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November 2005  - The Logging and Sawmilling Journal



Strong Attendance at Residual Wood Conference

By Paul MacDonald

A very strong line-up of speakers and increased interest in using residual wood for energy generation led to a successful Residue-to-Revenue Residual Wood Conference in Vancouver in October.

“We were pleased with the attendance at the Residual Wood Conference and the feedback we’ve received reflects that the people attending were happy with the conference content and speakers,” says conference co-ordinator Jan Raulin.

More than 200 people attended the conference, which was sponsored by Logging & Sawmilling Journal and TimberWest Magazine, and held October 19 to 21 at the Delta Vancouver Airport Hotel.

In addition to the energy focus, the conference offered a broad overview of what is going on in residual wood utilization in North America and Europe.

Reflecting the recent run-up in energy prices, the conference featured a strong emphasis on energy-related solutions and technologies for wood waste. While benchmark energy prices appear to be easing off from record levels, forecasts call for energy prices to remain historically high. This bodes well for energy generation projects involving residual wood, which could deliver some much needed additional revenue to the forest industry.

“The forest industry is facing some challenging economic times, with companies needing to maximize the use of fibre from the bush through to the mill production line,” says Bill Carlson of Carlson Small Power Consultants, co-chair of the conference. “This makes having a practical strategy for managing and creating value from residual wood more important than ever. Our overall goal for the conference was to help attendees see how they can achieve full utilization of their wood resources, and I think we were able to do exactly that with the help of industry suppliers and speakers.”

In his presentation, Carlson noted that there has been a significant turnaround in interest in using residual wood for energy generation in recent years.

Several years back, plant shutdowns were common and virtually no new biomass projects were in development.

Today, numerous plants are being restarted and there are a number of proposals
for new plants in both Canada and the United States.

A common chord struck by many speakers over the two days of the conference was that while residual wood energy generation projects might involve significant capital costs, the resulting power is generated by a sustainable and renewable resource—wood.

Many speakers struck a very positive note for the future use of residual wood, specifically for energy generation.

Industry consultant Brian McCloy noted that rising natural gas prices— North America currently has the highest natural gas costs in the world—have resulted in the payback time for wood energy systems being reduced to two years or less. And speakers noted that wood residue is readily available, both in Canada and internationally.

Dr Arto Timperi, Manager of the ROViR Centre in Finland, noted that forest biomass presently represents the largest unutilized source of renewable energy in the European Union. Dr Timperi included details in his presentation on the Alholmens Kraft project which, at 550MW thermal, is the world’s largest bioenergy plant.

A point raised by some speakers at the conference is the effect the issue of greenhouse gases can have on wood generated energy projects. For example, projects that replace fossil fuels can obtain revenues from the sale of carbon benefits. Biomass energy, including residual wood, is increasingly looking to be a very attractive option for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

In addition to the speakers, attendees could also talk one-on-one at the conference with a wide variety of residual wood-related suppliers, through the Suppliers Showcase. More than 30 companies were represented in the showcase which— illustrating the interest in the conference—was sold out.

The October event was the sixth Residual Wood Conference, reflecting the ongoing importance of dealing with residual wood.

Co-chairing the conference were Bill Carlson of Carlson Small Power Consultants, and Michael Jordan, Corporate Environment and Energy Manager for Canfor, one of North
America’s largest lumber producers.

Valon Kone Brunette Ltd was a major sponsor of the conference and other sponsors included Natural Resources Canada, the Forest Products Association of Canada and BC Hydro.

For those unable to attend, conference proceedings are available to purchase by contacting the Logging & Sawmilling office at (604) 990-9970.

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