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Logging and Sawmilling Journal October/November 2011

August/September 2013

On the Cover:
Managing mobile equipment effectively is a key part of an efficient sawmill. B.C.’s S & R Sawmills is finding that investing in new Cat wheel loaders from Caterpillar equipment dealer Finning is paying off in reduced fuel costs. See the October issue of Logging and Sawmilling Journal for a full report on the new wheel loaders at
S & R (Photo of S & R Sawmills millyard by Paul MacDonald).

Home-grown wood pellets for NWT?
The Northwest Territories sees a business opportunity for home-grown wood pellet production with the growing use of wood pellet heating, supported by a strategy to reduce greenhouse gases.

L & M Lumber: a tradition of innovation
A mill upgrade at B.C.’s L & M Lumber—involving a new optimized log breakdown and processing line—positions the independent producer well for recovering lumber markets, and continues a tradition of innovation and improvement.

Tackling tough B.C. roadbuilding
Mark Ponting and his construction crews tackle building logging road in some of the toughest ground in the country, on the B.C. Coast, and they rely on their equipment dealers to help out in minimizing equipment downtime when they are “miles from nowhere”.

Mistik manages growing wood demand
Saskatchewan’s Mistik Management is adapting to the growing timber needs of the NorSask Forest Products mill, which is adding a shift, and is going to require twice as much wood—but it’s a challenge they’re very happy to have.

How does your kiln system stack up?
With mill management always on the lookout to improve their drying operations, it was no surprise that a recent kiln drying seminar in Quebec City drew good attendance, and lively conversations.

OSB on the way up
The market for Oriented Strand Board has improved with the recovery of the U.S. housing market, and Ainsworth Lumber—which is in the process of being purchased by forestry giant Louisiana-Pacific Corp.— is looking at ramping up its OSB operations to meet the increased demand.

Bring on the wood ...
The Miramichi Lumber sawmill in New Brunswick has recently completed an upgrade, including an entirely new small log saw line, and is now raring to go to meet recovering lumber markets.

Turning biomass power on,
diesel off
A wood biomass-fired power system in the works in the small village of Kwadacha, B.C. could be a model for other remote communities looking to wean off costly diesel and propane for power production.

Rolling with the changes
Logger Clint Lightburn is rolling with the changes as forest company Canfor is asking its contractors in southeastern B.C. to move from delivering tree length wood to cut-to-length to its upgraded mill facility at Elko.

The Edge
Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry, are stories from the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

Tech Update – Mill Wide Information Systems
LSJ looks at the technology and systems available to help mill management better manage and operate mills.

The Last Word
Jim Stirling takes a look at the debate surrounding the creation of more area based forest licences in British Columbia.



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kiln drying seminar in Quebec CityHow does your kiln system stack up?

With mill management always on the lookout to improve their drying operations, it was no surprise that a recent kiln drying seminar in Quebec City drew good attendance, and lively conversations.

By Martine Frigon

Wood drying is a crucial step in the lumber production process and being able to achieve best practices in kiln drying can certainly bring a productivity gain and cost savings—both of which are welcome in a very competitive industry.

Essentially, the profitability of a sawmill and the lumber manufacturing process depends on the mill’s ability to maximize the wood’s quality throughout the entire manufacturing process—including kiln drying. Mills aim for rapid, high volume drying of lumber, but also want to turn out a quality product. Kiln drying does add extra value, but mills obviously only want to spend what they need on energy and associated costs.

No doubt this is a shared interest among mill management, since 130 people from Quebec and New Brunswick participated in a seminar on kiln drying in Quebec City in April.

Those attending work for companies such as Resolu, Tembec, Arbec, Barrette-Chapais, Les Chantiers Chibougamau, Materiaux Blanchet, Roland Boulanger et Cie, J. M. Campeau, Bois Daaquam, Produits Forestiers DG, Groupe GDS, Goodfellow, Groupe Crete St-Faustin, Scierie Landrienne, Scierie Clermont Hamel, J.D. Irving, Maibec, Industries Parent, Planchers Mercier, Scierie Chaleur, Bos-Franc, Boisaco, and Bégin et Bégin.

Suppliers also responded to the invitation to attend, with sales persons and technicians representing Comact, USNR, Ideal Combustion, VAB Solutions, MEC, SCS Forest Products, Secovac International, and Cathild. The seminar was also attended by people from the vocational education sector specializing in forestry, like the School of Forestry located in Duchesnay, consultants and CSMO BOIS, the Quebec Wood Processing Industry Sectorial Committee, which is dedicated to promoting vocational and technical training in the industry.

Organized by the Quebec Forest Industry Council (QFIC), the seminar, dedicated to the kiln drying process, was in fact the 19th in as many years. It is always an occasion for sawmillers—especially people involved in kiln drying—researchers and suppliers to exchange information, and get up to speed on drying improvements. “It’s very important for us to organize this event—it’s appreciated by the industry. Each year, more than a hundred people attend the seminar,” says Denis Rousseau, director - quality and markets for the QFIC.

kiln drying seminar in Quebec CityOf course, there are many kiln control systems on the market. Whether it’s on the east coast or the west coast—or in between—a lot of improvements have been made over the years. Data transmission by Wi-Fi using smartphones or tablets is now available, a practice that would not been possible only a decade ago.

And the kiln drying itself continues to evolve. “In the 1950s, we started to build large dryers. Three decades later, we saw the beginning of multi-zone drying kilns, temperature controls, and the use of PCs. Nowadays, customers are more demanding and require higher quality,” says Luiz Oliveira, a scientist for FPInnovations in Vancouver.

Among the products offered by the kiln equipment manufacturers there is the WRC system by Cathild, the VIPII control system by MEC, the AccuStop In-Kiln Moisture Measurement System by Secovac, and the Wireless In-Kiln Moisture Meter system offered by SCS Forest.

The research work of FPInnovations has been instrumental in moving kiln drying forward. It led to, among other products, FPdryStack, which is dedicated to reducing kiln drying costs.

But even when the most recent innovations are applied, it is clear that each piece of equipment must be used optimally. This is true with the deflectors, for instance. Vincent Lavoie, a researcher at FPInnovations, puts the emphasis on appropriate use of this equipment. “The baffles are an important component. They make sure that the air produced by the ventilation system goes into the stacked wood. The air passed through the bypass openings doesn’t dry. “

He added that since the drying rate is linked to the speed of the air flowing in the stack, the more air circulating into the bypasses, the less productivity.

Lavoie’s comment is based on a study done on an industrial kiln that processed spruce. “It showed that when the top baffles are positioned correctly, the air velocity increases by more than 200 ft/min in comparison to when they are not used. That theoretically means a difference in productivity of four per cent.” He also mentions that the baffles must be well matched to the loads, and also set up for intensive use, as they are functioning during each load.

kiln drying seminar in Quebec CityThe profitability of a sawmill and the lumber manufacturing process depends on the mill’s ability to maximize the wood’s quality throughout the entire manufacturing process—including kiln drying. It can be a bit of a balancing act: mills aim for rapid, high volume drying of lumber, but also want to turn out a quality product.

In 2011, Marc Savard, associated with the research centre, led a project in which FPdryStack was implemented in two EACOM Timber sawmills. In collaboration with Michel Gosselin from EACOM, the project analysed the performance of lumber handling practices around the kilns in sawmills located in Nairn Centre and Gogoma, in Ontario. The project evaluated the practices of stickering and stacking, the rough green and dry lumber yard storage and the kiln loading. Performance indicators are used to quantitatively assess these areas to highlight good practices, as well as opportunities for improvements.

Producing 8 feet boards, Gogoma has production of around 100 million board feet per year, while Nairn Centre has production of 150 million board feet annually of random length.

The production of both sawmills are dried in four kilns located in Nairn Centre, including two Irvington-Moore kilns, with a capacity of 230,000 board feet. They are equipped with Wellons control systems, and heated by thermal oil. A third kiln, by COE, has a capacity of 315,000 while the fourth kiln, built by Wellons last year, is the largest, at 350,000 board feet. Both kilns #3 and #4 are natural gas direct-fired. All four kilns have a cross-shaft fan system. Kiln #4 uses the Wellons True Capacitance Moisture Meter System (TCS) automatic kiln shut-down based on actual moisture content versus time, and is accurate to near one percent.

According to Savard and Gosselin, the results have been very positive. “We saw an annual increase of two per cent that was estimated at $375,000 for the production of Nairn and Gogama since the implementation of FPdryStack to monitor our operations,” said Savard. “Among the benefits, it led to lower planer production costs, reduced lumber degrade due to warping and reduced sticker renewing costs”.

kiln drying seminar in Quebec CityAudits are standardized, and they can be completed with Wi-Fi access or a 4G tablet. A secure web site then collects data and shows the results. It’s even possible to benchmark and see the results of other mills/companies that are using the system, without knowing their identity. “It’s an interesting tool because as well as showing your trend through the year, it provides upper management with a comparative analysis of the results, to benchmark with other users in the industry,“ adds Savard.

This is the case with Jonathan Caouette, from Les Chantiers Chibougamau, one of the users of this system. “We have seen significant gains,” he says.

Meanwhile, with the equipment manufacturers, there are many products on the market to improve both the drying process and recapture energy, including the WRC heat recovery system sold by Cathild. “In the conventional process, heat is used to evaporate water from the wood. Then, it is completely released into the atmosphere through the exhaust damper. We have to use this potential energy by transferring it into the air renewal,” says Daniel Rondeau from Cathild.

MEC has the VIPII control and the MC4000 systems. The drying process and the humidity level are controlled with sensors, using an average or their positions in the kiln, with a predetermined program. “It can be monitored by remote access with a computer or a smart phone,” says Guillaume St-Pierre, from MEC. “The MC4000 gives the same precision, whether the temperature is 70°F or 300°F, and the system is able to supervise up to 12 kiln dryers at the same time.”

kiln drying seminar in Quebec CitySecovac International sells the AccuStop In-Kiln Moisture Measurement System. It has ben designed to measure the moisture content of a large sample of lumber at various locations in the kiln during the drying process.

“The system measures moisture content of lumber above and below fibre saturation point. Integrated to Secovac’s software, it monitors the drying process continually, providing real time feedback used to advance the segments of the drying schedule and achieve desired final moisture content within the charge,” says Pierre Gilbert from Secovac. “It reads the humidity of large samples, typically between 250 and 350 boards, and measures full range moisture content within one per cent end point accuracy.”

SCS Forest has the Wireless In-Kiln Moisture measurement system which has options for controlling drying shutdown. “The kiln follows a schedule/recipe for a set amount of time and shuts down at a variable moisture content, and also when a predetermined temperature drop across the load is achieved, and/or when a pre-determined moisture content is completed,” says John Wallace, from SCS Forest.

In addition to systems from the manufacturers, there are also steps that can be taken by individual mills that can help kiln operations. Some ingenuous things have been designed by employees themselves and were presented as part of an annual contest at the QFIC workshop. Workers at Resolu La Dore, in northern Quebec, for example fabricated a vacuum cleaner, designed to clean the interior of the boilers.

And there are other ideas, such as the installation of outdoor lights that swivel to illuminate the interior of a dryer at the entrance, and a sensor to open a dryer vent. Other workers thought to indicate doors (even-odd), which especially helps the lift driver to find the right door during the weekend shift.

The challenges of kiln-drying will continue to be of high interest for sawmill managers. There is little doubt that the twentieth edition of the seminar on wood drying next year will draw a good number of mill people, all wishing to optimize their procedures to satisfy increasingly demanding customers.