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In The Chips - Residual Wood

By Paul MacDonald

The wood waste reclamation project being run by Riverside Forest Products and DCT Chambers Trucking in BC’s Okanagan Valley is one of those truly rare situations where everyone seems to win and all the parties involved — government and industry — are working together towards a common goal. There are a number of business models for a successful wood waste salvage program just across the line in Washington and Oregon. In fact, that’s where Dwayne Pedersen, waste wood operations manager for DCT Chambers, which is based in Vernon, BC, went to see first-hand how its done in the Pacific Northwest. He actually rode shotgun with the salvage operation of an Oregon logging operator for a couple of weeks. The experience was valuable — Pedersen was able to see the day-to-day problems they experienced, as well as benefit from their years of experience. But as anyone in business knows, it’s not simply a matter of taking what’s successful elsewhere and plugging it into your operation. It has taken a lot of hard work and organization on the part of DCT Chambers and Riverside to make this project work. For DCT Chambers, this new enterprise fits well with its existing business. The company has a large fleet of trucks and trailers and is one of the biggest haulers of wood chips and lumber in British Columbia.


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BC’s Riverside Forest Products and trucking company DCT Chambers are working on a project to get waste wood out of the bush and into the mill to produce chips.
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DCT Chambers has four excavators—two Hyundai 180s, a Hyundai 210 and a Cat 325—working out in the bush doing the salvaging. Each machine is equipped with a custom-designed Imac power grapple to handle material.

It fits well with its intent to make the best use of the wood resource it has as a licencee, and dovetails nicely with a chipping operation the company already has in place at its Armstrong, BC sawmill. For years, there was absolutely no incentive to take what is considered waste wood, or logging debris, out of the forest in BC because it had no commercial value. The only option was to burn it. BC’s Ministry of Forests is actively supporting this new program through salvage stumpage fees. The end result: far less wood debris in the forests, which translates into less burning and improved air conditions for the region. Another significant benefit is that the province is getting better use of the “waste” wood since most of it is now being chipped and shipped off to make pulp. And, as Dwayne Pedersen of DCT Chambers points out, when they say most of the debris, they mean it. “There’s really not a lot left when we’re finished,” he says. “We go in after the logging contractor has done his end of things and pretty much take out all the debris, from tops down to rat tails, broken chunks of wood and busted up pulp wood. We are able to take out up to 85 per cent of the fibre.

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There are usually two 56-cubic metre bins on each site for holding and transporting of the salvage material. The material is sent to the Riverside Forest Products mill at Armstrong, BC where it goes through a P.S.I. drum debarker and a CAE chipper.

It’s pretty much only the really small material that is left.” The program had its start several years ago when pulp prices were hitting the roof, and there was a resulting scramble for wood chips in BC. Chip prices hit $225 per Bone Dry Unit (BDU), making just about every scrap piece of wood worth salvaging. Chip prices have fallen substantially since then, but both DCT Chambers and Riverside say they are committed to the program for the long term and are willing to ride out low chip prices. In the meantime, they are working to make the program as efficient as possible. Key to the whole program has been the acknowledgment from the BC Ministry of Forests that the province is far better off charging a low stumpage rate on this wood and seeing it hauled off for chipping, than charging standard stumpage and seeing it end up being burned. “The Ministry of Forests has been very helpful with getting the program going and finding areas where we can do work and in just pushing the program,” says Pedersen. While the scenic Okanagan Valley is not particularly worse off than other areas for forestryrelated air pollution, weather and geography do play a role. If a fair amount of burning is going on, and a temperature inversion develops, the valley can quickly get plugged with smoke. The big bonus as far as the Ministry of Forests and the Ministry of Environment are concerned is that burning is reduced substantially in the areas where the salvaging is being done. “In the areas where we do cleanup, the burning is reduced anywhere from 60 to 80 per cent,” says Pedersen. “Last year, there were probably 40 landings where no burning had to be done at all because we took almost everything out of there.” Another benefit comes in the form of bug control. It’s a constant battle to keep ahead of the mountain pine beetle in the region. DCT Chambers is able to get in with their equipment to salvage and cleanup areas right away, before the pine beetle starts to fly elsewhere and spread.

The salvage essentially amounts to the final phase of the overall harvesting operation. DCT Chambers comes in to the site after the main logging contractor has finished. “We’re following in behind them and a big part of what we are doing is trying to work with the logging contractors and what they are doing,” explains Pedersen. “They are already running their operations lean; they have to be efficient to make any money. But what they do as part of their work, whether it be delimbing or placement of the material, can help us with what we are doing.” Pedersen has four excavators — two Hyundai 180s, a Hyundai 210 and a Cat 325 —working out in the bush doing the salvaging. Each machine is equipped with a custom-designed Imac power grapple to handle the material. “Most of the standard grapples go down to a six-inch squeeze and these custom grapples go down to two inches,” says Pedersen. “We do a lot of tops at roadside, so the material is laying in windrows, rather than piles. We come along with our machines and try to get as much as we can. Having the Imac grapple makes a difference because we are able to get a decent load.” Once the machines have the material, they place it in one of the two 56cubic yard bins on site.

The company has two bins on each site because it is efficient— the trucks transporting the bins can handle two at a time. Pedersen noted that they have recently started working with 100 cubic yard bins, meaning the trucks only have to handle one bin, increasing operational efficiency further. The Hyundai 210 is matched with the larger bins. It has a scissor cab, making it easier to load these higher, larger bins. While the salvaging has so far been treated as a separate “phase” of the overall operation, DCT Chambers recently received a special permit to try it out as part of an active logging operation. The company’s salvage bins will be set up on the landing and the contractor, rather than pushing the waste wood into a pile, will deposit it directly into one of the bins and receive a payment per tonne of material. “It would be a lot more efficient because the contractor would use their own equipment during the active logging phase to do the salvage work, rather than us having to come in afterwards with our equipment.” To say that the company’s operators work through some pretty gnarly messes of wood and debris would truly be an understatement. “We get our share of mud and stumps and everything pushed into the landing. It generally takes about 45 minutes to fill a bin.” And while there may be a fair amount of work to do in some of the larger harvesting areas, with other operations it’s a quick cleanup and then on to the next site.

Once the material is collected in bins and picked up, it goes to the Riverside mill at Armstrong. Riverside has a 40- foot P.S.I. drum debarker from Mobile, Alabama that runs into a CAE 76” chipper it set up at Armstrong several years ago. The chipper can handle up to a 19” log. Although Kelowna-based Riverside is a solid wood player in the forest industry — it has three sawmills, two plywood plants and a veneer plant in the BC Interior — it ships a lot of chips. In this case, the chips are headed for the Fletcher Challenge mill on Vancouver Island and the Weyerhaeuser mill in Kamloops. Chris Pieper, manager of log purchasing at the Armstrong mill, agrees that the program has winning appeal. “There is the reduction in burning, the not having to go back to the landing piles and spread material out because after the equipment leaves, there’s very little material left. When Dwayne and his guys are finished in there, those piles are very small. They’re almost the size of the clean up piles you’d have in your backyard. “On the surface, it looks like an easy win. But it takes a lot of work and organization. There is a small amount of stumpage that has to be paid, but the big costs are in the loading and the transportation. It’s fairly expensive to extract this material.” Pieper notes that when the program was started on a trial basis several years ago, chip prices were very high. “With this type of business, it’s matter of riding out the low chip prices and over a number of years getting a reasonable return on the capital invested.” From Riverside’s perspective, he says, the key is in expanding the operation. They are currently running one shift at the chipping operation, and could run a two-shift operation, which would help capitalize the equipment costs. “There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of material out there,” says Pieper.

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