, including Tolko Industries, under a long-term fuel supply agreement.”

Canadian Forest Industries reached out to Fengate Capital for comment and received a statement from Merritt Green Energy.

“The closure of Tolko’s Nicola Valley operation will not affect plans for the Merritt Green Energy Project,” Merritt Green Energy stated Monday.

“The Merritt Green Energy Limited Partnership, a working partnership between Fengate Capital and Veolia, is confident that the fuel required to run the plant will be available through an existing agreement with Tolko,” it stated.

Merritt Green Energy, which first announced the project in 2014, also said the facility requires more than 20 full-time staff to operate it and has supported more than 250 jobs at peak construction periods. 

It added that the plant will generate more than 285,000 MWh of renewable electricity when it begins operations. That number is enough to power more than 40,000 homes for a year, according to the statement.

The plant is also planning on reducing its carbon footprint through the use of emissions reduction equipment.

The biomass power plant is scheduled to begin commercial operations and deliver clean electricity to BC Hydro in mid-2017.

RELATED: Building bioenergy in B.C.
Dec. 12, 2016 - The Quebec government announced its plans to support Canadian softwood lumber producers in the event of imposed U.S. duties, regardless of what decision the federal government makes.

The softwood lumber dispute has left many Canadian producers worried about what effect the U.S. government's possible decision to apply taxes to lumber being exported from Canada to the U.S., will have on their jobs and businesses.

The Canadian Press reported on Thursday that Quebec Premier Phillipe Couillard confirmed his government's stance to provide Canadian lumber companies with loan guarantees should the need arise.

The 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement expired on Oct. 12, 2015, leaving Canadian and American government officials meeting to come to a new agreement.

If negotiation talks fail, new taxes may be imposed by the U.S. government starting in April 2017.

RELATED: The Final Cut: Defending our softwood lumber industry

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Softwood lumber negotiations continue
Dec. 9, 2016 - Vancouver Island's McLean Mill is set to undergo some changes, specifically, a possible rebranding.

Port Alberni Chamber of Commerce executive director Bill Collette spoke about the plans for the sawmill at a meeting on Nov. 30.

According to the Alberni Valley News, he'd like the new tagline to be "more than just a sawmill."

The purpose of the rebranding would be to generate more traffic and make the sawmill more of a touristic site on Vancouver Island. Ideas so far include the sawmill being in operation all year long as a park.

Read more here.
Dec. 8, 2016 - Hefler Forest Products may be sold to an anonymous buyer come January 2017. The Sackville, N.S.-based lumber company has been under creditor-protection since July 2016.

The Chronicle Herald reports Hefler's lawyer, Carl Holm told the court in July that the company owes more than $30 million to four secured creditors and another $30 to 40 million to unsecured creditors.

Hefler, which was founded in 1866, has been a company longer than Canada has been a country.

According to its website, it began rebuilding its sawmill in 2014, which in turn helped to keep more than 50 jobs. The company also has a biomass energy plant, which was completed in June 2015. 

No details are being revealed on the buyer at this time.

Read more details here.

For recent coverage of these projects visit here and here.
Dec. 6, 2016 - According to recent numbers from Statistics Canada, capacity utilization is up over 2015 among both wood products and paper manufacturers, while declining for forestry and logging operations. In all cases, however, utilization fell from Q1 2016 to Q2 2016.

Comparing capacity utilization between Q2 2015 and Q2 2016, wood products manufacturers saw a 5.9 per cent increase from 89.2 per cent to 95.1 per cent. This was a 2.4 per cent drop from Q1 2016’s rate of 97.5 per cent.

In the case of paper manufacturing, there was a 3.6 per cent increase in capacity utilization between Q2 2015 and Q2 2016 from 91.4 per cent to 95 per cent, but a 2.5 per cent drop from Q1 2016 (97.5 per cent).

In the forestry and logging sector, capacity utilization fell from 93.3 per cent to 87.0 per cent (-6.3 per cent) from Q2 2015 to Q2 2016, and 2.1 per cent from Q1 2016.

mill capacity

In all cases, the capacity utilization rates for the forest industry in general are currently significantly higher than most other sectors in Canada’s economy. Full stats for all sectors are available here.
Dec. 1, 2016 - Interfor Corporation announced Wednesday that it has completed the final step in the monetization of its former sawmill in Tacoma, Wash., with the closing of the sale of the Tacoma sawmill property for gross proceeds of US$32.4 million. Net cash proceeds from the sale of the property are estimated to be US$21 million after taking into account transaction costs, potential post-closing adjustments and the US$10 million payment to be made to Simpson Lumber Company. The net proceeds will be used to further reduce net debt.
Nov. 30, 2016 - Fortress Paper Ltd. has announced a strategic supplement to the already announced birch usage project at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill aimed at extracting hemicellulose from underutilized species such as birch.

The Hemicellulose Project will allow the company to advance its research and development in hemicellulose derivative products. Hemicellulose is a cellulosic sugar, which when extracted and processed, has high value-added by-product potential such as for biofuel and biomaterial feedstock. The company anticipates that its development in hemicellulose products will provide it with an opportunity to enter the growing renewable raw materials market.

"Extracting hemicellulose is the first step to entering the emerging renewable raw materials space which is an appealing new market opportunity with significant upside potential,” said president and chief executive officer of Fortress Paper Yvon Pelletier.

“The two planned projects at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill demonstrate our continued commitment to developing new revenue streams that increase long-term shareholder value. Fortress Paper would like to thank the provincial Government of Québec for their support and confidence in the projects," he said.

As part of the Hemicellulose Project, the company plans to install a new accumulator at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill which will allow for the collection of hydrolysate. By separating the hydrolysate from the liquor stream it can be further processed to produce a number of bio-products, including xylose and furfural. Currently, the hydrolysate is neutralized and mixed with weak black liquor, sent to the evaporators and then fired in the recovery boilers. If the hydrolysate is removed from the liquor cycle and processed separately it will offload the evaporators and recovery boilers. It is expected that by offloading the evaporators and recovery boilers the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill will able to utilize more of its incremental digester capacity

The Birch Project and Hemicellulose Project are expected to cost approximately $23.4 million in aggregate, of which $3.65 million is in respect of the Hemicellulose Project.

The Ministry of Forests, Wildlife, and Parks of Québec has agreed to assist with funding the projects. The ministry has committed to provide the Company with a $2.5 million non-repayable contribution from the budgetary measure for innovation announced in the 2016-2017 Québec budget to support the forestry industry. As well, the Low Quality Hardwood Consumption Program has committed to provide an additional $1 million non-repayable contribution to assist with funding the projects. The company expects to finance the remainder of the Hemicellulose Project's total cost with cash on hand.
Nov. 30, 2016 - Eganville, Ont., sawmill Lavern Heideman & Sons is expanding its operations.

The $16.9 million expansion project includes modernizing infrastructure, purchasing new equipment and consolidating operations.

The project will also create 18 new jobs at the mill in addition to sustaining 90 existing ones.

The company’s first sawmill became operational in 1976. “This is an important investment to secure jobs for employees in our region both at the sawmill and in the sustainable management of Ontario’s renewable resource, forests,” said vice-president of Lavern Heideman & Sons Kris Heideman.

“Working with the province to expand advanced manufacturing at our Eganville mill demonstrates our confidence in the future of forestry,” he said. 

The $16.9 million dollar project is being partially funded by the Ontario government, which is contributing $4 million over a period of five years. 

ON gov
The Lavern Heideman & Sons sawmill in Eganville, Ont.
Photo//Government of Ontario
Nov. 29, 2016 - Supporting innovation in the forest sector will result in more renewable options in the production of a range of consumer items – from the cars we drive to the clothes we wear. This will help address climate change, create new opportunities and markets for Canadian forest companies and sustain good middle-class jobs for Canadians.

The governments of Canada and Quebec will provide $12.5 million to Fortress Specialty Cellulose (FSC) Inc., in Thurso, Que., to install a new system designed to use birch wood to produce dissolving pulp, an ingredient that is used in many everyday products, including clothing, car parts and medical equipment.

“In addition to having a positive impact on regional forestry operations and facilitating access to timber, this project will help grow the entire regional forestry sector,” said Luc Blanchette, Quebec Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks.

"Technology and innovation have placed our forest sector at the threshold of a new era of material science. Adopting new ways of using renewable forest materials will help ensure that Canada's forest sector continues to play a key role in our economy and contributes to efforts to address climate change," said Jim Carr, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources.

The federal government is providing $9 million and the Quebec government is providing $3.5 million for this project, which will help secure more than 300 local jobs and provide additional labour and investment for the local economy. Funding is provided through Natural Resources Canada's Investments in the Forest Industry Transformation program and Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks. 

"We are delighted by the support of the federal and provincial governments. These investments highlight the innovative and transformative potential of producing dissolving pulp using birch as the first step to entering the emerging renewable raw materials space. The planned projects at the Fortress Specialty Cellulose Mill demonstrate our continued commitment to developing new revenue streams and transforming our industry" said Yvon Pelletier, president and CEO of Fortress Paper Ltd.

The FSC mill will be the first of its kind in Canada to produce dissolving pulp from birch wood. Processing birch using current systems is difficult and uses more energy because it is a hardwood. This project will result in a system that can draw from a greater fibre supply, with lower production and energy costs.

Stéphane Lauzon, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities and MP for Argenteuil–La Petite-Nation, on behalf of Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, the Honourable Jim Carr, and Luc Blanchette, Quebec's Minister of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, made the announcement Tuesday at FSC.
Nov. 25, 2016 - In the 1970s, building a sawmill in Sacré-Cœur, Que. – a village of 2,000 residents in the Cote-Nord region – seemed like a good idea to create jobs and develop the local economy. But it took three bankruptcies before a group of visionaries made it work.
Nov. 25, 2016 - Tolko pressed its first board at its oriented strand board (OSB) mill in Meadow Lake, Sask., in the fall of 2003, and for the most part has been pressing boards 24 hours a day, seven days a week ever since.
Nov. 18, 2016 - What does the U.S. election of Donald Trump, weeks after the expiry of the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement extension mean for Canada’s sawmills? Canadian Forest Industries interviewed Grant Thornton LLP’s Leah White and Georg Ernst to help answer that question.

Nov. 17, 2016 - The Herwynen sawmill near Fergus, Ont., erupted in flames early Wednesday morning.

Hardwood pallets were destroyed in the fire, according to reports. Centre Wellington Fire Chief Brad Patton told the Guelph Mercury the damage cost is approximately $2,000. 

The fire is being considered suspicious by police.

There were no injuries reported.

Read more here 

Nov. 8, 2016 - From fibre supply to scanner scaling to drying, a spotlight was on the newest optimization technologies and techniques available to sawmill managers in Canada at the second annual OptiSaw East event.
Nov. 8, 2016 - Ontario is launching a new program to help small- and medium-sized businesses reduce emissions and become more energy efficient by investing in process upgrades.

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