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Production of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and off-site building construction are two of the areas of advanced forest industry and building construction activity in Alberta that could benefit from new test facilities and accompanying support personnel being funded by Alberta Innovates.
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
Alberta Innovates is providing funding for centres that will advance technology and training within five sectors or themes. Three of these themes have potential benefits for the forest products sector.
The initiative, called the Clean Technology Facilities Support Program, is part of the province’s Climate Change Innovation and Technology Framework (CCITF) announced in 2017. Alberta Innovates is currently evaluating project proposals from applicants in a competitive process, with up to $31 million in funding support available.
The centres are intended to provide access to equipment, utilities and operations to industry and research organizations. These “test centres” could include testing, certification, training, demonstration, experimentation or the creation of a hub for technology awareness.
Alberta is eager to invest in innovation and technology that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, drives economic growth and achieves economic diversification.
The five themes being targeted for Research & Innovation investment are: Green Building Technologies; Biomass Waste/Natural Gas Conversion Technologies; Electricity Technologies; Emissions Reductions Test Facilities; and Cleaner Oil Sands Test Facilities.
The facilities can take various forms, from single buildings with dedicated technical support personnel to networks and clusters of facilities working together.
The level of support for successful proponents will vary. They will have up to two years to make capital investments and begin operations in support of industry.
Patrick Guidera, Director of Forest Technologies with the Bio business line at Alberta Innovates, says test centres for Green Building Technologies, Biomass Waste/Natural Gas Conversion Technologies, and Electricity Technologies have the potential to help both wood product manufacturers and the building design and construction industries overcome technical hurdles and knowledge gaps.
“In essence, what these test centres could help the forest sector accomplish is a broader portfolio of different fibre and product development,” he says.
Industry is already invested in the development of novel engineered wood products such as laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and cross-laminated timber (CLT). Technical work is being done to achieve greater penetration into the construction market, including new applications such as tall building construction. There are also novel building approaches evolving in the province, such as off-site building construction. The challenge is that because companies are focused on managing their businesses, they often lack the time to investigate incorporation of new green building materials and technologies into their regular workflow.
“The engineering and construction areas presently have some challenges in moving forward with green building,” says Guidera. “So, this program is designed to help those industries address technical challenges with the type of support that they have said they need.”
Alberta Innovates has already provided financial support for the production at the demonstration level of such wood-based materials as lignin and cellulose nanocrystals (CNC). This program has the potential to provide greater testing capacity within the province to help advance the production and application of these biomaterials, either on their own or in combination with other materials in green building applications.
The Clean Technology Facilities Support Program is one of several programs being rolled out by Alberta Innovates and other agencies as part of the CCITF, on behalf of the Alberta Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.
For more information about the Clean Technology Facilities Support Program and other programs administered by Alberta Innovates for CCITF, contact Dwayne Brunner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit albertainnovates.ca/funding-clean-technology/climate-change-innovation-and-technology-framework-ccitf/.
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
Afforestation or establishing forests on non-forest land using short rotation woody crops (SRWC) is a national opportunity. A network of demonstration sites established by Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) shows which SRWC species grow well in various geoclimatic zones across Canada.
Today, nearly all of the primary technical development questions to successfully establish SRWC plantations in a variety of Canadian regions have been answered, and these sites are open to evaluation by anyone interested in this crop’s economic potential.
The network of well-advanced demonstration sites has been evolving for almost 20 years. Today’s primary national network of technical development sites exists in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, with hybrid poplar being the core species in a high yield afforestation design.
“We have developed a map which identifies the site suitability and therefore the yield potential of various hybrid poplar clones, based on bio-geoclimatic conditions of all agriculture lands in Canada,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager of the CWFC Technology Development and Transfer Group.
SRWC offer both a way for forest companies to enhance their fibre availability and the ability to grow more consistent and purpose-grown wood fibre with huge documented volume gains in a fraction of the time vs. a natural forest. These crops can also be planted in close proximity to final users.
SRWC plantations represent a new potential cash crop for farmers and landowners, and they can help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, while having the potential to help Canada meet its international greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets because they are natural carbon sinks.
Each of CWFC’s demonstration plantations provide examples of highly-productive, primarily hybrid poplar clones suitable for each location, thus removing most of the guesswork among landowners and end users of what species and clones to select for planting in their particular area. These hybrid poplar plantations have reached commercial harvest potential in some cases in as little as 12 to 15 years.
One demonstration site was planted in 2004 near Duck Lake, Saskatchewan and was established in partnership with a local First Nations group.
“This site of hybrid poplar currently stands at an average of 11 centimetres in diameter and 12 metres in height per tree, with approximately 67 cubic metres of fibre growth per hectare after 14 years of growth,” says Sidders. “That’s about 4.75 cubic metres of growth per hectare per year.”
Sidders says the natural forest averages about 1.7 cubic metres per hectare per year over the full lifespan of the forest. So SRWC hybrid poplar grown on moderate to high quality land can produce 8 to 12 times more fibre than the average natural forest.
A second demonstration site near MacGregor, Manitoba, about 110 kms west of Winnipeg and adjacent to the TransCanada Highway, features a number of locally adapted hybrid poplar clones and some custom designed for southern Manitoba. Some like Prairie Sky and DN-34 are achieving 13 centimetres in diameter and 15 metres in height after 13 or 14 years of growth, depending on the clone and planting, yielding between 120 and 140 cubic metres of fibre per hectare. Sidders describes this as “extremely high productivity”.
A third demonstration site near the University of Guelph in southern Ontario was planted in 2005 and 2009 on a 25 hectare site. It features different management regimes and local site-suitable hybrid poplar with a long history in that region. After 13 years, the 2005 planted hybrid poplar on the Guelph site has achieved 13 to 16 centimetres in diameter, 13 to 15 metres in height, and volumes of 95 to 125 cubic metres per hectare. The nine-year-old plantings average 10 centimetres in diameter, 10.5 metres in height and 35 cubic metres per hectare.
“In a really extreme example, we have a site south of London, Ontario that was planted in 2012, and currently has the highest growth production that we have seen on any site,” says Sidders.
That SRWC plantation is in the Zone 6 hardiness area, featuring Class 1 agriculture land.
“The hybrid poplar has grown to 12 centimetres in diameter and 16 metres height after just six years of production, at 1,100 stems per hectare and three metre by three metre spacing,” says Sidders. “It is already yielding 96 cubic metres per hectare.”
A fifth demonstration site established in 2013 is on an eight-hectare location in Kemptville, Ontario, 60 kms southwest of Ottawa. It has hybrid poplar at 10 centimetres in diameter and 9 metres in height after five growing seasons, and is on a trajectory similar to the London, Ontario site.
All these sites are being maintained and managed by CWFC’s partners to maturity.
For information about the location of CWFC short rotation woody crop demonstration sites and technical data related to these sites, contact Derek Sidders at email@example.com or CWFC Wood Fibre Development Specialist Tim Keddy at firstname.lastname@example.org