Oct. 29, 2014, Edmonton – The Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA) commends the City of Calgary for being the first city in Canada to adopt the 2015 National Building Code recommendation to allow buildings of up to 6 storeys to be constructed from wood. Calgary's leadership role facilitates better affordability of housing and increased opportunities for densification.

"This is a win-win for the City and for the forest industry," said AFPA President and CEO Paul Whittaker. "Midrise buildings framed with wood are less expensive to construct, have a much lower carbon footprint, and make use of Alberta's only renewable building material. Using wood also benefits the thousands of Albertans who work in the forest industry and the 50 communities where the industry is a major social and economic contributor. Congratulations to Mayor Nenshi and the city for their leadership."

In Alberta, wood-framed buildings are currently limited to 9 metres (3 or 4 storeys depending on building design). British Columbia permits wood buildings of up to 6 storeys, with a potential for taller buildings to be approved through a special permit process. Ontario has amended their legislation to allow 6 storey wood buildings as of January 1, 2015.

The lower costs associated with wood mid-rise buildings allow for increased densification of urban spaces and additional flexibility for developers. The Alberta Forest Products Association is advocating for 6 storey wood buildings to be permitted throughout Alberta.

For more information on the City of Calgary's announcement, please visit tinyurl.com/mw44f58 .

The Alberta Forest Products Association is a private, non-profit industry organization, representing forest products companies operating in Alberta. For more information about the Association or Alberta's forest products industry, please visit www.albertaforestproducts.ca.

Oct. 17, 2014 - The sky is the limit for wooden structures, and the 66-foot-long beams at Weyerhaeuser’s parallel strand lumber mill carry the weight of inspiration. Not only are these beams strong, but they’re also made from a waste material. Weyerhaeuser has developed an engineered wood that rips unwanted veneer into strands that are then woven to create structural beams. The company calls this finished product Parallam PSL.

The concept of parallel strand lumber (PSL) was flushed out in 1975 when a team of researchers under MacMillan Bloedel set out to produce a high strength wood-based material. The first PSL plant was completed in 1982 with the first commercial sale of the product for Expo ’86. Over the years, the process has been improved to make bigger, longer beams and production and sales have picked up steadily.

Weyerhaeuser owns the patent on the production process and there are currently only two plants that use it: the Weyerhaeuser plant in Delta, B.C., and one in Buckhannon, W.V. Much of the equipment is designed in-house because the process is a tightly guarded secret and constantly being tweaked.

Graeme Dick is the Plant Technical Director for Weyerhaeuser’s parallel strand lumber plant in Delta, B.C. who took Canadian Forest Industries on a tour of the plant. “A lot of the equipment here was innovated by the people who work on the floor. So we involve ourselves in the process and then our maintenance or electrical staff make it a reality.”

Veneer with broken corners, splits and random widths are all consumed at the plant and turned into massive beams for mid-rise and open concept houses. “Above your garage door, down the center of your open concept home, large, straight beams are required.  It could be a steel beam, one of our competitors, or Parallam PSL. Our hope is that it’s Parallam PSL,” says Graeme Dick.

According to Dick, there are three types of beams offered by Weyerhaeuser in its Trus Joist-branded family of engineered wood products. “TimberStrand LSL, Microllam LVL and Parallam PSL, with increasing strength and stiffness properties,” Dick explains.

Market potential
As housing sales pick up, PSL has the potential to reach more of the market. New building codes that allow for up to six storeys of wood frame housing is good news for the mill; initiatives such as Wood First support the use of engineered wood products as well.

The company has managed to penetrate the local home building market and maintains a strong foothold in California. “Much of our product stays here in Vancouver,” says Dick.

But there isn’t enough local development to support the plant without relying on outside markets. Only 30 to 40 per cent of the product is used locally with the vast remainder going to the Western United States and Japan. But once the California market fully recovers, the mill will have reached full stride.

Scrappy veneer
In order to make LDL or plywood, the veneer has to be large, square and clear of visual defects. But because the process of making PSL cuts the veneer into narrow strands, what would otherwise be scraps are saved from the hog. “Although the veneer may be poor in visual grade, it is very good quality in terms of strength,” Dick explains. “The other benefit we have is that we pull from a 100 per cent Douglas Fir supply. It’s a very good fibre source, strong and dimensionally stable.”

As the veneer comes into the plant, the higher visual grade is run on an automatic feeder into a jet box dryer.  Narrow sheets and low visual grade veneer runs through screen dryers, made by Babcock (now Grenzebach BSH). These lower grade pieces of veneer are fed manually into the screen dryers that carry the veneer through the drying process.

“We run veneer through the screen dryer that we don’t think we’ll be able to automatically transfer through the process,” he points out. “It’s this ability to process and utilize veneer that would otherwise be unusable in our competitor products that helps distinguish Parallam PSL.”

According to Dick, the process requires a unique moisture content range.  To achieve these internal specifications, the mill maintains an ongoing dialogue with its key dry veneer suppliers.

Once the sheets have been dried to the appropriate moisture content, they are then clipped into long strands and go through a glue application process. A rotating conveyor system moves back and forth carrying the resin-coated strands and gently dropping them into a trough. The back-and-forth movement of the conveyor system ensures the strands are deposited in an offset pattern throughout the length of the billet.

The layered veneer is preheated and enters the press where it is condensed before the resin is cured with microwaves.

The microwaves activate the molecules in the glue, heating it to a point of full cure. Because of the thickness of the product, microwave technology must be used to penetrate to the centre of the beam to completely cure the resin.

The billets are made in a continuous press, with the billet length only limited by handling capability.  After the billet exits the press, it is remanufactured on site to the customer’s order, which includes the product length, depth and width.

Monitored for quality
The product is tested regularly to ensure it meets structural requirements. “Throughout the day, we complete small- and large-scale testing as part of our Quality Management System,” he says. The results are entered into the database and carefully monitored. The plant is audited by a third-party inspector to make sure the company is in compliance with its accreditation.

“We have one full-time lab technician for every shift, we have two daytime lab technicians, and we currently have co-op students as well.”

The whole process is also closely monitored on a series of cameras posted throughout the facility. During the tour, Tony Deschamps and Russell Petrie are keeping an eye on the cameras. “The press operator is watching the veneer go into the glue dip, watching it come out of the glue dip, as it comes out of the press, and he has the camera focused on certain aspects of the process looking for any potential mechanical complications.”

Deschamps’ job is to make sure the process produces a high-quality product at the optimal rate. Not only does he have access to cameras strategically placed to monitor all of the intricacies of the press, but he also has access to a process historian that provides background on how the plant operated under different conditions. If there is a malfunction, he can decide whether the plant must be shut down immediately or if the issue can be resolved without impacting the final product.

“He [the press operator] has all these HMI screens to make sure we have the right glue mix, the right wood mix, making sure we’re making a certain mat height and density because combined, it will have an impact on our mechanical properties,” says Dick. “He’s watching the press performance. This is a continuous press with many moving parts. If any of these parts fail, you could potentially have a catastrophic failure in the press.”

If this seems like a big job for one press operator to undergo, it doesn’t faze Deschamps, who is quite confident in his role. “I do have a lot of alarms that tell me if anything starts to look a little different. I react to it pretty quickly.”

Once the mat is pressed and the resin is set, one long billet emerges to be sent to remanufacturing to be cut to the customer’s specifications. The plant makes a combination of the five sizes of billets each week so that the lead time is minimal. Once it has been cut to order, it is put through an automated strapping machine and then wrapped. Finished products are shipped by truck, rail or container for export markets.

The plant runs five days a week, for 24 hours a day, employing 121 people but the company plans to run the mill around the clock all week, implementing a four shift schedule in the near future. When U.S. housing starts pick up, Weyerhaeuser will be there to prop up the market with its “trash turned treasure.”

 

Apr. 24, 2014 - West Fraser Timber reported earnings of $72 million or $0.84 per share on sales of $809 million in the first quarter of 2014.

Operational Results

In the quarter, its lumber operations generated operating earnings of $79 million and EBITDA of $107 million. The improvement over the prior quarter reflects higher SYP lumber prices and the benefit of a weaker Canadian dollar partially offset by lower shipments. Operating earnings in the previous quarter included a $24 million restructuring charge.

The panel segment, which includes plywood, LVL and MDF, generated $7 million of operating earnings and EBITDA of $11 million in the quarter, reflecting higher plywood prices.

Pulp and paper operations generated operating earnings of $22 million in the quarter and EBITDA of $32 million. The improvement from the previous quarter reflected improved pulp prices, a weaker Canadian dollar and improved operating rates at our mills.

During the quarter, much of Canada and the U.S. experienced severe winter conditions and significantly restricted railcar availability, which impaired the transport of our products to market. Shipments were further adversely affected by a 28-day trucking strike at the port of Vancouver during March. As a result, our finished-goods inventories at the end of the quarter were at unusually high levels. We expect that as the weather improves and the building season progresses, inventories will decrease to more normal levels.

Outlook

We expect lumber prices to be volatile over the balance of 2014 as the supply chain adjusts to more normal shipping flows and the weather-delayed building season progresses. The recovery of the U.S. housing market continues to be the greatest uncertainty that will affect lumber prices. Pulp prices are under pressure as new global hardwood pulp supply entered the market in the quarter.

"We continue to be confident about the long-term recovery of the U.S. housing market although we do expect that it will be bumpy," West Fraser's President and CEO Ted Seraphim said. "Our purchases of three sawmills, two in Arkansas and one in northern Alberta reflects our positive view of the future. The current combined capacity of these mills is 380 million board feet and with some additional capital investment, we expect to increase capacity to 485 million board feet."

Jan. 24, 2014 – With almost 590 million euro in new orders, 2013 was a good business year for the Siempelkamp Group. With a sales turnover of 710 million euro the group achieved the third best figure in the history of the company. With an order intake of 405 million euro, the machine and plant engineering business unit exceeded the target figures. The determining factor for this result were primarily orders for plants for wood-based panel which were placed at the end of the year.

Plants for wood-based panel – very successful fourth quarter
Ten wood-based board manufacturers placed primarily large orders with Siempelkamp in 2013 including ContiRoll presses as part of orders for partial or complete plants. In a market characterized by fierce price competition, 2013 orders placed exceeded 2012 by two.

Six board manufacturers including HOMANIT ordered MDF plants from Siempelkamp in 2013. For its location in Krosno, Poland, the company placed an order in December for a high-tech production plant for thin MDF including an 8' x 28.8 m ContiRoll of the latest generation. Furthermore, Siempelkamp sold four production plants for particleboard in 2013.

In the area of short-cycle presses Siempelkamp recorded four new orders. One of these orders is a 2070 x 5610 mm short-cycle press for the long-standing Siempelkamp customer Egger in Tyrol. Furthermore, several different plant operators ordered our innovative MDF blending system, the Ecoresinator. Since its market introduction in 2011, 18 systems have already been sold to date. In the area of second-hand plants, demand has significantly increased for both suppliers as well as buyers. In 2013 it offered three particleboard lines, one MDF line as well as seven short-cycle lines in this business area.

Jan. 17, 2014, Slave Lake, Alta. – Over four years after the plant was shuttered, OSB Athabasca in Slave Lake is back to producing boards.

The plant was originally closed in 2009 following the downturn in the North American housing market. In February of 2013, Tolko announced that they would re-open the mill and make significant investment in order to create a more efficient and productive mill. Just 10 months later, in December of 2013, OSB Athabasca produced its first board.

There have been major upgrades made to the facility since it last produced boards back in 2009. For starters, the in-feed system has been completely re-designed in order to produce a more efficient system for getting logs into the debarkers more efficiently. They have also added a system that allows the mill to produce OSB boards for roof sheathing, opening up a new market not available previously.

Perhaps the biggest change has been the installation of a new press system. The new system is 72m long, making it the longest press in an OSB mill anywhere in North America. Siempelkamp, a German company that specializes in customized production machinery, manufactured the new press system.

With the additions made to the plant, OSB Athabasca has a stronger position in the industry due to its new range of diversified products.

For more on OSB Athabasca, look for our feature story on the mill in the March/April edition of Canadian Forest Industries magazine.

Oct. 29, 2013 - A contest launched by The Greenest Workforce gives students the opportunity to compete for paid internships in forestry. But interested students are running out of time to apply – applications must by in before October 31st.

Contest rules requires students to submit a resume, a photo, and a statement explaining why they would be perfect for a Green Dream Internship. Students must get the most votes for their photo and statement any way they can by November 15, 2013.

The 21st-century Canadian forest products industry requires savvy trailblazers who care about their future, the environment and quality of life. The industry is proud to be forging an innovative path to a green and growing future. To do so it needs 60,000 workers or more by 2020 to help fill a long list of jobs such as: millwrights, electricians, engineers, human resource specialists, sales staff, truck drivers, foresters, chemists, communicators and more.

With the help of the Government of Canada, the industry has launched a resource tool called TheGreenestWorkforce.ca which provides information on the industry, as well as available career opportunities on offer right now across Canada.

Voting begins November 1, 2013 ending on November 15th. The Top 7 students within each of the internship positions will be invited to interview with the host company. Winning students will be notified of their 2014 summer internship by December 2, 2013.

Students can apply for the contest by going to TheGreenestWorkforce.ca.

The 18 internships positions are:
1. Bilingual Human Resources Intern - Resolute Forest Products, Montreal, Quebec
2. Chemical Engineer – West Fraser Timber, Quesnel, British Columbia
3. Chemical Engineer or Chemical Technologist – Daishowa-Marubeni International (DMI), Peace River, Alberta
4. Chemical or Mechanical Engineer – West Fraser, Quesnel, British Columbia
5. Chemical Engineer – AV Group, Nackawic, New Brunswick
6. Chemical Engineer – AV Group, Atholville, New Brunswick
7. Electronic Engineer – Canfor Corporation, Mackenzie, British Columbia
8. Engineering Technologist or Business Commerce, Operations – Tolko Industries Ltd., Slave Lake, Alberta
9. Environmental or Chemical Engineer – Millar Western, Whitecourt, Alberta
10. Forestry Intern – Tembec, Chapleau/Timmins
11. Human Resources Intern – Tolko Industries Ltd., Vernon, British Columbia
12. Human Resources Intern – AV Group, Nackawic, New Brunswick
13. Mechanical Engineer – Canfor Corporation, Bear Lake, Prince George, British Columbia
14. Mechanical Engineer – West Fraser Timber, Cariboo Region, British Columbia
15. Mechanical, Electrical or Chemical Engineer – Tembec, Temiscaming, Quebec
16. Timberlands Forestry Intern – Weyerhaeuser, Grande Prairie, Alberta
17. Timberlands Forestry Intern – Weyerhaeuser, Princeton, British Columbia
18. Woodlands Forestry Assistant, Operations & Roads – Millar Western, Whitecourt, Alberta

Oct. 24, 2013 - Nearly three decades have passed since the last outbreak of spruce budworm in the vast conifer forests of eastern North America. With budworm on the rise once again in Quebec and threatening to spread through spruce and fir forests from Ontario to Atlantic Canada, Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service is leading a diverse task force of scientists, woodlot owners, and industry to review current knowledge and develop possible strategies to contain the looming epidemic.

Spruce budworm outbreaks have a lengthy history in North American forests. Evidence from stunted tree growth rings in ancient spruce suggest around 11 outbreaks during the last 450 years – the fossil record indicates an outbreak history that may reach back more than 8,600 years. These outbreaks have occurred with surprising regularity, roughly every 30-40 years, with three major outbreaks occurring in the past century.

With so much time since the previous outbreak, it may be timely to recall the full magnitude of damage that can be caused by spruce budworm. High densities of larvae consume all available new foliage, leaving fragments of decaying needles and giving forests a characteristic rusty, red-brown hue. At the peak of the previous outbreak, an estimated 51 million hectares of forest across eastern Canada had suffered moderate to severe defoliation associated with budworm feeding. By the late 1980s when the populations crashed, approximately 18 million hectares of dead or dying trees were reported – an area nearly 2.5 times the size of New Brunswick.

The current spruce budworm outbreak in Quebec is located mainly along the lower north shore region of the St. Lawrence River. This outbreak was detected in 2006 over a 3,000-hectare area and has doubled almost every year since. As of 2012, moderate to severe damage was reported in over 2.2 million hectares. So far, budworm densities have remained low south of the St. Lawrence, but provincial surveys by the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources indicate a gradual but steady rise over the past few years.

In 2010, spray operations to protect foliage were initiated by the province of Quebec in collaboration with SOPFIM (Société de protection des forêts contre les insectes et les maladies). The only control measure approved for suppression of budworm in Quebec is a biological insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk); chemical insecticides are no longer used. According to SOPFIM scientist Dr. Richard Trudel, the area treated with Btk in 2012 was about 98,000 hectares of the most high-value forests, which constitutes about two per cent of the total
infested area.

A major challenge for any future spruce budworm spray program will be the high cost of treatment. Application costs have ballooned from $4-10/hectare in the 1970s and 1980s to more than $65/hectare as of 2012. Studies are still investigating the potential use of other control measures, including the registered insecticide Mimic (a hormone that causes early moulting) and pheromone-based mating disruption. Whatever tactic is chosen, high treatment costs are likely to preclude a spray operation of the scale seen during the previous outbreak, which between 1985 and 1990 covered nearly 2.8 million hectares in eastern Canada.

Much of what we know of budworm management has come from research spearheaded by scientists of the Canadian Forest Service (CFS). Many of these scientists advocate a budworm treatment strategy based on the insect’s population dynamics. Past research has suggested that spruce budworm rises synchronously throughout the region, with pockets of particularly high damage caused by relatively fast-growing populations. A spray program based on this population growth model would be used mainly to protect trees in high-value stands by knocking down large, fairly localized populations before significant damage occurs. Historically, this has been the main approach used.

Recent studies have provided tentative support for an alternative model of population growth. The evidence suggests outbreaks may spread from localized, high budworm density “epicentres,” providing a wellspring of dispersing adults that boost surrounding populations. If this model is confirmed, it could provide an “early-intervention strategy.” Treating apparent epicentres early in the outbreak could slow the spread of budworm. However, more research is needed to validate this approach, and to address logistical questions, such as when, where and how early intervention might be implemented, how to forecast the initial rise and subsequent spread of outbreaks and whether such a strategy would be less costly than alternatives.  

Research to examine this early-intervention approach is underway in the Lower St. Lawrence region near Rimouski, Que. The project is being led by CFS scientists from the Laurentian, Atlantic and Great Lakes Forestry Centres, working closely with provincial foresters, private landowners and several industry partners (SOPFIM and Forest Protection Ltd.). This collaboration represents a positive first step towards improving the management of spruce budworm in eastern Canada.

Visit the Natural Resources Canada website for more information: http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pages/50.


Rob Johns and Deepa Pureswaran are researchers at the Canadian Forest Service in the Atlantic Forestry Centre and the Laurentian Forestry Centre.

Installing a new fingerjoint line for solid sawn flange production and a new cold press has given Roseburg’s massive engineered wood products facility the ability to bring five process centres under one roof: drying and grading, hot press, an I-joist line, fingerjoint line and cold press.

Big things have been happening in the southwestern corner of New Brunswick, especially for anyone interested in reducing production costs at medium density fibreboard (MDF) plants while also improving ambient air quality conditions.

A few years ago during a review of its purpose and mission, the Tacoma, Wash.-based Engineered Wood Technology Association (EWTA) adopted a new marketing tagline: “Strength Through Connections.”

For many businesses, being flexible enough to quickly respond to changing market conditions can be a crucial component to success. That has been the case at the SmartPly Oriented Strand Board (OSB) mill near Waterford in the Republic of Ireland, where employees have become particularly adept at efficiently developing new ways to stay on top of changing customer requirements and needs.

The old cliché of  “if you can’t beat them, join them” took on a whole new meaning earlier this year when two struggling plywood mills in northern Ontario joined forces to create a single viable company. But it wasn’t a simple case of one mill swallowing up, or being joined by the other. It was a true merger that capitalized on creating synergies, sharing technology and a skilled workforce, and melding together a varied customer base.

Times may be tough out there for both solid and engineered wood products manufacturers but you wouldn’t know it walking through the DRIcore plant in the Toronto, Ont., suburb of Mississauga. The company, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Montreal, Que.-based Kruger Inc., is a major hive of activity where 4 ft. x 8 ft. sheets of oriented strand board (OSB) are converted into 2 ft. x 2 ft. panels for engineered subfloor systems.

Six years ago John Greenwood put his entrepreneurial spirit and business background to good use when he took over the helm of Nisku, Alta.-based Millennium Decking and its parent company, Wood Composites Technologies Inc.

When the manufacturing line starts up at the BC plant housing JER Envirotech International Corporation, it makes the sound of a new opportunity emerging in the Province’s forest industry. It’s the opportunity developed by entrepreneurs who saw how waste could be recycled into a dynamic new product with worldwide demand.  
But the sound is also one of missed opportunities for BC’s growing mountain pine beetle wood waste.

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