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L&M Lumber:tradition of innovation
A mill upgrade at B.C.’s L&M Lumber—involving a new optimized log breakdown and processing line—positions the independent producer well for recovering lumber markets, and continues
a tradition of innovation and improvement.
By Jim Stirling
Flexibility, efficiency and full utilization of available wood fibre were drivers for a recently completed sawmill upgrade at L&M Lumber Ltd., in Vanderhoof, B.C.
The project maintains a tradition of innovation and improvement at L&M and its adjacent sister companies of Nechako Lumber Co. Ltd; Premium Pellet Ltd and more recently, Nechako Green Energy Ltd., (see accompanying sidebar story).
The installation of a new $24 million optimized log breakdown and processing line at L&M was the latest key change to be implemented.
“It’s allowed us to go from about 30 per cent optimization to 90 per cent, so we can now get the best value from each log entering the sawmill,” explained Alan Fitzpatrick, general manager for L&M.
The line processes logs with an average eight inch diameter. But don’t call the new optimized line a small log line or even a large or medium one, cautioned Fitzpatrick. “They’re relative terms here.” The reason for that is L&M has specialized in processing small diameter pine from its 250,000 cubic metre annual non-renewable licence for more than 20 years. The company has become adept at processing pine down to 3.5 inches on the mill’s HewSaw line.
The mountain pine beetle epidemic has devastated the Vanderhoof area, compounding L&M’s log processing challenges. Stems are not only small diameter but about 70 per cent of the mill’s wood supply is in dead pine. And the timber requirements under long term company licence provide only a modest percentage of the company’s requirements and the balance must be acquired from elsewhere. It is another reason why flexibility is so important to their operation, said Fitzpatrick.
Comact was the major supplier of equipment on L&M’s new log breakdown line. “The key components of the new Comact line include a true shape scanner with a vision system to detect cracks and other defects caused by the pine beetle and a quad rolls log turner to optimize recovery based on solutions developed by the scanner and optimizer,” he explained. An optimized length infeed with a skewing and slewing positioning system allows for optimum recovery through the canter and quad arbor sawbox with the capacity to cut six side boards at a time. Downstream from the canter is a Comact TBL3 curve sawing gang. “The whole line is more precise and faster,” Fitzpatrick summarized. “We also added more bin sorters. We had 12 lumber bins before, now we have 44. That gives us more flexibility for different products and profiles.”
A second SCS Forest Products moisture line was added as part of the upgrade project. Before, there was a moisture line for only the 2 x 4 product. The addition helps solve lumber drying issues. For example, dry pine requires much shorter drying cycles than green spruce. Two new automatic USNR lumber stackers capable of operating through a cycle every four minutes are able to do the work of the three previous stackers on the line, reported Fitzpatrick.
L&M’s sawmill improvement project followed a proven pattern for the Nechako Group of companies. Company president Michael Manojlovic—whose dad, Mike, was a fixture at the operation for years, and the ‘M” in L&M—investigated several options and put in the leg work well prior to the new line taking any physical shape. A key part of the process was consultation with the operation’s workers. “Michael, who is L&M plant manager responsible for mill operations and the upgrade project, sought input from the maintenance staff, the electricians, the saw filers as well as the sawmill production crews,” outlined Fitzpatrick. “Their experience and ideas have all gone into the final product.”
The project’s tangible shape began forming in the spring of 2012 and the construction process followed three distinct phases. The two USNR stackers were the first to be installed, followed by installation of the new line itself with the new lumber bin sorters comprising the third phase. As a result, mill downtime during the project was reduced to a minimum. Staff could keep working as long as possible.
It well illustrates another feature of the Nechako Group companies. “The operation and its approximately 170 employees stayed working all through the downturn,” said Fitzpatrick. That’s a real achievement given the prolonged depths recorded by the U.S. housing market. And the U.S. absorbs up to 65 per cent of the mill’s production of 1 x 3 to 2 x 6 lumber products in eight foot lengths.
Thankfully that time has passed.”Now, with the new line up and running well, we’re very well positioned to take advantage as the markets return,” he concluded.
Turboden energy system delivering the juice
It just runs.
“That’s what our operators tell us,” reports Alan Fitzpatrick, president of Nechako Green Energy in Vanderhoof, British Columbia. “The wood biomass-driven Turboden Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) energy system has been meeting or exceeding expectations and we think that’s key,” he added.
The system was installed in Vanderhoof in 2012 and was commissioned in February 2013 (see the story in the February/March 2012 issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal on our website at www.forestnet.com).
The ORC system uses excess heat generated from a existing Del-Tech bioenergy system to heat oil for the industrial complex, including an adjacent wood pellet manufacturing plant, the L&M sawmill and the mill’s four lumber dry kilns. The Turboden system has the capacity to generate about two megawatts of electricity.
The closed-loop ORC system has proven itself in Europe for years as an efficient, clean and reliable method of converting high organic content material into energy. The Nechako Green Energy installation was the first sawmill application for the technology in North America. But it has subsequently attracted considerable interest throughout the sawmilling industry. For example, West Fraser has plans to install the ORC technology at its mills in Fraser Lake and Chetwynd to optimize the use of sawmill residues.
The modern Turboden system was pioneered and refined in Italy. A majority share of the company was acquired in 2011 by Pratt & Whitney Power Systems in the U.S. Since December, 2012, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan has assumed an interest in the technology.
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