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July Aug 2003

Turning wood Residue into Revenue

The upcoming Residue-To-Revenue Residual Wood Conference—being held November 5 to 7 in Richmond, BC—will look at current uses for residual wood and the exciting new emerging markets.

By Paul MacDonald

 With the rising cost of energy in North America, there is growing interest in residual wood-related energy solutions.

Part of the interest in energy-related residual wood solutions in the North American forest industry seems to rise and fall with energy prices, notably the price of natural gas, a fuel that is widely used by the industry. When natural gas prices rise, the interest is greater—and interest in wood-related energy solutions declines when prices fall. If anything, the outlook for natural gas supplies and prices should drive the industry to look very seriously at residual wood powered systems. “Energy prices are still a big driver for residual wood energy systems,” says Mel Spitler, co-chair of the Residue-To-Revenue Residual Wood Conference, being held November 5 to 7 at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, BC.

The 5th Biennial Residue-To-Revenue Residual Wood Conference will be taking a look at all the advantages, including energy savings, of dealing with wood residue in an effective manner, as well as the variety of options that are available. The conference will feature a wide range of respected and knowledgeable speakers from across North America. They will be reviewing current uses for residual wood, as well as possible future markets for this increasingly valuable resource. Spitler noted that natural gas prices are much higher than they were two years ago at the last residual wood conference.

Residual wood—in the mill yard and in the bush—remains an untapped resource in much of North America. This November, the leading issues in dealing with residual wood will be covered by the Residue-To-Revenue Wood Conference.

As a result, the topic will be even more front and centre this time around. More natural gas is being used for electricity generation, increasing the demand for the fuel in that sector. Much of the new electricity capacity brought on-line right now is generated by natural gas, rather than oil, coal, water or nuclear. The war in Iraq caused higher prices as a fallout from high oil prices. The worrying thing for the industry is that the war is over, and oil prices have dropped, but natural gas prices are still high.

Just this past June, the head of one of Canada’s leading energy companies, TransCanada Corporation, told a US House Committee in Washington that the company expects the growth in natural gas demand in North America to outpace supply from traditional gas sources over the next several years. Hal Kvisle, TransCanada’s chief executive officer, was testifying at the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on natural gas supply and demand. “We estimate natural gas demand growth of more than 15 billion cubic feet per day by 2012, but supply growth from traditional North American sources is not expected to be more than 5 billion cubic feet per day.”

According to some industry reports, natural gas demand in North America is increasing at about 2.5 per cent a year whereas supply is increasing at about one per cent. Production from many older gas wells is declining quite rapidly. Even with this kind of backdrop, however, the forest industry is growing to realize that its best long-term interests lie in coming up with a long-term solution for wood residue—regardless of whether energy prices are high or low. Spitler says the conference is also working at getting an overview of what is going on in residual wood utilization in Europe, especially in the bush where the Europeans are working to get the most out of their forests.

For example, Timberjack recently brought over a piece of forestry handling equipment from Scandinavia that takes residual wood and bundles the material tightly together into “residual wood logs” for use in energy facilities. “The overall goal with this equipment is to achieve much better utilization of the forest fibre and reduce energy costs,” says Spitler. At the same time, the conference will also be looking at how to handle residual wood generated at the mill, whether the fibre is in the form of sawdust or solid wood, as in the case of trim ends.

Residual wood in the forest is expected to be of growing interest in the US, with recent moves by the Bush administration to allow stepped-up forest management, to reduce the number of wildfires. This would mean removing underbrush and smaller wood materials—which help to fuel extremely damaging wildfires—and which will now be available for utilization, such as power generation. Stuart McCormick, Weyerhaeuser’s company-wide leader for residuals and solid waste management issues, is co-chair of the conference with Mel Spitler. He notes that while energy will certainly be of high interest at the conference, the conference content will also be very broad in scope.

Co-chairs McCormick and Spitler, and conference co-ordinator Jan Raulin, have worked carefully to ensure the speaker line-up and conference topics cover the leading areas of interest in residual wood. “Producing energy from residual wood continues to be of high interest to people in the industry,” says McCormick. “But we’ve also made sure that other emerging issues, such as climate change and carbon credits, will be covered with our speakers and presentations.”

McCormick added that the conference offers attendees the opportunity to network with others in the forest industry facing the challenge of dealing with residual wood. “There are a lot of people in the industry who are looking to come up with economical solutions to deal with their residual wood,” he says. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution that works for everyone. But people who have attended the previous residual wood conferences have told us that they left with ideas from both the conference speakers and the industry people they met informally at the conference. It can generate some different ideas on how to deal with what remains an untapped resource. ”

An added bonus this year is that the Canadian Bioenergy Association (CANBIO) will be holding its Western Canada meeting in association with the Residue-to-Revenue Conference. CANBIO is a national, industry-driven, non-profit organization of individuals, businesses and non-governmental organizations interested in the development, promotion and use of bioenergy. Their meeting will follow directly after the conference, on November 8th.

The conference is produced by Logging & Sawmilling Journal. The title sponsor of the conference is Valon Kone Brunette Ltd, with silver sponsors BC Hydro and Natural Resources Canada. Among the topic areas to be covered at the conference will be: the handling and separation of wood residue, carbon credits, biofuels, assessing emerging technologies and how mills can reduce their dependence on outside power. Speakers at the conference and their topics include:

• Kirstin Castro-Wunsch, KC Environmental Group Ltd - Wood Residue to Mulch/Compost.
• Konrad Fichtner, Earth Tech Canada Inc - Gasification of Wood Residues.
• Brian McCloy, BW McCloy & Associates - Climate Change and Carbon Credits.
• Kendall Pye, Vice-President, R & D, Lignol Innovations Corp - Understanding the economic readiness of biomass to ethanol.

 Based on the past four Residue-To-Revenue Residual Wood conferences, attendees to the conference are looking for advice, solutions and equipment. The conference will further accommodate those needs with the Suppliers’ Showcase, which offers an excellent opportunity for those attending the conference to connect with the providers of wood residue-related products and services. For further information on the Residue-to-Revenue Residual Wood Conference, please contact conference co-ordinator Jan Raulin at 604-990-9970 (fax 604-990-9971) or by e-mail at tenaj@telus.net

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