the edge

FogmakerPrivate woodlot fibre expected to play significant future supply role in Alberta


The demand for wood fibre is expected to grow significantly in Alberta over the next decade—and private woodlots will play a significant role in helping to fill that need.

Pieter Van Der Schoot (left) has planted over 100,000 trees on his private woodlot near Breton, Alberta, providing a model for other potential woodlot owners.

Alberta woodlot owner and industry pioneer Pieter Van Der Schoot has been a long time promoter of private woodlots as a valuable part of the overall wood source supply chain.

However, he emphasizes the importance for landowners to do their homework and “be careful” when embarking upon a woodlot venture. It is important for landowners to have a realistic vision of what economic value they expect the woodlot to deliver, what impact the woodlot will have on their land value, the work involved in maintaining a healthy woodlot, and if wood fibre crops are grown for commercial harvest, what the landowner can realistically expect for income from it.

Van Der Schoot, past president of the Woodlot Association of Alberta and 1998 recipient of the Master Woodlot Stewardship Award, was speaking recently in Drayton Valley at a workshop hosted by the Canadian Wood Waste Recycling Business Group at the new Clean Energy Technology Centre (CETC).

The workshop covered a wide range of topics, including a presentation from cement producer Lafarge Canada about how it intends to use wood from many sources as an alternative to fossil fuels at its cement plant in Exshaw, Alberta. The company is searching for 150,000 to 180,000 tonnes of alternative fuel material annually to provide 50 per cent of its thermal needs at the plant.

Toso Bozic, Bioenergy and Forestry Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, says this is just one of many new wood markets evolving for private woodlot owners in the province. Capital Power also has a well-advanced plan to generate 60 megawatts of power by co-firing wood with coal, as part of its strategy to discontinue coal-fired power production by 2030.

“We have over 3.6 million hectares of private forest in Alberta and it currently provides between two to three million tonnes of wood fibre to the forest industry,” says Bozic. “We are absolutely seeing a positive trend toward greater demand for wood fibre in the province, and I strongly urge all private woodlot owners to take particular notice of all the new wood supply sources opening up. We can help you identify potential customers and provide information on market values.”

With so much mature private wood currently available in the province, it is important for landowners to consider regular partial harvest of their woodlots as a FireSmarting strategy.

Van Der Schoot operates a 218 hectare woodlot near Breton, Alberta, and says that he has planted well over 100,000 trees on the property over the many decades that he has lived there, and managed it. The woodlot, which includes two small brooks and 20 kilometres of trails, has become a popular field tour destination for forestry representatives, landowners, scientists and government officials, as it has evolved into a highly biodiverse setting, with multiple wood and environmental values.

When asked what motivated him to establish the woodlot, Van Der Schoot says his primary motivation was for the pleasure of doing it. However, he says that marketing the wood has been a constant source of frustration, and to this point, the province’s forest industry has not been willing to pay more for the wood than it has cost him to own and manage the woodlot. But forest companies are definitely interested in purchasing more private wood and with new wood market sources opening up, there may be better economic opportunities for private woodlot owners in future.

Van Der Schoot points out that owning a woodlot takes a bit of work to ensure that planted trees are free to grow without too much competition, but that a well-managed woodlot produces high quality wood fibre that is healthier and grows faster than trees in a natural forest.

“I’ve seen pine seedlings grow three feet in one year,” he says.

Companies interested in potentially sourcing wood from Alberta’s many private woodlots or individuals wanting to learn more about establishing a woodlot can contact Toso Bozic at [email protected]. He can also organize tours of Pieter Van Der Schoot’s woodlot, where Pieter can share his experiences with private woodlot management.

SPARKAlberta's SPARK 2017 Conference aims to spur commercialization of bioindustrial, GHG reduction technology


The province of Alberta wants to diversify its economy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—and the SPARK 2017 conference slated for November 6-8 at Edmonton’s Shaw Conference Centre is part of the province’s larger strategy to achieve both these objectives.

The conference is intended to help accelerate commercialization of bioindustrial products and technologies and to advance technology that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by bringing together innovators, buyers and enablers at a networking and technology exchange event.

Two of the province’s leading proponents mandated to lead these initiatives, Alberta Innovates (AI) and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), have teamed up to host SPARK 2017. They are providing a supportive environment that connects innovators and researchers to people who can help them succeed.

“Alberta Innovates is working with ERA to accelerate development of new products and technologies that reduce industry’s environmental impact, generate jobs and build a diversified, lower carbon economy for Alberta,” says Laura Kilcrease, Alberta Innovates CEO, about SPARK 2017.

“Alberta is committed to supporting solutions that accelerate the transition to a future with lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said ERA CEO Steve MacDonald. “Through SPARK, we are bringing the right people together—industry, government, technology developers, and funding organizations—to explore new opportunities to create and scale the technologies that Alberta, Canada and the world need.”

Alberta Innovates and the forest sector have made numerous, significant investments toward bioindustrial research, development and manufacturing of novel, wood-based bioproducts that add value to forest residues. Alberta Innovates funding has supported projects for the development of advanced building materials and biocomposites, a state-of-the-art lignin recovery plant and applications for lignin, the production of cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), and research into widespread applications for CNC.

These bioproducts often also provide GHG reduction benefits through their ability to substitute for conventional, petroleum-based products.

ERA, too, has funded a number of forestry projects. These are estimated to reduce GHG emissions by more than 600,000 tonnes by 2020, and more than 1.4 megatonnes by 2030.

ERA projects include funding to support a high efficiency evaporator project in Grande Prairie, Alberta, a biomethanation project at Slave Lake Pulp, and a project to use sawmill wood waste to replace coal at a major power generating facility.

Forest industry attendees should find plenty at SPARK 2017 to interest them.

The conference will feature an innovation showcase and networking opportunities. Forest sector representatives will have an opportunity to hear from and share ideas with attendees from other sectors such as agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, power generation and other industrial enterprises.

SPARK 2017 will also feature the launch of the 2018 Cleantech Directions research report—including the release of a national survey of businesses working in clean technology—which will provide an outlook for both innovators and technology adopters.

Plenary sessions held at various times throughout the program will focus on three specific areas: Advancing Innovation Around the World, What Does the Marketplace Want, and Where Money and Ideas Meet. Breakout sessions over two full days will focus on five streams: on the themes of Biological Resource Optimization, Opportunities for Innovators, Building and Financing Innovation, Growing a Clean Tech Business and Technical Abstract Presentations.

The plenary, titled What Does the Marketplace Want, will look at the clean tech challenges confronting Alberta’s biggest industry sectors, and how the research and innovation community can better understand and address market needs.

A session called Financing and Funding Models to Advance Innovation focuses on how innovators can access funding to optimize and commercialize technology once it has been proven at the demonstration scale. This could apply to several forest companies who have already partnered with research organizations to advance proven technology to this stage, or are considering collaboration but are looking for ways to accelerate advancement to full commercialization.

Jumping Over Gaps and Barriers to Adopt New Technologies addresses the pinch points or bottlenecks that slow the development and adoption of new technologies, and the solutions. Several forest companies are interested in developing the capability of manufacturing new wood-based biomaterials but they are struggling with how to integrate these processes into existing facilities. By attending this session, companies could discover new strategies to address this significant challenge.

To register for SPARK2017, visit

For additional information contact Alberta Innovates Communications Specialist Julia Necheff at [email protected].

SPARKMixed afforestation delivers multiple commercial and environmental values


Note: this is the second in a three part series of stories

CWFC’s mixed afforestation plantation design makes it possible to produce two highly valuable commercial wood crops on the same land base, with nearly twice as many trees as just a hardwood high yield afforestation plantation.

The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) presents the potential to not only enhance and supplement wood fibre supply through afforestation, but shows how to produce both a softwood and a hardwood crop on the same land base through the implementation of the mixed afforestation plantation pattern.

CWFC believes that afforestation, or the practice of planting fast-growing trees resilient to global warming on non-forested land, is one way that industry can address and mitigate the potential of a fibre supply disruption due to climate change, while creating the opportunity to claim carbon credits to help offset establishment costs.

It has developed several afforestation adaptation and mitigation opportunities— specifically high yield afforestation, mixed afforestation, and concentrated biomass afforestation—that establish a commercial wood fibre crop in about one-eighth the time frame of a natural forest.

Mixed afforestation, or the practice of planting native, shade tolerant, softwood species like white spruce or white pine between plantings of fast-growing hybrid poplar and aspen clones in an orchard style pattern, is an enhancement to CWFC’s high yield afforestation pattern.

“We started looking at incorporating native species into our single species, high yield afforestation pattern, with the primary objectives being to achieve multiple values, habitat enhancement, diversity, and risk management by having multiple species on the same land base in an era of changing climate,” says Derek Sidders, Program Manager at CWFC.

While establishing a mixed afforestation plantation costs more compared to a plantation featuring a single species, there are multiple value-added benefits from growing more fibre from the same land base.

In this scenario, considerably more trees are planted compared to the high yield afforestation pattern where up to 1600 hardwood cuttings exclusively are planted in about 2.5 X 2.5 metre spacing. By adding the tolerant softwood species between the hardwood plantings, this increases the number of plantings per hectare to about 2800, taking into consideration the establishment of machine corridors for harvesting, or nearly twice as many.

The poplar or aspen act as an excellent nurse species to the tolerant softwoods, providing both nutrients through their leaf litter and protection from weather events, while still allowing 50 to 70 per cent of sunlight to reach the softwood seedling in the understorey.

There are two ways to establish a mixed afforestation plantation. One is to plant the softwood seedlings at the same time as the hardwood cuttings, alternating between a hardwood cutting and softwood seedling as the plantation is being established. The second is to make a second entry into the plantation three to four years after the hardwood cuttings are planted, to plant the softwood seedlings in the space between the rows of hardwood stems.

In terms of vegetation management, if both species are planted at the same time, mechanical vegetation control is handled in the same way as with a high yield afforestation plantation, with passive cultivation for vegetation management taking place within three to five weeks, straddling the plantings with disks or cultivating shoes. Multiple entries are made throughout the initial growing season to help the trees establish their root systems.

When the tolerant softwoods are planted later, typically there is enough crown closure from the hardwood species so that no further mechanical vegetation control is required. The softwoods simply occupy, grow and mature in the space between the rows of hardwood stems.

There is a significant difference in the rotation cycle between a high yield afforestation plantation and mixed afforestation plantation. In the former scenario, because the hybrid hardwood clones mature in 12 to 20 years, the plantation can be re-established after harvesting with another hardwood crop in the space between the rows of the previous planting. In the latter scenario, the hardwood crop is harvested as usual within 12 to 20 years, but rather than being replanted, the tolerant softwood species in the understorey takes over, which converts the site to a softwood plantation, just as it would in nature.

Sidders says that it is possible to begin harvesting sawlogs measuring 20 metres high and 20 centimeters in diameter from mixed afforestation plantations within 55 to 60 years.

The CWFC has already demonstrated successful mixed plantations involving white spruce and white pine in the understorey in both Alberta and Ontario.

For more information about how to successfully establish and manage a mixed afforestation plantation, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected].


Logging and Sawmilling Journal
August/September 2017

On the Cover:
The Princeton, B.C. sawmill of Weyerhaeuser Canada has seen some major equipment upgrades in the last few years—but there is more to come, as the sawmill continues its efforts to make operations more efficient, and reduce costs. The two-line sawmill in the B.C. Interior turns out upwards of 300 million board feet of SPF lumber annually, and is undergoing a multi-year upgrade (Cover photo by Paul MacDonald).

Working to keep the risks of Climate Warming at bay
Warming climates up the risk of forest fires, and one community forest, in Burns Lake, B.C., is implementing a fire mitigation project that will help protect the town’s forest industry—and social assets.

Combo mill upgrade project
The Gilbert Smith Forest Products sawmill in Barriere, B.C. recently completed a lumber grading/sorting project that combines the lumber flow from the mill and planer through the same system, which required a good amount of ingenuity and resourcefulness since it involved combining new and used equipment.

Alberta forest industry update
Just in time for the Alberta Forest Products Association AGM in Jasper, Logging and Sawmilling Journal takes a look at what’s going on in the Alberta forest industry, and how the industry is dealing with the duties on lumber going to the industry’s #1 customer: the U.S.

Great equipment fit in the Gaspé
A new Ponsse ScorpionKing harvester is proving to be a great fit for brothers Jean François and Steve Lemieux, and their harvesting operation in Quebec’s Gaspé Region.

Mill Maintenance
Automatic lubrication is the best defense against mill downtime, say Roland Lorenz and David McDougall, of the Beka Group.

Major upgrade for Weyerhaeuser Princeton
Weyerhaeuser’s Princeton, B.C. sawmill is in the midst of a major upgrade that includes the front end of the mill and primary breakdown equipment.

Three important words in B.C. roadbuilding: diversify, diversify, diversify
B.C. roadbuilding outfit Black River Contracting does a fair amount of work for the forest industry, but company owner Kelly Sunderman finds it’s best to diversify their workload—and they may find themselves doing some work associated with the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, if it gets the go-ahead.

A Finnish focus in the forest
Ontario’s Shuniah Forest Products carries out logging the Finnish-Canadian family way, with a strong focus on their employees, teamwork—and their award-winning safety program.

The Edge
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates and Alberta Agriculture.

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