Forest pests have left a significant burden to Canadian forests over the last few decades. The mountain pine beetle infestation that took place in Western Canada is a good example of the major impact this kind of devastation can have on harvesting processes and use of some wood species. Now that the worst is behind us, the forest sector faces challenges of a completely different nature.
The beetle devastation caused significant changes to the characteristics of the fibre, which forced sawmilling companies to adapt to the very high proportion of pine harvested in B.C. and Alberta. However, the situation is now reversing and sub-alpine fir now occupies a more important place in the mix of species being sent to kiln drying. Therefore, because of the very different drying characteristics of fir compared to other SPF species, FPInnovations’ Drying and Energy Group has undertaken a national initiative aimed at helping member sawmills adapt their drying schedules to this new situation.
While more appropriate programs are being developed to improve energy efficiency while optimizing lower-grade recovery, the presence of wet pockets in wood represents another issue that needs to be evaluated. Sub-alpine fir is notorious for containing wet pockets that significantly extend drying times and make it difficult to create a uniformly dried end product. Consequently, significant volume of sub-alpine fir lumber is still wet at the end of the drying process, resulting in substantial financial losses due to downgrade.
Green sorting represents an interesting solution towards drying efficiency and the research group is working at finding technological solutions to improve green sorting that could be implemented by sawmills.
Due to the similarities between sub-alpine and balsam fir, results from the initiative will also be applied to Eastern Canada. While some regions face an outbreak of emerald ash borer, more appropriate drying programs for balsam fir could help the industry be in a better position to face upcoming challenges. A good deal of work remains to be done and the group continues its efforts to better serve its members.
For any questions or to learn more about the initiative, please contact Luiz Oliveira, Research Leader of FPInnovations’ Drying & Energy group, at [email protected].
Over the years, transport regulations have evolved as industry and government try to improve the safety and productivity of log hauling operations. Implementing some of these changes can result in productivity increases and reduce log transport costs. For example, finding the right trucks for a particular operation can yield significant reductions in transport costs, while optimizing truck and trailer tare weights will result in larger payloads.
FPInnovations has initiated a study aimed at conducting an in-depth review of trucking operations, and looking for opportunities that will improve efficiency and reduce costs. This service is offered as part of the Transport and Energy group’s ongoing program, and the cost to a participating company may be partially or fully covered, depending on the depth of the diagnostic.
The participating company will be asked to provide FPInnovations with its trucking fleet’s historical load data, where available. Payload and tare weight analyses will be done by configuration to determine payload size, average tare weights, and if the trucks are reaching full payload capacity. The analyses will also compare different configurations within the fleet, and examine whether configurations for hauling tree-length or cut-to-length logs are the most efficient for that operation.
After the load data analysis is completed, FPInnovations will visit the company’s operations over two to three days to collect information on its log hauling operations. Focus areas include the make-up of the existing fleet, fuel efficiency, highway and off-highway hauls, load size, and tare and payload weights. Over the course of the visit, logging operations and sort yards will be visited, and informal discussions will be conducted with drivers, company personnel, contractors, and truck and trailer dealerships. These discussions will be focussed on gaining a better understanding of the operations and discussing potential options that arise during the course of the project.
Upon the project’s completion, a report will be presented containing the findings of the project, along with recommendations for implementation. This report will contain the details and costs for all of the suggested changes. In addition to the report, a meeting with company personnel and contractors can be held to discuss the results and how FPInnovations can assist with implementation.
For more information, please contact Rob Jokai, Principal Technologist in FPInnovations’ Transport and Energy group, at [email protected].
Technologies that will allow vehicles to run without drivers are within reach and some examples of autonomous vehicles are already being developed. Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles (based on a scale ranging from 1 to 5, where 5 means complete automation) are expected to be on the roads by 2030.
In recent years, many industries have invested in technologies to automate their machines and processes, and FPInnovations foresees a strong potential for the use of autonomous vehicles in the forest sector.
One goal for autonomous vehicles is for them to perform monotonous tasks so that people can focus on more important tasks at hand. With that in mind, FPInnovations’ Transport and Energy group has initiated a project to evaluate various applications, including their use in mill yards. A possible configuration could take the form of a cab-free, remotely-operated motorized platform equipped with security devices such as proximity detection and alert technology (PDAT) systems. An example of such a platform, adapted for use in harbour operations, is already being offered by Terex Port Solutions.
The use of autonomous vehicles in mill yards could offer numerous advantages, including optimization of transportation logistics within the mill yard, elimination of duplicate equipment, reduced labour costs, and increased worker safety. The project, now at the business plan development stage, could also include the testing of anti-collision and anti-roll systems.
Some member companies have already expressed interest in participating in the development of the vehicle, and the creation of a consortium is a possibility. A prototype for the mill yard is expected to be available within two to three years, and wider applications for the forest sector could follow.
The deployment of such technologies in the forest sector will require consideration of the distinctive features related to wood transportation, as well as the various regulatory aspects. However, automated vehicles present a viable future for the forest industry to address safety, productivity, and staffing issues.
For more information on this project, please contact Dimitri Markou, Researcher in FPInnovations’ Transport and Energy group, at [email protected].
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) recently hosted the first in a series of knowledge transfer and active demonstration events aimed at highlighting wood biomass opportunities and product options. The event succeeded in reaching key players who will take what CWFC has accumulated through years of research into actual operational applications.
Held in Drayton Valley, Alberta, CWFC representatives provided attendees with examples of potential wood biomass sources, recovery options, handling and transportation strategies, potential commercial product options, as well as information about decision support tools available through CWFC. These are designed to help anyone from biomass producers to investors to bio-product manufacturers with the support they need to make informed business decisions.
They include BIMAT, which is an online query tool to locate sustainable sources of available biomass anywhere in Canada, and the Biomass Value Simulator, which can be used to model the input and output costs of various sources of woody biomass to manufacture an end product based on actual supply chain case studies and research conducted by CWFC.
“The value of an event like this is to provide participants with a better understanding of the whole system and all the important components along the supply chain that are necessary to develop a successful industry,” says CWFC Regional Co-ordinator and Program Manager, Derek Sidders.
“It was really important because we had representation from different components of the industry,” he adds. “We had final users, biomass recovery service suppliers, land managers, and researchers who are doing the developmental work across Canada.”
The goal was not only to share information about technologies that can be adapted for biomass production, recovery, handling, transportation and processing, but also cost-effective ways to apply these technologies at an operational level.
CWFC shared examples of biomass harvesting, provided information related to the economics of transporting and storing large volumes of wood biomass, pre-processing the raw material to ensure that it is consistent and has the proper characteristics to produce quality end products, and the various bio-energy and bio-product options available from wood biomass as the feedstock.
Complementing this knowledge exchange were presentations and demonstrations given by representatives from FireSmart, an Alberta government-funded fire mitigation system that generates considerable woody biomass; a demonstration of the Gyro-Trac woody biomass harvesting and compact baling system being used commercially by an Alberta-based business called Hedgco Environmental; and a description of the technology used by Edmonton, Alberta-based, Innovative Reduction Strategies Inc. (IRSI), to convert woody biomass into bio-char.
FireSmart representatives said that fire mitigation, through removing fuel around property, could begin to generate a lot more biomass in the not-too-distant future because there are indications that the insurance industry may require some property owners to meet certain fire mitigation standards before they qualify for insurance. However, what they have discovered is that using the mulching method to FireSmart a property is often not a good treatment method because it leaves the fuel in the forest. So in addition to sharing information about their program, FireSmart representatives were also interested in the Gyro-Trac harvesting and baling demonstration in Drayton Valley, because this technology can be used to both harvest and remove potential forest fire fuel as part of a FireSmart program.
CWFC Wood Fibre Development Specialist Tim Keddy said that because of recent advances in biomass harvesting and packaging technology, it is now possible to transport significantly higher volumes of biomass by truck. As part of its research related to various biomass harvesting methods, CWFC made an important discovery related to the shelf-life of biomass bales held in storage.
Since wood biomass is a biological product, end users have a concern about degradation while in storage. Through CWFC’s work studying the effectiveness of Gyro-Trac’s woody biomass bale compaction system, Keddy says they have discovered that bales produced using this system and held in storage for well over a year in less than ideal conditions did not degrade. While more research is needed to confirm why degradation did not occur, Keddy says that it could be related to how tightly the bales are compacted, as this means that there is less oxygen within the bale to support micro-organisms that cause woody biomass degradation. This is an important discovery as it shows that bale compaction could impact the shelf-life
of baled and stored woody biomass.
The CWFC kicked off the first in a series of knowledge exchange and demo events in Drayton Valley, Alberta, recently, and it featured a demonstration of the GyroTrac wood harvester and baler.
For more information about future events and CWFC’s research and tools related to biomass sources, recovery options, handling and transportation strategies, and potential commercial product options, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected] or Tim Keddy at [email protected].
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
Hospitals may soon have a new bio-based weapon to fight the transfer of harmful bacteria from one patient to another. Alberta researchers have developed a light-activated, anti-microbial biofilm containing cellulose nanocrystals (CNC), an advanced biomaterial that can be extracted from wood fibre.
The CNC acts as the platform for molecules that kill these bacteria, including those resistant to antibiotics.
The goal is to prevent the spread of microbes and minimize the occurrence of hospital-acquired infection by using this CNC-based bioproduct where all sorts of harmful bacteria find a fertile growing environment.
Hospital-acquired infection is becoming a serious problem world-wide as more and more antibiotic-resistant bacteria surface, but because the bioproduct is light-activated, simply turning the light on kills the bacteria growing there.
This novel use of CNC represents the potential for a significant boost to Alberta’s forestry sector.
CNC has many useful properties, including special optical characteristics and a very large surface area at the nano-scale, making it an ideal platform for housing bacteria-killing molecules.
Alberta Innovates provided a seed grant of $25,000 to help develop the product at the University of Calgary (U of C). Alberta Innovates then contributed a matching grant of $403,750 under its Alberta Bio Future research and innovation funding program so that U of C researchers could pursue development of a commercial product within three years.
The Alberta Bio Future (ABF) program was launched in March 2015. Its purpose is to expand a competitive, sustainable and profitable bioindustrial sector through an integrated program with a strong industry focus. ABF also has been designed to encourage and support collaborations and partnerships between industry, the academic community, government departments and other funding agencies.
The ABF program focuses primarily on projects that add value to biomass in agriculture and forestry, and the creation of new and improved bioindustrial products and bioindustrial technologies.
So far, U of C researchers have developed a prototype biofilm. The next three years leading to commercialization will include further research on more bacterial strains to demonstrate and prove the biofilm’s effectiveness.
“How the product works is a little bit like the Tom Cruise movie, ‘Minority Report’,” says Dr. Belinda Heyne, project lead and an associate professor in the U of C’s Chemistry Department. “It catches the bad guy before they commit the crime. In this case, we are creating an environment where bacteria cannot grow.”
She describes this research as unique in the world. Collaborating with her is department colleague, Dr. Todd Sutherland, with further assistance from Dr. David Press.
Dr. Heyne describes the potential global market for this bioproduct as massive, since it can be used in any hospital or medical facility where transfer of bacteria from one patient to another is a concern, including dentist and doctor offices.
“Alberta Innovates invests in research and innovation that utilizes our province’s renewable resources in the agriculture and forest sectors,” says Steve Price, Acting Vice-President, Bio, at Alberta Innovates.
“CNC from wood fibre has many exciting applications,” Price added. “In the case of Dr. Heyne’s project, we see tremendous potential benefit for the health system and the well-being of Albertans, along with the potential upside for our forest sector.”
Financial support from Alberta Innovates to help commercialize the product and having easy access to CNC produced at an Alberta Innovates facility have been huge benefits to advancing this research, says Dr. Heyne.
Alberta is a global leader in developing and refining the process of extracting CNC from wood fibre. Alberta Innovates operates a CNC pilot plant in Edmonton capable of producing several kilograms of CNC per day. It is one of only a few facilities in the world able to manufacture this quantity of high-quality CNC. Alberta Innovates is supplying CNC to many companies and research organizations around the world to further their research and product development.
“If we didn’t have this local source of CNC, we wouldn’t have been able to do our research,” says Dr. Heyne.
Because CNC is a sustainable and environmentally-friendly nanomaterial, it is a safer platform to use for their formulation of light-activated, bacteria-killing molecules, she adds. Using CNC is also a cheaper alternative to non-renewable nanomaterials.
On the Cover:
A Tigercat 870C buncher at work for D. Lind Contracting in B.C. In this issue, Logging and Sawmilling Journal looks at the situation the forest industry is facing with an increasingly older workforce, and where future equipment operators are going come from, beginning on page 4. (Cover photo courtesy of The Inland Group).
Where are the industry’s future employees going to come from?
There is growing concern in the forest industry about where future loggers and equipment operators are going to come from—and a B.C. logging company is taking action in its own backyard, working closely with a local high school to encourage students to look at the forest industry for their careers.
A new look for B.C.’s coastal forest industry
Forest management in B.C.’s Sea to Sky Corridor has taken on a new look, with majority-owned First Nations companies, such as Sqomish Forestry LP, now being large forestry players in the region.
Forest safety—by satellite
Satellite technology is transforming lone worker safety in the forest industry by ensuring no worker is ever without access to a vital line of communications in the remote locations so common to the industry.
Resolute ramps up Atikokan sawmill
Resolute Forest Products is ramping up its brand new sawmill near Atikokan, Ontario, part of the company’s overall investment of $150 million in the region, creating more than 200 jobs.
A family logging affair
Chris Weare of Nova Scotia’s R&C Weare Logging has readily stepped up to the plate—with the support of family—in running their logging business, a heckuva of a busy business affair with an equipment line-up that includes 13 harvesting machines, 10 tractor trailers hauling wood, and roadbuilding gear.
Alberta’s Spray Lake Sawmills has bounced back from the economic downturn, and is even stronger now thanks to consistent mill improvements—and it is looking to grow its treated wood program.
Getting ready for legal pot
The imminent legalization of marijuana—which could happen as early as this year—provides a good reason for forest companies of all sizes to prepare themselves with at least a well-defined and communicated substance abuse policy.
Building business-and a safe workplace
Ontario logger John Fleming has won two health and safety awards, and has found that in addition to helping build a safe workplace, the awards have helped build his business.
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 FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Jim Stirling on how B.C. is dealing with the spruce bark beetle on steroids, and possible containment strategies.