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THE EDGE

The Carbon Module: climate changes and changes in practices

Faced with the challenge of climate changes, all areas of activity are being called upon to do their share to cut down on CO2 emissions. And the same applies to forest activities.

The various forest operations research groups at FPInnovations have turned their attention to this matter and are proposing various mitigation options. This includes the adoption of more energy-efficient methods of operating machinery, the use of bio-fuels and the reduction of logging residues left in the forest. But since we can only have good control over what we can measure, they first developed tools to make it possible to calculate the carbon emissions from forest operations.

The starting point

Everything got under way in 2009 with the launch of FPInterface, a tool to simulate forest supply activities that includes various analysis, modelling and optimization tools. FPInterface includes a database containing input from over 35 years of productivity and cost studies for various types of machines under a number of different conditions. Lumber revenues can also be simulated with the aid of Optitek—software developed by FPInnovations that makes it possible to simulate the sawing process of softwood and to increase the economic profitability of the process—and the price list provided by product type, making it possible to simulate the net value of the cut blocks. The BiOS module, added to this software, enables a spatial evaluation of the available volumes of biomass.

A question of emissions and conversion

Carbon emissions are mainly produced through the consumption of fossil fuel by harvesting and transportation machinery. As for the wood delivered to the processing plants, it can represent either a carbon sink (if the carbon it contains is captured within finished products) or a source of renewable energy (if the biomass is converted).

Calculation of the emissions is based on: 1) the harvested merchantable volume, 2) the biomass recovered, 3) the productivity of the machines, and 4) the consumption of fuel through harvesting and transportation activities. The productivity of equipment depends on several factors and varies from one machine to another. In general, it depends on the type of forest stands and the conditions at the site. Fuel consumption depends on the type of vehicle and also on the road class, transport speed and distance to be covered. All this data is collected in the FPInterface database and is updated on a regular basis.

The Carbon Module

To facilitate carbon emission and delivery calculations, the Carbon Module was added to FPInterface in 2010. This tool makes it possible to determine a carbon ratio by comparing the emissions produced by various harvesting scenarios as opposed to the carbon delivered to the plants. With all the data contained in FPInterface, it can calculate the carbon emissions by surface area harvested (kg/ha), by volume harvested (kg/m3) or by ton of roundwood and biomass (kg/tma) delivered.

Mobile app

FPInnovations plans on developing, in co-operation with British Columbia’s ministry responsible for forests, a mobile app that would make it possible to determine, in real time, the environmental benefits associated with the use of biomass in order to set up an incentive to convert biomass instead of burning it by the roadside. This application, based on the BiOS and Carbon modules, would provide a credible and inexpensive calculation of the advantages related to the recovery of piles of harvest residues, based on their destination and their use (wood pellets, forestry chips for boilers, pyrolytic oil, biochar or biodiesel).

In short, knowing the carbon ratio of forest operations may be very useful for managing the carbon footprint, identifying the least polluting harvesting and recovery scenarios and providing figures within a carbon market context. However, the related calculations are complex and must take into account a lot of different factors. Fortunately, there are tools such as FPInterface, with its BiOS and Carbon modules, to make the task easier for those who are interested in this topic.

For more information, please contact Sylvain Volpé, Senior Scientist in FPInnovations’ Fibre Supply Group, at sylvain.volpe@fpinnovations.ca.


forestry 4.0Forestry 4.0: Strengthening the Canadian forest sector

Supply chains have evolved significantly in recent decades, but they are now on the edge of even more transformative changes, driven by the digital revolution.

The fourth industrial revolution, as it is called, is characterized by an interconnection of machines and systems within production sites—but also between them and the outside world.

Information collection and transmission have progressed to the point where it is now common to exchange data in real time from anywhere in the world. This has made it possible to generate enormous digital information flows, and the emergence of connected devices will amplify this phenomenon.

Currently, Canada’s resource sector is challenged to be part of the global supply chain revolution. To close the gap caused by inadequate communication networks and insufficient in-depth data collection along the fibre supply chain, it is necessary to continue the development of technologies that will enable the generation of and access to real-time process input/output data relevant to supply chain management and adapted to Canadian conditions.

To help the Canadian industry position itself as a leader of this new technological revolution, FPInnovations is launching Forestry 4.0, an initiative aimed at enabling the upstream part of the forest value chain to fully leverage the agility and power of the fourth industrial revolution. The initiative is based on four major themes.

The Real Environment theme aims at developing foundational data to permit monitoring, analysis and decision making along the supply chain.

Real Environment is dedicated to the development of technologies and the science necessary to feed the value chain.The building block of the fourth industrial revolution is the generation of ubiquitous reliable data describing the constantly changing “real environment” of production. This information is needed to dynamically adjust the supply chain for processes based on market demand.

The Internet of Forest is based on real-time communication, big data exchange and technology assembly. It aims to develop and implement communication systems in resource operations that will enable the implementation of the Industry 4.0 standard. These systems will cover a wide range of communication needs: vehicle-to-vehicle and machine-to-machine (V2V/M2M), vehicle and machine-to-infrastructure (V2I/M2I), operations-to-cellular and internet networks, real time communications in remote operations, etc.

Internet of Forest focuses on the critical missing communication link in many remote and large areas of Canadian forests. The activities carried out under this theme will represent the key enablers in our ability to exchange real-time data between forest operations and decision centers.

The NextGen Fibre Supply Chain focuses on the development and implementation of next-generation equipment, hardware, software and models that will allow forest operations to run to an Industry 4.0 standard by being automated, connected and accessed in real-time. This is the theme under which efforts will be made to develop, test and implement new production systems based on some of the latest technological developments. This theme is seen as the accelerator of the value chain, leveraging data of the Real Environment to adapt actions based on specific user demands.

Finally, the Data Analytics theme will focus on developing knowledge and methods to transform raw or semi-transformed data into intelligence capable of feeding management systems and supply chain processes based on powerful optimization and simulation models. In other words, this theme serves as an integrator of the complete upstream process in order to implement “smart harvesting” and artificial intelligence to the management of the Canadian forest sector value chain.

By launching the Forestry 4.0 initiative, FPInnovations hopes to move the forest supply chain to Industry 4.0 standards of reactivity to market needs, agility and connectivity. The application of these standards will also make it easier and quicker to react to the supply fluctuations from climate change and increasing pressure from other users. The project will favour the introduction of new technology, making the sector more appealing to the next generation of workers and help address the current shortage of skilled labour in the sector. Finally, the Internet of Forests (IoF) connectivity could eventually be exported to other remote industries or communities or countries.

To learn more about the Forestry 4.0 initiative, please contact Francis Charette (francis.charette@fpinnovations.ca), Associate Research Leader in FPInnovations’ Modeling and Decision Support group. You may also view the Forestry 4.0 video at https://youtu.be/r4vhLQ8OEP0.


The direct seeding revival in Western CanadaThe direct seeding revival in Western Canada

Currently, most of the harvested area in Western Canada is reforested via natural regeneration or tree planting. There has been very little to no operational direct seeding in western Canada due to highly variable success in early direct seeding research. However, recent advances in seed application technology and knowledge have made it possible to achieve promising results, making direct seeding an alternative worth re-examining.

This comes at a time when the current reforestation challenges posed by wildfire, mountain pine beetle and salvage logging warrant the need for alternative regeneration strategies, as lack of seed source often makes these large-scale disturbances unsuitable for natural regeneration and costly to plant.

FPInnovations’ research has focused on seeding simultaneously with mechanical site preparation as it is particularly well suited to the large-scale disturbances resulting from mountain pine beetle, salvage logging and wildfire. This reforestation strategy is cost-effective and can cover large areas quickly, at productivities ranging from 0.6 to 1 ha and for one-third to one-half the cost of tree planting. Higher stocking densities can be easily achieved with little added cost, making it ideal for stands susceptible to forest pests. The direct seeding season is also longer than for tree planting, and can thus help streamline silvicultural operations planning.

Direct seeding does have disadvantages to consider. It can be a high-risk alternative, with germination success being highly dependent on uncontrollable external factors such as weather and seed predator populations during the seeding year. It requires larger amounts of seed and has longer stand establishment timelines than tree planting, making it unsuitable for sites with time constraints such as potential for brush or grass competition. Variations in microsites can result in irregular seedling distribution and density, similar to naturally regenerated stands, which may require fill-planting or spacing. Because of these limitations, direct seeding may be a viable reforestation option for only a limited fraction of the total reforestation area in Western Canada.

FPInnovations’ direct seeding research started with seeding trials in 2011 and has evolved as better technology and better understanding of the treatment have become available. FPInnovations now monitors a total of 22 trial sites, most of them in B.C., in order to assess how different factors, such as ecological zones, types of site preparation, tree species, seed treatments and seeding season, affect the end result. These trials have helped our members build the capacity necessary to incorporate direct seeding in silvicultural programs across Western Canada.

While direct seeding will not replace tree planting or natural regeneration in the future, it can be a very valuable tool for the silvicultural regeneration toolbox. Preliminary results have shown that a successful direct seeding program is possible with careful site selection and seed application. FPInnovations’ research trials continue to add to the knowledge and experience required for achieving successful results in a Western Canadian context.

For more information about FPInnovations’ direct seeding research, please contact Pamela Matute, Researcher in FPInnovations’ Fibre Supply group, at pamela.matute@fpinnovations.ca.


High yield afforestationHigh yield afforestation can enhance fibre supply and mitigate climate change impact

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

Partnering with landowners to conduct afforestation, which is planting fast-growing trees resilient to global warming on non-forested land, is one way for industry to enhance their fibre supply, reduce their risk of potential fibre supply disruption due to climate change, while creating the opportunity to claim carbon credits to help offset establishment costs.

Poplar after year eight on a high yield afforestation plantation.

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) has developed several afforestation adaptation and mitigation opportunities, specifically high yield afforestation, mixed afforestation, and concentrated biomass afforestation.

CWFC’s plantation scenarios involve fast-growing hybrid poplar and selected aspen and willow, and shade tolerant softwoods, depending on the plantation pattern selected.

In this first of a three part series, CWFC presents the potential to enhance and supplement wood fibre supply by developing high yield afforestation plantations.

Derek Sidders, Program Manager at CWFC, says that there is huge afforestation potential in Canada, with about 65 million hectares suitable for high-yield growing conditions.

High yield afforestation, the easiest pattern to establish and maintain among the three studied and validated by the CWFC, involves fast-growing hybrid poplar and aspen clones in an orchard style pattern where stems are evenly distributed. These trees grow about five times faster than similar species in a natural forest and grow 1.5 to 2 metres per year on properly managed sites. At maturity when growth rate begins to decline, trees achieve about 25 centimetres (10”) in diameter and greater than 20 metres (65‘) in height.

“We are aiming to grow just under 250 cubic metres per hectare in a rotation of 12 to 17 years,” says Sidders.

CWFC’s proven systems developed by working with partners across Canada over the past 15 years have identified proper land locations with suitable growing conditions, taking into consideration soil classification, growing conditions, and moisture. It has also developed a site suitability classification system for tree clones and identified cost-effective plantation management methods, including critical intensive mechanical vegetation management practices. This also contributes to better fibre yields.

“Our pre-requisite for considering a piece of land for a high yield afforestation plantation are lands that will accumulate at least 13.6 cubic metres per hectare per year over the lifespan of the plantation, which is about eight times the average growth rate of the natural Canadian forest,” says Sidders.

Depending upon geographic location, between 1100 and 1600 stems are planted per hectare, with 3 metre by 3 metre spacing for 1100 stems, and 2.5 metre by 2.5 metre spacing for 1600 stems. CWFC recommends at least 20 hectare sites or larger because it helps to manage risk due to fire, rodents and animal browse.

To prepare a site, well-drained lands previously used for agriculture are tilled and disked to break up surface soils to about a 30 centimetre depth. This is followed by a finer passive disking to the surface after two to six weeks, which also helps to establish the rooting environment. Then an orchard style marker establishes a systematic pattern of where to plant the tree cuttings or root cuttings. The clonal, genetically identical, 25 to 30 centimetre long cuttings are planted where indicated when the soil temperature is at least 12 degrees Celsius, leaving about 5 centimetres exposed, with 3 to 5 centimetres of soil over the root system in the case of rooting cuttings.

Passive cultivation for vegetation management takes place within three to five weeks, straddling the cuttings with disks or cultivating shoes, with multiple entries throughout the initial growing season to help the trees establish their root systems. An exposed soil strategy is the objective, with cultivation passes in opposite directions the most effective.

“They will fully occupy that site within three years with their root systems,” says Sidders. “The more effective the vegetation management, the faster the root system establishes, and the faster the upper bole establishes and crowns close, thereby minimizing the amount of vegetation competition.”

The plantation periphery also requires vegetation control with one or two passes annually to create about a two to three metre buffer without damaging the root system.

Trees from high yield afforestation can be used for oriented strandboard (OSB), pulp, as well as bio-energy solids, liquids and gases, and depending on the efficiency, can be credited as a carbon offset against the use of fossil fuels.

Landowners can also replant where the land is bare between the trees after harvest to establish a new plantation, and start the management process again. Alternatively, they can also diversify species on the site through mixed afforestation involving tolerant softwoods. This will be covered in the next article, in The Edge.

For more information about establishing a high yield afforestation plantation, contact Derek Sidders at Derek.sidders@canada.ca.


High yield afforestationWood-based additive to cement significantly extends the life of concrete

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

The adage ‘we are stronger together’ is proving true when it comes to combining the chemistry of cement and wood fibre to create a more durable version of concrete—the second-most used material per capita on Earth, next only to potable water.

This image shows the long strands of cellulose nanofibrils, derived from wood pulp, at the nano scale (one nanometre equals one-billionth of a metre).

On average, between 1 to 1.5 tonnes of concrete are utilized per person per year. Although it is widely used as a structural material, concrete degrades over time through contact with common destructive agents in the environment, such as rainwater, soil, salt and sulphates.

Alberta scientists have discovered an economical formulation that combines cement—the glue that binds concrete together—with cellulose nanofibrils (CNF), an advanced biomaterial derived from wood fibre which makes concrete significantly more able to withstand environmental stresses.

“The research and product development I am leading is to investigate how we can make use of a wood-sourced product, add value to the material coming from the wood source, and at the same time address a very important durability need in the construction industry using sustainable products,” says the project lead, Dr. Vivek Bindiganavile of the University of Alberta.

Alberta Innovates (AI) has provided Dr. Bindiganavile and his team at the U of A with a $150,000 grant through its Alberta Bio Future program to help prove the concept and refine their cement-CNF formulation. Bindiganavile, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is working on the project with his colleague in the department, Dr. Yaman Boluk, and his research assistants, Dr. Mounir El-Bakkari and Jose R.A. Goncalves.

“Alberta Innovates has funded eligible projects under the Alberta Bio Future program that have strong potential to add value to biomass available in the province,” says Steve Price, AI executive director of bioindustrial innovation. “They span a wide range of the innovation spectrum, from the early applied research stage right up to commercialization.

“This is one of our many projects that look for new uses for forestry residuals,” Price adds. “We want to create more revenue streams for the forestry sector and support the development of environmentally friendly bioproducts that meet a need.”

About 15 per cent cement is added to bind concrete. The researchers are recommending the addition of between five to eight kilograms of CNF per cubic metre of concrete to achieve the desired durability benefit. There is no issue with the CNF mixing with the cement or concrete when using the mixing technique recommended by the research team.

Bindiganavile says the CNF additive provides a dual benefit, with its ability to react positively at the sub-micron level with both the cement and also with the destructive agents that impact the durability of cement, thus yielding a more durable concrete building material.

“Instead of repair having to happen in the first five years of the concrete, we can probably delay that to 10 years,” he says. “Or if we knew beforehand that concrete is going to come into contact with a destructive environment, then we could design that concrete differently and more cheaply than current alternative concrete formulations.”

Their commercial-ready discovery has huge economic implications for the cement, concrete and building construction industries, while also creating a massive new market for a wood-based material for Alberta’s forest industry.

The formulation not only has the potential to significantly extend the life of concrete structures, but also reduce concrete’s environmental footprint by creating longer lasting structures and displacing a portion of concrete cement with a sustainable, wood-based building material.

AI also provided space, technical expertise and a portion of the funding for their pilot facility that produces CNF at a rate of about 10 kilograms per day. The raw wood fibre to produce CNF was provided by research partner, Millar Western Forest Products, from its bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp (BCTMP) plant in Whitecourt, Alberta.

“We are taking BCTMP and then producing cellulose as a nanofibre, firstly, and then tweaking the chemistry of the nanofibre and tailoring it to achieve durability for the construction industry,” says Bindiganavile.

The research is now getting closer to the field demonstration stage. It is planned for the second half of 2018 with research partner and Calgary cement producer, Lehigh Hanson Canada. It is the largest producer of concrete pipe and manholes in Canada.

“We will be using their facility to showcase a demonstration of everything we have seen working in the lab on the concrete,” says Bindiganavile.

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Vivek Bindiganavile at vivek@ualberta.ca or AI Communications Specialist Julia Necheff at julia.necheff@albertainnovates.ca.


High yield afforestationRelationships and product knowledge key to success in wood shavings industry

BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI

Alberta sawmills generate abundant wood shavings from their planers and people raising livestock especially love the odour and health benefits of pine shavings for animal bedding.

Coming from the equine world, Donna and Alex von Hauff, learned how forestry companies generate wood shavings and then parlayed that knowledge into a successful animal bedding business.

A few years ago, Strathcona Ventures, formerly Strathcona Animal Bedding, recognized an attractive business opportunity to play matchmaker, and it’s paying off. But they caution that this business is not for the faint of heart.

Owned by Donna and Alex von Hauff, Strathcona Ventures is located across the street from Sherwood Park. Because they understand the danger of having too many eggs in one basket, the company has diversified into a variety of health, dust control, and non-wood-related products for both horses and humans. Animal and respiratory health has become an increasingly important issue as it relates to wood shavings.

But their main focus is spruce-pine-fir (SPF) wood shavings for animal bedding, with multiple Alberta sawmills as regular suppliers. The size of their animal bedding can range from sawdust size material to the size of a toonie.

“It’s sort of like wine,” says Alex. “Some people like wine out of the box and some people won’t touch it unless it is $150 a bottle.”

Each sawmill typically generates a certain wood shaving dimension, depending on their planer, the size of lumber they are manufacturing, and the species of wood that they are processing. Strathcona Ventures has become expert in knowing who can supply what and when.

“The wood shavings that they generate don’t have to be great, just consistent,” says Alex, who says that they work through a shavings procurement broker who is very well acquainted with what Strathcona Ventures wants. The company has an excellent relationship with its broker to purchase shavings from many Alberta mills, and together they are working to grow their network of wood shavings suppliers.

“Alberta’s forest industry generates high volumes of waste products like wood shavings,” says Toso Bozic, Bioenergy and Forestry Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “We can help interested Albertans investigate the potential of these waste materials, and develop business plans around finding customers for them, just like what Strathcona Ventures has done.”

Alex says that Alberta is a good market to find wood shavings suppliers because they can provide the volume that Strathcona Ventures needs. Their biggest challenge is forming good relationships with those potential suppliers, and Alex says that really is the key to whether or not an animal bedding business will succeed or fail.

Their broker conducts detailed interviews with prospective sawmill suppliers to determine the quality, quantity and accessibility to the wood shavings that the mill produces from their lumber planer.

Alex and Donna established the business in 2010, and coming from the equine world, they recognized a huge opportunity to channel a wide variety of wood shavings products into the animal husbandry market. Not only do they supply horse stables throughout North America and Asia, but also dairy, poultry and cattle businesses, as well as the greenhouse and resource industries.

Their biggest challenge was educating themselves about the forest industry. Their effort has paid off, as they are now one of only a handful of professionally-run, wood shavings-based, animal bedding suppliers in Canada. Many have tried and failed.

In reality, this business could easily become a logistical nightmare. Alex describes the procurement of wood shavings as ‘cutthroat’, and the logistics of organizing the transportation of bagged or bulk wood shavings from the sawmill supplier to the end user as highly stressful. With Alex and Donna sharing the workload, that helps. While Strathcona Ventures would love to have long term supply and purchase agreements, given the nature of how the industry functions, they know that these are difficult if not impossible to negotiate.

Donna says they provide primarily a bagged product because it stores well and they have convinced many of their customers that it is a much more efficient way to purchase and consume animal bedding. There is much less waste with a bagged product versus a bulk product, although they will supply animal bedding in bulk form, if that’s what the customer wants.

For more information about how to become a wood 
shavings supplier to Strathcona Ventures, call 1-888-913-3150, and for more information about the potential for building a 
business around wood waste materials, contact Toso Bozic at toso.bozic@gov.ab.ca.


Forest sector future strong: Hinges on clean tech transformation, innovation

High yield afforestationBY DEREK NIGHBOR, CEO, 
Forest Products Association of Canada

Not everyone thinks of innovation when they think of Canada’s forest products companies. But the federal government has fully recognized that the future of the forestry industry and its 230,000 workers depends on the success of its ongoing commitment to innovation and sustainable development in every area of its business.

The importance of this transformation was underscored by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr in Ottawa’s response to the new round of U.S. tariffs against Canadian softwood lumber imports. On June 1, Carr announced the federal government would provide $867 million in funds to help the forestry industry in the wake of the unwarranted U.S. duties aimed at Canada.

In addition to critical support for forestry employees, the government earmarked a large portion of the new funding to support the sector’s wide-ranging, transformative commitment to overhaul its operations for long-term, sustainable growth. While Carr’s support package was primarily intended to assist softwood lumber producers, funding for investments that will help all forestry products companies pursue modern, research-based operations and new markets will be available across the sector.

The importance of this support cannot be overstated.

Canada steward to 10 per cent of the world’s forests

By embracing strong environmental standards and committing to continuous improvement, Canada`s forestry sector is recognized around the world as an environmental leader. Innovation is part of the forest products industry`s DNA. The sector is investing in world-leading forest management practices, introducing new technologies in its mills and plants and focusing on growing global markets.

In this transformation, a wide range of new uses are being discovered for wood fibre— everything from clothing to car parts, from cosmetics to chemicals to advanced construction systems. For example, an 18-storey student residence built from wood recently went up at the University of British Columbia, making it one of the tallest wood buildings in the world. A sustainable and versatile building material, wood stores, rather than emits, carbon dioxide for the life of the structure and beyond.

Canada’s pulp and paper mills have also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent in the past two decades. And forestry innovators are working to extract value from every part of the tree. This added value comes in the form of innovative bio-fuels, bio-chemicals and bio-materials.

Sector heeded clean tech call—in fact we led it

The forest sector has literally been innovating for decades. Like other industrial sectors, forestry understands that the leap into the future of innovation and clean technology is a make-or-break proposition for the ongoing success of the industry and, in a wider sense, the Canadian economy.

And, as Canada’s third-largest industry and the lifeblood of some 200 rural and northern communities across the country, the forest products sector is fully aware of the stakes in its all-out strategy to forge a forward-looking, innovative production model.

Adjusting to changing world economic conditions and environmental developments is not easy. So the latest investments by the federal government represent a welcome and much-needed vote of confidence from Ottawa in forestry producers’ ability to fulfill their sector-wide commitment to innovation and sustainable development.

Building on investments in the 2017 budget, Carr’s funding announcement contained $63 million over three years to support Forest Innovation Programs, $55 million over three years to extend the Forestry Industry Transformation (IFIT) fund and $45 million to expand and diversify export markets and expand use of wood in non-residential and mid-rise building construction.

In addition to pursuing innovative production and new technologies, forestry companies see themselves as partners with the federal government—and indeed all Canadians—in the effort to address global warming. That’s why the Forest Products Association of Canada launched its 30 by 30 challenge to reduce 30 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2030. By implementing strong environmental standards and helping to build a green economy, forest products companies are committed to contributing to a sustainable commodities sector.

The federal government’s latest funding commitment is an acknowledgment of the key role the forest products industry plays in advancing innovation and the use of clean technologies. The much-valued support will help the sector remain competitive and continue to bolster Canada’s economy along with many thousands of high-value jobs across the country.