July, 2001





Residual Wood Solutions

Wood residue is now being cast in a different light with the rise in energy prices. A wide variety of presenters will talk about the potential for wood residue at the Residual Wood Conference in November.

By Paul MacDonald 

Opportunities for turning wood residue into energy will be just one of the highlights of the industry-wide Residue to Revenue Residual Wood Conference being held November 4 to 6 in Richmond, British Columbia. The main theme of turning wood residue into revenue has remained consistent for the conference-this is the fourth, held every two years-reflecting the ongoing importance of dealing with residual wood. But the topics and speakers have changed, reflecting the evolving nature and technologies of the business. Avariety of speakers from Canada and the United States will talk about the challenges facing the forest industry and present solutions on dealing with wood residue. The conference is to be held at the Radisson Hotel in Richmond, BC, just south of Vancouver. The line-up of speakers and presentations has a strong focus on energyrelated residual wood opportunities, says Stuart McCormick, Leader of Residuals, Solid Waste and Groundwater Specialists Network for Weyerhaeuser. 

Up to the minute information about the Residual Wood Conference-being held Nov 4 to 6 in Richmond, BC-can be obtained at www.forestnet.com

McCormick is co-chair of the conference with consultant Mel Spitler. In the past, it has been difficult to consider anything but the "low hanging fruit" when it came to going ahead with wood residuebased energy generation projects due to roller-coaster energy prices, says McCormick. The viability of wood residue projects tends to diminish as energy prices decline. However, in light of forecasts for longer term higher energy prices, it will now be very interesting to review and discuss what might be viable in the biomass energy area, McCormick says. There has been a response from manufacturers and suppliers involved in biomass acknowledging this new energy reality. "There are some exciting and real utilization opportunities, such as building power plants powered by wood residue, that are now being considered." 

There has always been a driving force to make good use of wood residue-rather than just landfilling it-and this continues to be the case, especially with growing environmental concerns. The main topic areas for the conference include Biomass Power for Sale, On-site Uses of Biomass Energy, Forests as a Source of Fuels and Wood Residue Utilization Opportunities. Among the organizations represented are the Canadian Gas & Electric Company, co-generation company SEECO, gasification company EthoPower and DynaMotive Technologies Corporation. 

Also in the line-up is a representative of the Wheelabrator Shasta Energy Co, who will discuss how wood residue can play a role in the critical energy shortage that California is currently facing. Megan Smith, co-director of the American Bioenergy Association of Washington, DC, will be the keynote speaker at the dinner. Valon Kone Brunette is involved as a title sponsor for this year's conference. VKB's Ian Corrigall notes that the company has been involved in the conference from its inception in 1995. "It's a good way to get people who are involved with residual wood in a forum situation to talk about what is going on. It also gives us an opportunity to showcase our equipment in this area of the forest industry." 

Corrigall added that the conference is especially timely because of high energy costs. BC Hydro is also a sponsor and its involvement with the conference is part of an overall effort to encourage alternative energy sources. "We are very interested in looking at alternatives apart from the natural gas road that North America seems to be headed down," says John Rich, strategic issues manager with BC Hydro. There are concerns about long term supplies of natural gas and the fact that natural gas, unlike wood fibre, is a non-renewable resource. "That's where we think wood waste could have a role to play." 

Residual wood-powered plants would be a good fit with the utility's 10 per cent Green Energy program. BC Hydro has set a target to acquire 10 per cent of new power from renewable "green resources" such as wood waste and wind power, provided they are competitive in terms of costs. There has been an upswing in interest in the potential for wood residue power plants with the huge rise in energy prices over the last 18 months. Rich said that while long term forecasts call for energy prices to come down, it's unlikely they will come down to their former low levels. This would make alternative energy projects-whose economics are benchmarked to oil and gas prices-much more viable. 

The federal government is also involved, with Natural Resources Canada a conference sponsor. NRCan has an incentive program -The Renewable Energy Deployment Initiative (REDI)-designed to help business and industry purchase certain types of solar and biomass heating systems. The idea behind the program is that by using proven renewable energy technologies, a company can save money and reduce its environmental impact and dependence on non-renewable fuels. Eligible businesses and corporations could obtain a contribution of 25 per cent of the purchase and installation costs of a qualifying system, to a maximum of $80,000. 

One of Forest Renewal BC's strategic objectives is to strengthen and expand the province's value-added wood products sector through strategic investments with leading industry partner groups. In keeping with that strategy, Forest Renewal is a sponsor of the conference. In 1997, it investigated residue wood utilization opportunities as part of the Wood Residue Opportunities Strategy for BC. But as Forest Renewal Investment Officer Steve Schell notes, conditions in the energy sector have changed considerably since then. "Wood waste energy projects, whose viability might have been questionable then due to low energy prices, could now make good economic sense," says Schell. "There has been a lot of studying and research done in the past on this issue, and Forest Renewal is interested in participating in this conference to explore cost effective solutions to deal with the residual wood waste issue." 

In addition to two full days of speakers, the conference will also profile-through the Supplier's Showcase-the technology and products of more than 20 companies involved in the residual wood business. Space for the Suppliers Showcase is limited. 

For more information about the Residual Wood Conference please contact: Logging & Sawmilling Journal P.O. Box 86670 North Vancouver, BC V7L 4L2 Attn: Jan Raulin, Conference Coordinator Ph: (604) 990-9970 Fax: (604) 990-9971 Email: tenaj@telus.net

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