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THE EDGE

Partial harvest approachGoPro cameras increase efficiency and safety in the forest

In the course of tedious sampling work, researchers from FPInnovations’ Fibre Supply group had a simple and original idea that led to results beyond expectations…

The idea emerged while researchers were collecting data on site for the purpose of quantifying the effects of spruce budworm damage on harvesting machine productivity. Despite the many hours spent by the researchers in the field, the results obtained were not satisfactory. That’s when they decided to place cameras inside a machine operator’s cab: not only did they not have to be physically present all the time, but the solution also allowed them direct access to many machines at the same time.

GoPro cameras increase efficiency and safety in the forestThe method is simple and inexpensive: two GoPro cameras are placed in the operator’s cab such that both the monitor of the onboard computer (OBC) and an overall view of the site can be seen in a single shot. The collected data, which is analyzed by FPInnovations staff, allows for a precise evaluation of the work being performed, in this particular case lengths and diameters of logs produced in various stages of infestation. The results speak for themselves: the amount of data collected in a day increased tremendously.

This approach offers many benefits. In addition to the increase in productivity of data acquisition, the use of cameras in cabs improves the level of safety in the field since the presence of foresters in the vicinity of the equipment is not required anymore. The data collected can also be used for training purposes, allowing for greater consistency in the dissemination of information. Finally, the data acquired is a source of quantifiable information in case additional in-depth analyses are required.

You can watch the FPInnovations video, Fly Cab on the Wall: GoPros to Improve Efficiency and Safety, to learn more about this technology.

Matthew Thiel (matthew.thiel@fpinnovations.ca) or Jean-Philippe Gaudreau (jean-philippe.gaudreau@fpinnovations.ca), researchers in FPInnovations’ Fibre Supply Group, can also be contacted for more information on the different options offered by this approach.


Partial harvest approachPartial harvest approach can help industry address imminent short to mid-term supply challenges

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

This 34-year-old lodgepole pine plantation stand is a good candidate for partial harvest.

The cumulative effect of land use competition, forest fires, insect outbreaks, and climate change have raised concerns within the forest industry and government about potential short and mid-term commercial timber shortages, at a time when Canada is becoming more dependent on second growth forests for its fibre supply.

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) has shown that one way that companies can avoid future timber supply shortages is to consider use of partial harvest systems, particularly as they transition to harvesting more second growth forests.

Because of moderate to heavy commercial forest harvesting since the early 1970s, about 18 per cent of Canada’s commercial forest now consists of second growth managed forests that have the benefit of established infrastructure. Applying partial harvest techniques like those suggested by CWFC is one way to protect the integrity of these stands at a time when they are experiencing greater adverse impacts on their health.

Partial harvest removes some of the commercial timber as, for example, a second growth stand matures. This has the effect of increasing the value of the remaining fibre, while also maintaining and enhancing forest health.

“In very dense growing conditions, there will always be a certain amount of natural mortality,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager at CWFC. “Our partial harvest systems anticipate that natural occurrence by entering a site and conducting a partial removal to open up these stands, resulting in the partial capture of commercial timber and better growing conditions for what remains.”

CWFC has been applying, measuring, and verifying the outcomes of various commercial thinning practices on research and demonstration sites for the past 20 years and is working to transfer this knowledge to industry for its benefit. CWFC is hoping to launch new research and demonstration sites, in partnership with industry and government, to enhance what it has already learned about partial harvest outcomes, involving new species and different stand scenarios.

Additional partial harvest knowledge will soon become available as a result of a research project completed in 2002 involving partial commercial thinning of white spruce-dominated stands aged 60 to 70 years post-establishment. They numbered about 1,600 stems per hectare or about 500 cubic metres. The project involved commercial thinning at rates of 30, 50 and 70 per cent retention. Of those trees removed, 90 per cent were sawlogs, with the remainder unmerchantable small stems. All sites were tracked and monitored with permanent sample plots and were harvested using conventional cut-to-length logging equipment in unique designs developed by the CWFC a division of the Canadian Forest Service.

“The 15 year growth response to this commercial thinning treatment is now being evaluated after being sampled this past fall, and information will be analyzed by research scientists with the CWFC, looking at the values associated with the growth and response of the trees to the thinning,” says Sidders.

They will also evaluate the results of windthrow, which is a major risk associated with commercial thinning, and also how well these sites are naturally regenerating, asking whether this practice is self-perpetuating as the stand re-establishes itself with seedlings in the understorey before final removal.

Potential new projects involve partial harvest of a pure pine plantation stand aged between 35 to 50 years with existing access roads and handling areas. These projects will be designed for partial harvest treatments that will recover about half the stand volume, while maximizing incremental growth potential and response, with the intent of a second entry in 10 to 15 years.

“This approach allows us to ‘borrow’ values and volumes from the future,” says Sidders.

Another potential opportunity involves partial harvest in a 40 to 45 year old upland spruce plantation already producing volumes of 280 to 350 cubic metres per hectare, with the goal of 40 to 50 per cent volume removal. A variety of thinning strategies are being suggested, aiming to enhance forest health and to evaluate realistic patterns that are cost-effective. This partial harvest would use both conventional equipment and new technology that is being designed specifically for commercial thinning.

“We are also looking at applying partial harvest research in natural forests where there is uneven age among the standing timber that will allow us, through multiple entries, to enhance their value, reinvigorate the stands, manage diversity, and take maximum advantage of an overstorey crop to assist in the reforestation of 
these sites,” says Sidders.

For more information about what CWFC can offer for partial harvest strategies, please contact Derek Sidders at derek.sidders@canada.ca.


Alberta Innovates invests in testing of “Biobattery”Alberta Innovates invests in testing of “Biobattery” for GHG reduction and bio-product manufacturing

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

“Biobattery” technology developed in Germany has arrived in Alberta. It could potentially allow forest companies to transform their on-site mill residuals and forest waste into syngas, bio-oil and biochar, which they can then use to power and heat their own operations or sell as raw materials for refining downstream.

German Biobattery technology, like this compact 30 kilogram per hour unit, can process raw materials like forest residuals into bio-oil, syngas and biochar in one process.

For example, the bio-oil produced from this technology can be refined into bio-based gasoline, diesel or jet fuel. Biochar can be used to fuel the conversion process or sold as a soil amendment. The syngas could be blended with natural gas as part of a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategy by natural gas producers or used in a combined heat and power plant.

The Biobattery was invented by Dr. Andreas Hornung of the Fraunhofer UMSICHT Institute, part of the Fraunhofer Society, a renowned applied research organization in Germany. A demonstration unit capable of processing 30 kilograms of raw material per hour has been brought to Alberta as part of a research collaboration between the society and the University of Alberta.

The technology is being commercialized and marketed in Canada by a spinoff company of Fraunhofer UMSICHT, Susteen Technologies Canada, based in Calgary.

The Fraunhofer Society consists of 69 institutes and manages about 2.7 billion euros in technology development funds. It has signed a research collaboration agreement with the U of A as part of the university’s Future Energy Systems research initiative.

Alberta Innovates invested $300,000 from its Alberta Bio Future funding program into the Biobattery project, in a partnership that also includes the Future Energy Systems initiative, the Alberta Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, WestJet, and Susteen Technologies, to bring the demonstration unit to the U of A for validation and testing with a variety of organic feedstocks.

Dr. Amit Kumar, professor of mechanical engineering at the U of A and Deputy Director of the Future Energy Systems initiative, says the Fraunhofer Society is one of the leading research institutes in the world. The Biobattery’s connection to this society provides it with a high degree of credibility.

“It aligns very much with what Alberta is trying to accomplish. Greenhouse gas mitigation is a key driver for us,” Dr. Kumar said. “This technology can help by reducing waste, and then by producing products that can help to reduce GHG emissions by substituting for fossil-fuel-based energy products.”

Dr. Kumar described the Biobattery as a very decentralized unit that could be installed in communities on a small scale. Using their municipal waste or forest residues located in their areas as the raw material, communities could generate energy products for their own use or bioproducts that they could sell.

The Biobattery uses Thermo-Catalytic Reforming (TCR) technology—a system that combines an advanced form of pyrolysis with a second-stage process. Bio-oil produced with this novel technology has higher-value properties compared to conventional pyrolysis. These properties are a key factor in the overall feasibility and economics of using biomass-based feedstocks for conversion to fuels and chemicals.

Alberta Innovates (AI) and other partners are interested in the Biobattery technology.

AI is interested in the fact TCR goes beyond conventional pyrolysis, can be done at a smaller scale and has the potential to process a range of biomass feedstocks. But the Biobattery needed to be tested under Alberta conditions—“in the Alberta climate and using our feedstocks, to effectively evaluate its operation and to de-risk any future deployment in our remote and small communities,” noted Dr. Christine Murray, Alberta Innovates Director of Agricultural Technologies.

“The cost of biojet (fuel) is an ongoing concern that will eventually be solved through a combination of scale, cheap and sustainable feedstock and the price of carbon,” says Geoffrey Tauvette, Director, Environment and Fuel, at WestJet. “The Biobattery could help solve some of these issues by potentially creating a bio-oil from a cheaper feedstock such as wood or agriculture residues which is then sent for processing by existing refineries.”

Bruce Hillen, CEO of Susteen Technologies Canada, said the company hopes to have a commercial Biobattery unit capable of processing 500 kilograms per hour available by the end of 2018. “Alberta Innovates’ support is critical for both validating the Biobattery concept and to accelerate commercialization,” Hillen said.

Alberta Innovates also played a critical role in bringing together the partners to advance this project, said Dr. Kumar.

For more information about Alberta Innovates support of the Biobattery initiative, contact AI Communications Specialist Julia Necheff at julia.necheff@albertainnovates.ca.


FPDat TransportFPDat Transport: better tracking wood transport operations

FPInnovations has launched an onboard computer for forestry trucks called FPDat Transport that allows users to better track forest transport operations. The system was recently officially added to the list of FPSuite products geared to harvesting operations (FPDat Harvesting) and road maintenance (FPDat Grader).

FPDat Transport records electronic control module (ECM) data and the GPS position. Data is then sent through a cellular network to a centralized web platform (FPTrak), where various reports can be viewed.

“Generally speaking, we can quickly follow up our transport operations and get comprehensive statistics. The data enables us to respond promptly,” explained Julien Pedneault, the operational efficiency co-ordinator at Resolute Forest Products in the Lac St-Jean region of Quebec, which has purchased the technology.

The data acquisition module is very compact and simple to install. It allows users to gather critical information such as truck position and speed, fuel consumption, driver identity and engine speed ranges.

This information makes it possible to generate various reports which are very useful to forest transport managers. The trucking summary report includes engine idle and travel times, speeds and distances travelled, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. It helps to identify what key elements need to be improved.

A geozone-based report provides data on specific locations where trucks pass (e.g. bridges, villages, load control areas). Lastly, cycle time reports are also very useful for identifying problem areas, knowing the real time for transport cycles and comparing estimated and paid work hours. All these reports can be sent automatically by e-mail. They can also be exported in Excel or PDF format.

FPDat Transport“Although data is available in FPTrak, the main appeal of the platform is to be able to provide automatic reports, which makes it easier to disseminate data internally and share information with our shippers,” added Pedneault.

The tool’s advantages therefore include the validation of cycle times and hourly rates, increased safety due to the control of excess speed and mandatory stops, and better accessibility to operational data, which allows improvements to be made.

“Presenting all the information in one place makes it easier to consult it and get an overview of operations,” explained Martin Castonguay, FPSuite product manager. “It improves work co-ordination, response time and addresses many unforeseen situations that can happen in a forest.”

The FPDat system is sold throughout Canada by a network of knowledgeable distributors who can count on the support of FPInnovations.

Additional information about FPDat Transport is available by contacting Martin Castonguay, Research Leader of FPInnovations’ Precision Forestry Group, at martin.castonguay@fpinnovations.ca or 514-782-4515.


Aspen: an underutilized resource in northeast British ColumbiaAspen: an underutilized resource in northeast British Columbia

The aspen resource in the Northern Rockies is recognized as being of “high quality,” but there is little in the way of supporting data to back up this assertion, and provide support for investigating other markets for aspen products.

Based on this observation, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM) and FPInnovations started an Aspen Initiative in 2016, a study that will ultimately lead to long-term sustainable business and economic activity in the Northern Rockies from the commercially underutilized aspen resource.

The initial aspen quality study done early in 2017 demonstrated that the quality and size of the aspen trees in the NRRM are of substantially higher quality and larger than western Canadian aspen in other published studies.

“Log quality analyses show that 97.5 per cent of the volume of trees harvested was sound wood, and 2.5 per cent of the volume was rot,” reports Bob Knudson, Research Leader in the Engineered Wood Products Group at FPInnovations. “Another important finding in this study is the merchantable height of the aspen trees.”

Based on the positive outcome of this preliminary study, the second phase of the project is currently underway. The focus is to conduct a commercial trial of the aspen resource for veneer and lumber production. The trial will involve the harvesting of approximately 300 trees across 10 sites representing the predominate range of forests in the region. “The logs from the trees will be sent to a veneer facility and a sawmill facility for commercial processing to determine volumetric and grade yields, to identify any challenges with processing aspen for a commercial product,” explains Knudson.

This more detailed investigation is crucial in determining the best fit for NRRM aspen in existing and/or new markets and product lines.

For more information on this project, please contact Bob Knudson, Research Leader of FPInnovations’ Engineered Wood Products Manufacturing Group at bob.knudson@fpinnovations.ca or 604-222-5738.


Mechanical logging options for woodlot owners

Mechanical logging options for woodlot owners

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

The labour needed to harvest a private woodlot often discourages owners from selling their timber or harvesting it for their own use, with the danger that the wood decays and becomes a fire hazard. However, there are mechanical logging options that, with the right circumstances, could make business sense.

For larger volumes and in situations where a woodlot owner identifies opportunities to custom log for other woodlot owners, making an investment in either an entry level mechanical harvester, harvesting attachment for a tractor or skid steer, or even purchase of a used feller buncher and skidder could make financial sense.

“There is no denying that manual harvesting of a woodlot is hard work,” says Toso Bozic, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Bioenergy/Agroforestry Specialist.

“For some, mechanical harvesting might make sense. What could help to pay for the equipment is offering custom logging services to other woodlot owners and to other industries, such as oil and gas, as well as to farmers for small land clearing,” he says.

Mechanical logging options for woodlot ownersThe Wallenstein Timber Talon (top photo) consists of a log grapple and log bunk for loading and transporting woodlot logs. The Turbo Saw attachment made by Dougherty Forest Manufacturing (left), which can be attached to a tractor, could be a good option for harvesting trees on flatter land.

In terms of entry level equipment that is purpose-built and versatile, a Quebec company called Awassos offers its MT70 unit. It can be equipped with a harvesting head capable of felling trees and processing tree limbs. The unit also has a bunk so that logs can be loaded on the fly for delivery back to roadside or elsewhere.

Another potential approach is to purchase a timber harvesting attachment for either a tractor or skid steer. Hinton, Oklahoma-based, Dougherty Forest Manufacturing, offers a Turbo Saw attachment powered by a tractor PTO and connected to the back of the tractor.

A cautionary note here is that trees would have to be located on relatively flat ground, without a lot of debris around. Keep in mind that tractors are not designed to travel in heavily treed, virgin forest. However, it may be feasible to back the attachment to trees near an existing road, although they still need to be manually delimbed and bucked. Another option offered by the company is its heavier-duty, CFB-16 feller buncher, attached to the front of a skid steer. Working from the front and equipped with grab arms, this unit makes it easier to control the falling and placement of harvested trees.

There are also options for transporting fallen and bucked timber using either a tractor or an all-terrain vehicle. One option is the Timber Talon log loader and trailer offered by EMB Manufacturing of Wallenstein, Ontario. The Timber Talon consists of a grapple to load bucked logs into an accompanying trailer.

A final consideration is to purchase used purpose-built logging equipment such as feller bunchers and skidders.

Bob Kallio is owner of Edson, Alberta-based, Kallio Contracting, and is one of 45 members belonging to the EDFOR Cooperative.

Kallio has been working in forestry for decades and has built his business using second-hand equipment. He cautions woodlot owners about purchasing used logging equipment without understanding the risks. He has considerable experience logging and purchasing wood from private landowners or offering custom logging services.

While it may be possible to purchase a feller buncher at auction for as low as $30,000, he notes that replacement of a hydraulic pump alone will cost about $20,000.

“It depends how much wood you have on your land whether it is feasible to buy this equipment,” Kallio says. “The problem with that $30,000 machine is that you are buying an old machine, and it is pretty much worn out. That’s where the issues come in. It is so expensive to repair this equipment.”

The feller buncher is just one part of a fleet that should also include at least a skidder and a delimber to get bucked logs to roadside.

For more information about overall mechanical woodlot harvesting options, contact Toso Bozic at toso.bozic@gov.ab.ca.