Mountains of wood residueMountains of wood residue

A hog fuel working group that had sought workable solutions to the problems of growing volumes of wood residues on the B.C. Coast has found there are no easy solutions to dealing with these mini-mountains of residual wood.

By Jim Stirling

There is a lot of residual wood that’s generated as a byproduct of processing logs at coastal log sorts in B.C., and it’s proving tough to find a home for this material.

The B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI) underlined its role as the industry’s principal standard bearer in the province with its April absorption of the Coast Forest Products Association (CFPA).

Welcoming the CFPA into the COFI fold continues a trend in forest industry association consolidation. It repeats an earlier consolidation that saw a concentration of fewer but larger forest licencees in the province.

It wasn’t that long ago when attitudes differed toward forest industry associations. Specialist associations representing generally smaller constituencies within the B.C. forest industry were common and considered the most likely way to the get the ear and sympathy for their causes from the decision makers.

Now the thinking has come full circle. It is now one voice—with the support of an entire industry—that commands the attention and respect of governments. The strengthened council is continuing its stellar work to benefit the forest industry. The trade file provides good examples: COFI’s work with federal and provincial governments to stimulate and sustain a viable Chinese lumber market; the continuing co-operative and patient approach toward NAFTA and achieving an acceptable softwood lumber agreement with the U.S.; and how COFI’s membership was galvanized into re-defining issues and operating standards surrounding sawdust containment in wood processing centres. The initiative used in that instance established a template that’s being applied in diverse co-operative ways throughout the forest worker health and safety arena.

But it is the smaller, less headline-grabbing, everyday issues and concerns that can inadvertently fall by attention’s wayside when associations merge.

For example, the Coast Forest Products Association (CFPA) has been plugging away for a considerable time with the issues surrounding residual wood fibre on the B.C. coast. Hog fuel, as it’s more colloquially called, is a byproduct of processing logs at coastal log sorts. The material is additionally generated by whole log chipping facilities during the manufacture of wood chips and lumber. The problem has been what to do with the stuff and that is destined to become more apparent when B.C. coastal logging activities pick up momentum again. Right now there are mini-mountains of residual wood fibre from isolated northern coves to the Vancouver waterfront. As a result, hog fuel handling, storage and liability issues have proved a constant and continuing financial headache for the regional forest industry.

Mountains of wood residueThe CFPA struck a hog fuel working group to collaborate with its partners to seek workable short and long term solutions to the problems presented by the growing volumes of wood residues on the coast.

“In the past, the coastal pulp and paper industry has been the prime consumer of regionally-generated hog fuel,” pointed out Les Kiss, who was vice-president of forestry with the CFPA and spent considerable time spearheading the residual wood fibre disposal issue on the B.C. coast.  

The material was specifically used for furnish in the production of heat and power in the pulp and paper mills. But even in that modest function, the coastal hog fuel had its unfavourable limitations. Two of those were the materials’ high moisture content and that it contained a large percentage of fines within the hog fuel mix, explained Kiss. The fines tend to inhibit boiler operation efficiency, he pointed out. The hog fuel source also needs to be within economic transportation distance of the consuming mill to be viable. It hasn’t helped the hog fuel surplus issue that the B.C. coast has lost some of its pulp and paper production capacity in recent years.

The CFPA estimated that as a result of the coastal hog fuel’s inhibiting features, it was only the third choice material for the remaining pulp and paper mills, continued Kiss. Top choice—if it was available—was dry hog fuel from the interior followed by low cost natural gas. Meanwhile, coastal hog fuel supply continues to outstrip demand.

The CFPA’s hog fuel working group identified possible new products for the material’s use in the long term including conversion into wood pellets or in bio fuel manufacture. But coastal hog fuel’s nemesis characteristics of high moisture and salt contents are potential restricting factors to be overcome or accommodated.

It’s a similar story with the wide geographical distribution of hog fuel sources. A bio fuel manufacture operation, for example, would need to be centrally located while hog fuel sources are widely scattered. “The transportation economies have to come into play,” said Kiss.

Short term solutions to the coastal hog fuel surplus dilemma were proving equally elusive. Options there included open burning of woody material at log sort sites or the placement of non-hazardous wood residues into landfills. The B.C. Ministry of Environment was one of the principal working partners for the CFPA. The issues revolved around the classification of wood residues i.e. hazardous or non-hazardous and how that determination could be clearly annunciated for all parties in the Landfill Code of Practice Review.

Progress was slow. The change in provincial government triggered a prolonged period of inertia within the Ministry of Environment. But meetings on the coastal hog fuel issue were still being scheduled between ministry representatives and Kiss well into 2018.

Now the Coast Forest Products Association is no longer an independent entity, it remains to be seen if the Council of Forest Industries takes up the mantle. The basic objective remains the same: to have a clear and equitable framework in place for managing residual wood fibres in coastal B.C. But then so do the problems inherent with the fibre.


Logging and Sawmilling Journal
September 2018

On the Cover:
A new Sennebogen 830 M-T at the Cameron River Logistics operation in northern B.C. moves 16-foot CTL logs from truck to rail for the Dunkley sawmill. Watch for the next issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal, and a feature story on how a Sennebogen 830 M-T log handler’s stacking ability has boosted yard capacity for Saskatchewan’s Edgewood Forest Products (Photo courtesy of Sennebogen).

Securing safer sawmills
Forest industry veteran—and safety advocate—Kerry Douglas has seen safety become a higher priority over the course of his 48-year career, with more focus on mill safety, especially in areas like dust containment.

B.C.’s Conifex Timber goes south…
B.C.-based Conifex Timber is doubling its production capacity with major sawmill investments in the U.S. South—including a significant upgrade to its El Dorado mill.

Capital investment delivers production boost
Ontario sawmiller Lavern Heideman & Sons has invested $17 million in its operations, and it has paid off big time, with an expected production boost of 60 per cent.

Idaho mill gets high tech makeover
The Idaho sawmill of Woodgrain Millwork is definitely on the upswing, thanks to a high tech makeover with equipment from suppliers, including HewSaw and Bosch Rexroth.

Going full tilt…
Tilt Contracting’s Russ Parsons has grown his operation, thanks to a strong focus on having logging equipment that delivers on B.C.’s steep slopes—and counts himself fortunate for having a solid crew, both at work and on the home front.

Upping veneer volume
Family-owned ATCO Wood Products has been able to double its production of veneer products over the last five years, with a series of smaller equipment upgrades and changes—and a team approach at the company.

Sawmilling is sometimes like a box of chocolates…
Operating a small sawmill for Saskatchewan’s Vernon Heatwole can be like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, in that he never knows what kind of unusual lumber order the next phone call will bring.

Keeping their options open—even with logging equipment
Maintaining their independence and keeping their options open—including being open to buying and selling equipment at any time—has paid off for veteran logging operation D & L Rehn Contracting.

Mountains of wood residue
A hog fuel working group that had sought workable solutions to the problems presented by the growing volumes of wood residues on the B.C. Coast has found there are no easy solutions to dealing with these mini-mountains of residual wood.

Saskatchewan sawmiller Dean Christiansen has taken a leap forward in equipment with an upgrade to a Wood-Mizer LT70 electric band sawmill, which has allowed him to double his production potential.

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 and Alberta Innovates.

The Last Word


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