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Choosing the right equipment combo
Logger Jamie Enright has found that a TimberPro 620 carrier with the Risley Rolly II processing head is the right equipment combination to fell and process logs at the stump on the private land that he logs in southeastern Ontario.
By Tony Kryzanowski
Ontario logger Jamie Enright feels his blood pressure rise every time he drives past a local solar power installation with its single half-ton truck parked out front. That’s because he’s sitting on a mountain of forest biomass that could be used to produce all sorts of bio-products—and be used to generate power, creating local jobs in the process. Yet no one seems interested in pursuing that option.
That’s despite the fact that the Ontario government has passed its Green Energy and Green Economy Act, which decrees that all power generation from coal-fired power plants in the province must be eliminated by 2014. This past October, it shut down four southern Ontario coal-fired power plants. Ontario Power Generation is planning to convert a coal-fired power plant in Atikokan to wood pellets. However, according to Enright, nothing is in the wind for the Renfrew area of southeastern Ontario, where he is located. This is the situation in spite of what he considers an abundance of woody biomass available either growing or left on the forest floor as a result of logging operations.
“I’d like to see a bunch of smaller, 10-megawatt power plants spread throughout Renfrew County so there isn’t a lot of money wasted by trucking the material,” he says. The spinoff benefits would be significant. “It’s pretty labor-intensive collecting all that biomass and there would be people employed that could pay taxes and feed their families.”
While there seems to be considerable interest in other parts of the world to make better use of forestry biomass, Enright hears little more than talk in his own back yard, in southeastern Ontario.
“People don’t realize how much goes to waste,” he says. “I just think of how many BTU’s are lying on the ground there and it’s staggering.”
Enright knows of what he speaks and forestry experts are well aware of the state of many parts of Canada’s hardwood forest. For years, prior to full mechanization, logging consisted of hand falling and processing the best sawlog and veneer material and then cable skidding the logs to roadside landings. Consequently, what’s left today is a lot of ‘junk wood’ and a forest requiring a massive consecutive thinning effort before quality saw and veneer logs can regenerate.
Enright is co-owner of MJ Enright and Sons Logging. Most of the company’s logging is done on private land owned by Opeongo Forestry Services. He also logs on land owned by his family, as well as for a number of other private land owners.
The forest’s challenging rocky terrain, and its variety of commercial species, contributed to it being among the last areas of Canada to adopt fully mechanized logging. However, MJ Enright is now totally mechanized and has its harvesting technique down to a science. The company’s fleet consists of a Timberjack 608 feller buncher with a Gilbert 20” head to harvest and pile the timber, a six-wheel, rubber-tired, TimberPro 620 carrier equipped with a Risley Rolly II processing head to process and sort the logs at the stump, and a Timberjack, eight-wheel, 1210 forwarder to deliver the various sorts to roadside.
About half of the land base logged in the Renfrew area is Crown land and the other half is private. Larger forestry companies established here operate primarily on Crown land with an annual allowable cut set by the province.
Enright has been logging on his own for the past 25 years, and works strictly on private land, harvesting about 20,000 tonnes per year. The land base is a hardwood/softwood mix, or as Enright describes it, “a real dog’s breakfast” consisting of maple, oak, ash, poplar, white pine, red pine, spruce, balsam fir, and cedar.
“It’s a really mixed up bush,” says Enright. “I have about 13 different sorts going on right now.”
It takes a lot of effort to navigate around the junk wood and valuable regeneration to harvest logs that can be sold to local sawmills.
“You have a whole bunch of junk that is growing there… like poor quality poplar, spruce, balsam and the poor quality hardwood that they didn’t have a market for back 40 years ago,” says Enright. “So that’s the kind of stuff we are going through now, trying to cut all the junk wood out of the bush and leaving every good tree. It sometimes gets to the point where you are leaving just the best of the worst because in some places there really isn’t any of what you would call good trees to leave. What we are doing is like weeding the garden.”
There are several local sawmills that purchase the merchantable logs. Right now, there is a strong market for cedar, with three or four small sawmills operating in the Renfrew area. It’s the pulpwood that can give Enright fits, particularly when all the local pulp mills shut down, as was the case recently. Thankfully Fortress Paper recently reopened a mothballed pulp mill across the Ottawa River in Thurso, Quebec, and Enright has his fingers crossed that they have a long and successful future.
MJ Enright’s logging approach is unique to the area. Most other loggers use the conventional feller buncher approach, followed by skidding to a landing and processing at roadside. Because MJ Enright works exclusively on private land, often involving only about 100 acre lots, the company discovered that landowners weren’t keen about taking up a portion of their property for landings and truck turnarounds. They wanted a logging approach with a minimal environmental footprint, so the company went to work to find what they consider an approach that delivers the least environmental impact.
When MJ Enright decided to become totally mechanized, the best combination they discovered for their circumstances was a TimberPro 620 carrier with the Rolly II head to fell and process the logs. This was after extensive investigation of what other loggers were using in similar terrain and forests, particularly in the northern U.S. states.
“We decided on the Rolly head because it was the toughest one that we saw,” says Enright. “It was also important that it was a fixed head because all our cutting is done selectively. So we wanted a head where we could cut a tree and lift it right out of the regeneration and lay it where we wanted.”
The head also provided them with flexibility to cut both softwood and hardwood, which can measure in a wide diameter range.
“This is a really hard spot to do cut-to-length and you can imagine trying to find a head that will do a 25” red oak and the next cut is a 6” balsam,” says Enright. “The Rolly head is about the closest thing I have seen yet where we can cut a 28” white pine and process it, and the next tree I can cut is a 4” balsam.”
He says the TimberPro carrier suits the environment because with its rubber tires, the undercarriage can handle the rocky terrain better than a tracked machine. Also, the company appreciates the fact that it could remove the tracks from the rubber tires and drive it down the road to the next harvest block without having to order a float.
While this combination generally worked well, MJ Enright discovered that they needed a machine that could do a better job of navigating around the thick underbrush to lay down the merchantable wood. So the company decided to purchase a Timberjack 608 with a Gilbert hotsaw head, using the Timberpro 620 and Rolly II head exclusively for processing and sorting at the stump. That decision has worked well, and what enhances the entire production process is that the feller buncher operator is Neil Hall, one of the owners of Opeongo Forestry Services. Because he is harvesting his own private woodlot, there is no need to mark trees. He can choose which trees to harvest right from the feller buncher cab.
Enright has also improved his efficiency with the selection of his hydraulic oil. He has switched to new multi-viscosity oil offered by Petro-Canada called Hydrex MV 36, which is capable of working year round. This was an important innovation for Enright as the temperature in the Renfrew area can swing from –35 degrees Celsius in winter to +35 degrees Celsius in summer. Prior to selecting this brand of hydraulic oil, he was switching his oil depending on the season, which meant that he had to purchase an additional 450 litres of hydraulic oil depending on the season. Now with the multi-viscosity Petro-Canada product, he no longer needs to switch oil and he saves the time it took to change it.
“I’ve also gotten quite a few hours on my pumps now with no problems,” says Enright. “I don’t know how much of that I can attribute to the oil I’m using, but I think it is quite a bit.”
Enright is concerned with the number of loggers leaving the business and how few young people are considering it as a career. However, he believes the biomass opportunity could have a positive impact on the industry, creating a new market for the massive amount of poor quality wood growing in the area’s mixed hardwood forests—and giving hope to people that perhaps there is a future in the logging industry as a business venture.
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