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Logging and Sawmilling Journal October/November 2011

September 2012

On the Cover:

The installation of more advanced sawmilling equipment is a big part of the equation in the quest by many forest companies to achieve greater efficiency, recovery and value uplift in forest products. A good example of that is the significant investment West Fraser Timber has made in its Blue Ridge Lumber sawmill—read all about the upgrade beginning on page 8 of this issue (Cover photo of Blue Ridge Lumber's logyard crane by Tony Kryzanowski).

Spotlight: A century of Service to B.C. forests

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the B.C. Forest Service, which at one point was one of the main engines driving access to the tremendous forest resources in Canada's number one forestry province.

Maintaining the sawmill edge

West Fraser's Blue Ridge Lumber sawmill in Alberta focuses on advanced equipment—including new equipment from a recent upgrade—and a skilled work force to maintain a competitive edge.

Proper maintenance keeps skidders on track

Skidders are the lifeblood of many logging operations, crucial tools for extracting logs from the forest to the landing quickly, efficiently, and safely. As with all forestry equipment, skidders need proper maintenance to ensure maximum productivity.

Making room for small contractors

In an era of large logging contractors, Ainsworth Lumber in Alberta is
making room for smaller contractors with an Owners/Ops Group that
allows a group of individual owner/operators to work cooperatively to
harvest and deliver wood to roadside.

Alberta's Top Logging Contractors,
Lumber Producers

Logging and Sawmilling Journal presents its authoritative list of the top logging contractors in Alberta, and the top lumber producers in the province.

Multi-generation sawmillers

New Brunswick's Tompkins sawmill may be small, but it has managed to weather industry downturns—turning out high value hardwood lumber and bread and butter products, such as railroad ties—for three generations.

Managing Wildfire Risks

The city of Prince George—smack in the middle of Canada's largest softwood lumber producing region— is making wildfire protection a high
priority with the management of its community forest, but it brings its own set of challenges.

Generating new revenues with Scrimtec

An engineered wood product called Scrimtec—developed in Australia and now being produced in the U.S. South—could help B.C. forest companies further utilize beetle killed wood.

A bit different demo

B.C. heavy equipment dealer Great West Equipment took a bit of a
different approach in presenting their equipment to potential customers
this past summer, setting up a demo site at one of Tolko's mill facilities.

The Edge

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

Tech Update

Logging and Sawmilling Journal has the latest product information on kiln equipment in this issue's Tech Update.

The Last Word

Tony Kryzanowski notes that the digital revolution is taking a toll on the market for wood chips, and sawmillers would be well advised to look for additional uses for their chips outside of pulp and paper mills.

Supplier newsline


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The digital revolution takinga toll on wood chips

By Tony Kryzanowski

About a month ago, my local newspaper, the Edmonton Journal, announced that it would no longer print a Sunday newspaper because of declining ad revenues. It may also only provide online access to the newspaper to subscribers outside the city as another part of its survival strategy. These decisions will reduce the Journal's newsprint consumption considerably—and consequently likely reduce the demand for wood chips from the Journal's newsprint provider.

This got me thinking about the influence that the growing use of the Internet, social media, Blackberries, I-Phones and digital cameras are having on the forest industry. Related to that, what ails the Canadian forest industry is not only fewer houses being built in the United States, but also the significant reduction in market demand for wood chips resulting from the large retraction in pulp and paper industry production over the past decade.

To put the pulp and paper industry's retraction into perspective, Natural Resources Canada reports that more than 44,000 people were laid off from the pulp and paper industry because of permanent closures and curtailments between January 2003 and April 2009, impacting 200 communities across Canada.

In many areas of the country where pulp or paper mills have shuttered operations, sawmills are finding it extremely difficult to dispose of their chips, especially since most provinces don't allow them to burn their wood waste in old-fashioned beehive burners any more. In other words, these days when the pulp and paper sector sneezes, the solid wood sector catches a cold.

Take digital photography for example. In my early years as a contract writer, my articles included a large selection of printed photos. Many people my own age still have drawers full of photos that we intend to sort out into photo albums or scrap books some day. About three years ago, I made the leap to digital photography and haven't printed one photograph on paper since. They all exist on CDs or portable hard drives, still waiting to be sorted out some day.

The close relationship between the solid wood sector, the pulp and paper sector, and the sale of wood chips hit home for me during a recent business trip through Saskatchewan. The province has done an admirable job of reallocating its significant wood resource to revitalize what was a collapsed industry, but the reality is that so much of the future of the province's industry revolves around one important piece of the puzzle—the pulp mill in Prince Albert. The closure of the longstanding Weyerhaeuser pulp mill about seven years ago not only put 700 people out of work, but it also handcuffed many lumber producers because suddenly they had no economical market for their chips.

Even today, one of the most advanced sawmills in the province, owned by B.C.-based Carrier Lumber and located in Big River, remains shuttered, not only because of the lack of a significant market for softwood lumber, but also because of no economical way to sell their wood chips.

Although the Prince Albert pulp mill has been purchased by a company called Paper Excellence, no firm date has been set to re-open the pulp mill. So a large portion of the forest industry in the province remains in a holding pattern, and the consequences of a long delay continue to ripple far beyond area sawmills. Many of the province's longstanding logging contractors and their bankers are tired of waiting. Many logging contractors have liquidated their equipment fleets or have put all new purchases of equipment on hold given the uncertainty in the industry.

The reduced domestic demand for paper products because of increased use of the Internet, social media, and mobile communication devices is creating a major headache for North American pulp and paper mills. However, the phenomenon is too new for anyone to have established any solid benchmarks.

Industry projections show increased global demand for paper. Perhaps that is true, but my sense is that most of that growth is outside North America. I need to look no further than my children and their collection of digital devices—I-phone, I-Pod, I-Pad, laptop, and cell phones capable of taking high quality photos and transmitting them instantaneously to social media sites like Facebook, to draw the conclusion that paper use has dropped markedly in North America. Sure, my boys will read a book—on their e-readers, while simultaneously staying in touch with their friends on Twitter.

Given the attraction of digital communication now favoured by young adults vs. traditional forms of paper-based communication, I expect demand for traditional paper products to continue to decrease significantly. Because of this trend, I believe the demand for wood chips will also continue to decrease. Therefore, sawmill operators shouldn't hesitate to invest in non-traditional uses for their wood waste such as chips, shavings and bark. Using it to produce bioenergy for use in-house or in kiln operations, or selling the raw material to green energy producers seems like the simplest option to keep sawmills open and to save jobs over the long term.