FPInnovations, a non-profit organization specializing in creating solutions that support the global competitiveness of the Canadian forest sector, and its government and industry partners recently launched the all-new 2019 second edition of the building construction game-changing, “Canadian CLT Handbook.”
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is increasingly used in the sustainable construction of tall buildings and has a firm footing in the mass-timber-building global movement. FPInnovations and its partners are leading the knowledge transfer of the most up-to-date CLT technical information to the design and construction community.
“Building with wood impacts the entire forest sector value chain by creating new products and markets and increasing the value of wood products,” said Stéphane Renou, President and CEO, FPInnovations. “I’m proud of the expertise we’ve developed with our partners and pleased to share that expert knowledge with other industries, such as building construction, that can support the forest sector’s growth and competitiveness.”
The two-volume Handbook was funded by the B.C. government’s Forestry Innovation Investment (FII) agency; the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; Natural Resources Canada; Structurlam; Nordic Structures; the Québec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks; the Province of Alberta; and the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-Economy (CRIBE).
FPInnovations and its partners first delivered Canadian and U.S. versions of the handbooks in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Since then, new research and regulations have made a revised comprehensive how-to handbook essential. The 2019 edition includes the new CLT provisions in the Canadian Standards Association’s standard in “Engineering Design in Wood.” An extra chapter provides a state-of-the-art design prototype of an eight-storey mass-timber building.
Copies of the Canadian English-language Handbook are available at clt.fpinnovations.ca. French-language and U.S. editions are planned.
Peer-reviewed and written by FPInnovations and academic researchers, as well as design and construction industry professionals, the Handbook is THE reference in North America for the latest technical and practical information on using CLT in building construction.
Forestry 4.0 is a research program led by FPInnovations whose overarching goal is to increase the competitiveness of the Canadian forest industry by bringing real-time data flow and automation to forest operations.
The program is supported by the industry, FPInnovations members and government. It focuses on three components: autonomous trucks, automated harvesting and in-forest connectivity, with the aim to reduce fibre supply costs, mitigate labour shortages, increase safety and improve the environmental performance of forest operations.
Francis Charette, a lead scientist with FPInnovations, answered questions about how the program is implementing technology in the forest industry.
How does Canada compare to other countries in terms of a digitalized forestry industry?
“The Canadian forest sector has invested significantly in digitalizing the forest management planning process, including forest inventory and intervention plans. We are among the leading countries in digitalized forestry. However, we still face many challenges in operationalizing information in real-time throughout the forest value chain. Our diversity in terms of ecosystems, forest tenures, extreme weather conditions and remote areas without cellular coverage adds to the complexity of the digital toolbox that will eventually be deployed.”
To what extent does the supply chain benefit from Forestry 4.0?
“We have been able to demonstrate that Forestry 4.0 has the potential to significantly lower supply costs, mitigate labour shortages, increase safety and increase environmental performance. From a supply chain point of view, we hope that forest operations of the future will be able to sustainably provide the right fibre, at the right time, at the right mill, at a competitive cost to optimize the wood transformation process to meet market demands.”
Can you describe a few examples of successful Forestry 4.0 projects?
“We are focused on long-term projects—however, we have already contributed to the implementation of these projects:
The ITC (Individual Tree Crown) inventory is a new product that has been developed by Forsite Consultants through the ARCTIC Challenge funded by the British Columbia government and FPInnovations. It gives another perspective of forest inventory. We are talking about identifying each tree in a forest and calculating the individual characteristics of each tree. This will pave the way for creating digital twins of the forest and unlocking a new way of planning and monitoring forest operations.
TimberOps is a new product from a non-traditional partner, LlamaZOO. They have adapted a powerful visual tool from the mining industry. The tool combines a large quantity of data within a 3D-VR platform. The tool is used by forest companies to create plans in complex situations like steep slopes and coastal harvesting.”
How important is technology in attracting new talent?
“As many people know, the country has almost full employment right now, which is causing a labour shortage in our sector for some traditional jobs, like truck drivers. Young people are tech-savvy, and we hope that integrating new technologies in the sector will attract a new labour force. There is a huge opportunity for start-up companies to develop high-tech services for our sector because the space is wide open.”
Looking back, where was Forestry 4.0 three or five years ago?
“The Forestry 4.0 program was officially launched in 2017-2018. If I look back at where we were then, we established the vision of where we wanted to go and identified gaps in our internal skill sets like robotics, intelligent transportation systems and telecommunications. This led to the development of partnerships to help us develop components of our vision. We needed to develop these partnerships with non-traditional players from new areas like AR/VR, IoT, autonomous systems, cloud computing and AI. We started with smaller projects, mostly in remote sensing technologies.”
And looking forward, where do you see Forestry 4.0 in three to five years?
“I think that through Forestry 4.0 and similar programs around the world, the forest industry will take a huge step forward in terms of technology integration. I am confident that autonomous trucks and platooning systems will make their way into Canadian forest operations. I also think that harvesting machine teleoperations will become a reality at dangerous sites. Machine operators will have access to a lot more information to carry out their tasks and some of their tasks will be automated. Affordable connectivity in the forest will become a reality.”
By Tony Kryzanowski
Bakers use yeast to make bread dough rise… and University of Alberta researchers are now showing how Alberta forest companies can use genetically engineered yeast to cause business opportunities in the bioeconomy to rise.
They have discovered that certain genetically engineered yeast cells and bacteria can convert low-value forestry waste like sawdust, bark, lignin and processed biomass from bush piles into high-value biochemicals needed by the cosmetics, oil and gas, lubricant, detergent and food industries.
These forestry-derived chemicals can be substituted for high volumes of chemicals currently produced from petrochemicals and palm oil, representing a non-toxic, biodegradable and more environmentally friendly alternative to these traditional chemical sources.
Dr. David Stuart is a professor in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Alberta and chief investigator on this research project aimed at finding ways to manufacture high-value bioproducts from low-value biomass. So far, Stuart and his team have proven they can convert forestry and agricultural waste products into green chemicals using their genetically engineered yeast.
They have applied their process to black liquor and lignin supplied by Mercer International and West Fraser Timber with limited success. Now, they want to test their conversion process on low-value forest waste products like sawdust, bark and waste generated from logging activity because Stuart believes they will achieve better yield. These waste products have much higher carbohydrate content, which is critical to achieving higher conversion yields using his genetically engineered yeast strains.
Stuart also wants to streamline his chemical conversion process while focusing on the production of the highest-value chemicals. This will help to make the business case for forest companies and investors to consider the commercialization of this proven technology.
Alberta Innovates provided $290,000 through its Alberta Bio Future program and additional funding support from its Lignin Challenge program to advance this research. Bioindustrial Innovations Canada provided $519,825 and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) provided another $125,000.
“The support from Alberta Innovates was essential,” says Stuart. “It allowed us to actually start the project and show that we can make these products and get it to the point where we could make enough product to allow potential users to sample.”
What motivated Stuart to pursue this research was his recognition of how many chemicals derived from Southeast Asian palm oil are used in common consumer products such as shampoo, soap, cosmetics and food. While palm oil is a renewable product, millions of hectares have been ploughed under to create massive plantations for palm oil production, representing a significant environmental challenge. Because of the distance factor and with palm oil used in so many products, manufacturers could also experience supply chain issues from this single-source supplier.
Stuart thought about using low-value forestry and agriculture waste to produce the same chemicals, which would significantly reduce manufacturer dependence on palm oil being transported from a great distance, and thus reducing potential supply chain issues. What encouraged him to pursue his research is that he received a very favourable response from a major specialty chemical company called Croda, which expressed an interest in chemicals derived from low-value biomass instead of palm oil.
Also, Stuart’s genetically engineered yeast cells can produce versions of chemicals from forestry waste that are very difficult to make from palm oil or to synthesize chemically, representing a potential niche market for specific high-value and high-demand chemicals for the forest industry.
Furthermore, the process he has developed results in pure product that floats to the surface and can be easily skimmed off without the need for extensive purification and distillation. There is no chemical waste byproduct, as when synthesizing these same chemical products from petrochemicals.
One unexpected and important discovery from Stuart’s research is that investigators were able to produce a cleaning agent from lignin which is very effective for degrading toxic compounds that pollute the soil and are generated in oil sands process water, bitumen refining and other petrochemical processes.
Finally, ethanol is produced from combining yeast with glucose typically derived from corn and sugar cane.
Stuart says that his genetically engineered yeast prefers to use sugars derived from abundant, low-value woody biomass or straw, meaning that this technology could be used effectively in the production of chemicals from wood waste instead of from other traditional raw materials.
“If our process was successfully scaled up, I have no doubt that it could yield high-value products from low-value biomass byproducts,” Stuart says
For more information about Alberta Innovates’ support for this project and the Alberta Bio Future Program, contact Julia Necheff at [email protected].
There is tremendous value to British Columbians in reducing forest slash burning. The benefits include improved community protection, reduced environmental impact, and increased employment.
Since 2017, FPInnovations and the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia (FESBC) have partnered to find solutions that maximize the use of forest fibre, all while enhancing forest resiliency throughout B.C. This is a key priority for the provincial government considering the mid-term fibre supply deficits, the latest consequential mill closures, and the recent catastrophic wildfires.
THE POWER OF EFFICIENCY
“With the financial support of FESBC, FPInnovations has unravelled the economics of forest operations tailored to increase the use of existing fibre sources,” stated Ken Byrne, manager of resource management for FPInnovations. “The findings will provide the B.C. forest sector with the necessary information to become innovative, cut costs, and maximize operations.”
Much of FPInnovations’ research has revolved around the incremental costs of harvesting and transporting biomass logs. These costs are over and above what it would normally cost to transport logs for market. The research has also looked at alternative processing systems to identify opportunities to reduce costs and increase fibre utilization.
“Initial research identified opportunities to increase volume recovery using centrally located yards instead of processing solely at roadside.” said Byrne. “These studies also showed that if biomass logs are transported to market instead of piling and burning them at roadside, there is potential for higher profits.”
REDUCING THE WILDFIRE RISK THROUGH THINNING
FPInnovations also assessed thinning operations which reduce the density of trees on the land base.
A great example of this is the wildfire risk reduction project by the City of Quesnel. The city needed to protect the community by reducing wildfire risk close to the Quesnel airport. By thinning the trees and removing ladder fuels and lower branches, the risk of an out-of-control crown fire—where a fire goes from one treetop to another—dramatically decreased. The City also wished to enhance wildlife habitat and create a recreational trail system in the same area and generate green energy from the woody biomass that otherwise would have been slash-burned in the process.
The research on these operations helped identify the true efficiency of forest fuel reduction treatments and reveal associated costs. Not only do these treatments reduce wildfire risk, but they also achieve other forest management objectives—specifically when it comes to areas that are adjacent to communities and critical infrastructure.
VALUE OF THE PARTNERSHIP
“FESBC is grateful that FPInnovations is able to provide research expertise in forest operations. We are in a time of transition. It is critical to know the true costs and levels of productivity of different machines, methods, and treatment plans,” explained Steve Kozuki, executive director of FESBC. “Getting the most value from the forest at an affordable cost will help British Columbia create more sustainable jobs, protect communities, and achieve our goals when it comes to climate change.”
“The partnership between FESBC and FPInnovations has had a positive impact on increasing fibre utilization and forest resilience when the forest industry needs it the most,” said Byrne. “Future projects will continue to focus on maximizing value from lower-quality stands of trees and responding to the continuous impacts of climate change.”
By Tony Kryzanowski
The Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) Technology Development Team offers the following minimal risk, best practices guide for site selection, species selection, plantation establishment, and vegetation management for those interested in successfully planting and managing a fast growing woody fibre crop on a plantation.
These best practices are based on CWFC’s proven, cost-effective, and easily implemented planning and management protocols verified over the past 18 years.
Derek Sidders, Project Manager, Technology Development and Transfer at CWFC says that this tree land management technology is ready for uptake, and anyone familiar with growing conventional seed crops can easily master the growing and management of a fast growing woody fibre crop.
The basic common sense principles are the same as shown below and crops can be harvested within 10 to 25 years, achieving a minimum growth of 10 cubic metres per hectare per year.
Sidders adds that more and more Canadians are recognizing that fast growing hybrid poplar, clonal aspen, and commercially valuable softwood species like white spruce and white pine planted in the understorey of high yield afforestation plantations offer: an alternative fuel source for green energy production; a natural climate solution for carbon sequestration in a changing climate experiencing more frequent erratic weather events; and an alternative fibre source to complement Canada’s natural forests, while enhancing ecosystems for wildlife and birds.
The three critical ingredients for success are suitable site selection and preparation, species selection based on the site’s bio-geoclimatic zone, and mechanical vegetation management until the plantation achieves crown closure at which time the plantation self-manages competing vegetation.
In terms of suitable site selection and preparation, any fertile land capable of growing a seed or pulse crop can grow a commercial fast growing tree crop. The site should have good drainage located south of the 60th parallel, with relatively flat topography and with minimal large impediments like stones.
Mechanical site preparation involves creating 30 centimetres of well-aerated loose soil on the surface to allow for good root growth, moisture management, and intensive vegetation management.
For species selection, CWFC has developed a guide showing appropriate clonal species for each Canadian bio-geoclimatic zone. The use of multiple clones is recommended to minimize risk and to allow for a variety of final product options. The planting material is either a vegetative cutting measuring 25-30 centimetres long, planted directly into the soil with one bud exposed above ground, or a 40-50 centimetre tall rooted cutting typically started in a greenhouse, or a rooted one-year-old whip. The site should be planted when the soil temperature is above 12 degrees Celsius with at least 14 hours of sunlight and with the potential for rainfall within 10 to 14 days of planting.
Vegetation management usually starts within 4-5 weeks of planting and is recommended whenever the crop is experiencing competition that is 15-20 centimetres in height, over a minimum of 50 per cent of the site. It is required until the site achieves crown closure within three to four years. Only mechanical vegetation control is recommended, consisting of high speed rotary cultivation or conventional passive cultivation using tines that are typically used on conventional crops or when growing vegetables.
For more information on these basic best practices for successful short rotation woody crop plantation establishment, contact Derek Sidders at [email protected].
On the Cover:
Alberta forest company Millar Western recently invested in a new Andritz 35-tonne overhead portal crane for the log yard at their sawmill in Whitecourt, and some $10 million into completely modernizing the Whitecourt planer mill. Investments have also been made in the Whitecourt sawmill’s primary breakdown line. Read all about the upgrade beginning on page 18 of this issue (Cover shot by Tony Kryzanowski).
Biofuel projects planned for Alberta—and maybe Newfoundland
British biofuel company AEG has switched its focus to Western Canada and the U.S., but it is still interested in a biofuel plant for Newfoundland.
From farming to forestry…
The Lusted Family started out in farming, but made the transition to logging back in 1995, and has grown significantly since then—these days it has upwards of 20 pieces of equipment to do harvesting work in B.C.’s southern interior.
Millar Western starts its second century...with mill upgrades
Millar Western recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and the Alberta forest products company has started its second century in business with a capital expenditures bang—by investing $36 million in its operations.
Logging contractor Ian Kerr is working with smaller Canadian and European logging equipment to thin the forests of B.C.’s West Kootenays region, leaving a light footprint—and achieving better wood utilization.
Canada’s Top Lumber Producers!
Logging and Sawmilling Journal’s annual ranking of Canada’s Top Lumber Producers, and industry outlook, co-ordinated with top ranked industry consultants Forest Economic Advisors (FEA).
Christian Roy followed a steady path toward becoming a mechanized logging contractor, with his equipment evolving—his highly efficient harvest team now consists of two Ponsse Scorpion harvesters and a Ponsse Elephant King forwarder.
Included in this edition of The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from Alberta Innovates, Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and FPInnovations.
The Last Word
Canada has won the interim softwood lumber tariff fight, but a long term trade reset is needed, says Tony Kryzanowski.