Conference to feature promising
opportunities for residual wood

The upcoming Residual Wood Conference— being held October 24 to 26 in Vancouver— will look at the very promising opportunities that are emerging for residual wood, especially in the biofuel area, with a solid lineup of speakers.

By Paul MacDonald

Driven primarily by rising energy prices—and concerns about climate change and greenhouse gases—the residual wood that is generated by forest industry operations across North America is steadily on its way to becoming a more valuable resource. Instead of looking for the most convenient and least expensive way to dispose of residual wood product, sawmills and forest products operations may, in the near future, be looking at a situation where the product is highly sought after. Some mills may, in fact, see a bit of a bidding war developing between the pulp and paper industry, which wants residual wood for chips, and energy companies that want to use residual wood to produce power.                                   

Forest companies could even opt to set up their own power generating facilities that could be separate profit centres, and provide power directly to the grid. These kinds of energy operations could help to even out the roller coaster ride the industry experiences, profit-wise, with the swings in lumber prices.                                   

Those are some of the scenarios that will be outlined at the Seventh Biennial Residual Wood Conference, being held October 24 to 26 at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel, in Richmond, BC.                                   

“There really are a lot of changes happening in the industry,” says conference manager Jan Raulin. “We’ve got a solid line-up of speakers who will be talking about what is going on with residual wood now, and what is going to happen over the next few years, and how the industry can capitalize on the growing demand for residual wood.”                                   

The first Residual Wood Residue-To- Revenue Conference, which is sponsored by Logging & Sawmilling Journal, was held in 1995 and broke new ground for the forest industry—it was the first conference of its kind ever held in Canada.                                   

The main theme of turning wood residue into revenue has remained consistent for the conference—which is held every two years—reflecting the ongoing importance of dealing with residual wood. The topics and speakers have changed, however, reflecting the fast evolving nature and technologies of the business. The conference continues to be a central source of information for the highest and best use of what is becoming a valuable commodity.                 

There is a lot of potential growth for the industry, and the conference will outline what the future options are for the industry, with a solid line-up of speakers from across North America and Europe. “Dealing with residual wood is an industry-wide issue—and it is fast becoming a larger business opportunity— and we want attendees to hear firsthand success stories at the conference,” comments Raulin.                                   

Residual Wood Conference co-chair Paul Means, says the major trend in the industry is clearly towards generating energy from wood. “That’s the overriding trend, driven by both higher fossil fuel prices and concerns about climate change and greenhouse gases,” says Means, who is a senior energy specialist with Weyerhaeuser Company,                                   

“There are some well established options that have been around for quite a while, like sawmills utilizing residuals for steam and electrical power. But now there is a wide range of technologies out there for utilizing residuals.                                   

“The interesting part is the many different forms generating energy from residual wood, or biomass, can take,” he adds. “It can be directly converted to energy in a co-gen plant, a biomass plant that is designed specifically to produce electrical power, or it can be converted to fuel as pellets or liquid fuels.”                                   

Energy use is the “new frontier” for residual wood, says conference co-chair Murray Hall of Murray Hall Consulting. “All the existing uses will still be there, but there is a whole new world of other uses for residual wood products,” he adds. “But the trend in everyone’s world is the use of residual wood as a biofuel.” It is now commonly used as a biofuel in Europe. In North America, it has gone from being “non-existent” as a biofuel a few years ago to being a “player” in energy markets, says Hall. “The days of there being surpluses of wood residue in Western Canada and western United States are over,” he comments.                                   

Hall adds that government, and industry, has to be mindful of the best use of residual wood, factoring in its use in the pulp and paper industry. “There could be unintended effects—you could have a new power plant using residual wood employing 19 people putting a pulp mill employing 400 people out of business.” The Residual Wood Conference  this year will be taking a broader, more global view of what is being done with residual wood. Opening the conference will be Jim Bowyer, president, Bowyer & Associates of Shoreview, Minnesota. Bowyer will be speaking on converting wood residue to revenue in a changing world, covering developments such as the Kyoto Accord, climate change and specific situations, such as British Columbia’s mountain pine beetle epidemic.                                   

Also speaking at the opening session is Hakan Ekstrom, president of Wood Resources International, of Seattle, Washington, who will talk about international trends, notably what is going on in Europe. Michael Armstrong, a director at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP—and a Registered Professional Forester—will also be talking about global trends in residual wood and the impact of bioenergy.                                   

As noted, there is a gap between biomass utilization in Europe versus North America—high energy prices in Europe have resulted in much greater biomassbased energy generation.                                   

“The Europeans are quite a bit further along in utilizing biomass for energy than North America,” notes Paul Means. “The higher energy prices are a factor and they’ve also taken climate change and the Kyoto Protocol much more seriously than Canada or the United States. That’s translated into incentives and penalties and other economic motivators for using biomass.”                                   

In terms of North America, Mike Jostrom of Plum Creek Timber will offer a perspective from the privately-owned timberlands side. Plum Creek is the largest and most geographically diverse private landowner in the US, and owns timberlands in more than a dozen states from coast to coast.                                   

Dick Carmical, general manager of The Price Companies of Monticello, Arkansas, will offer a perspective from the southern US. The Price Companies, Inc is one of the largest and most experienced wood processing companies in the US.                                   

Doug Routledge, vice president, northern operations for the Council of Forest Industries of Prince George, BC, will talk about the huge impact the mountain pine beetle has had—and will continue to have—on British Columbia’s forest industry, and the possible residual wood opportunities that may result.                                   

The dinner speaker at the conference is Read Smith, co-chair of the 25x’25 steering committee. 25x’25 is a bold initiative for renewable energy—it has set a goal for America to obtain 25 per cent of its energy from renewable resources, including biofuels, by the year 2025. This year, the Residual Wood Conference has a new title sponsor, Rawlings Manufacturing/Waste Wood Recovery Systems. From its base in Montana, the company has been manufacturing and selling residual wood equipment, including the patented Rawlings Hog, for 0 years.                                   

Silver Sponsors are BC Hydro and First Resources Corporation. BC Hydro is one of the largest electric utilities in Canada. Earlier this year, the company issued a request for bioenergy expressions of interest, and received more than 80 responses. The submissions indicate an early and strong interest in developing projects to utilize mountain pine beetle waste wood, sawmill residue and logging debris to generate electricity.                                   

First Resources Corporation is a new company that was established to develop business ventures and secure long-term growth opportunities through strong partnerships and alliances with First Nations communities.                                   

In addition to two full days of speakers, the conference will also profile—through the Suppliers Showcase—the technology and products of more than 0 companies involved in the residual wood business. Indicating the high level of interest in the conference, space for the Suppliers Showcase has been sold out for several months.

For more information about the Residual Wood Conference please contact conference manager Jan Raulin at 604-541-7562 or by e-mail at tenaj@telus.net. Further information is also available on the Internet at www.forestnet.com/rwc    


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