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Fibre-supply operations are an increasingly key aspect of the forest industry and the recent signing of a collaborative partnership between FPInnovations and Dominik Roeser, University of British Columbia (UBC) associate professor in the Department of Forest Resources Management, will create new opportunities for sharing knowledge, resources, and best practices that will benefit FPInnovations’ members, students, and the forest industry.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Denis Cormier, FPInnovations’ senior director of Sustainable Fibre Supply, and Roeser appoints Roeser as an FPInnovations senior associate.
The MOU aims to establish an innovative approach for a fibre-supply operations strategy, as well as evaluate options to introduce new technologies that will improve fibre supply. “Our members will benefit from this MOU because it strengthens our link with UBC, improves the value of the services we offer them, and will help train a future generation of foresters,” says Cormier.
The partnership has established specific areas of research, which include developing strategies for alleviating fibre shortage, increasing biomass supply from harvest residues, improving operational deployment for wildfire prevention, and mitigating impacts to forest operations from climate change.
Roeser is a former FPInnovations senior director who has been conducting forest industry research for nearly 20 years. “I’m glad to be fostering co-operative bonds with FPInnovations,” says Roeser. “We have the same interests and objectives and we’ll work in synergy to achieve the desired outcomes for the betterment of forestry operations, with a specific focus on finding innovative solutions for fibre procurement. The partnership will also lead to opportunities for students to be exposed to research and development in the forest industry.”
The joint investment in knowledge and information sharing will help raise the profile of forest engineering research in B.C. and encourage novel approaches to industry issues by openly exchanging developments and approaches that will eventually lead to collaborative projects.
For more information on this partnership, please contact Denis Cormier (firstname.lastname@example.org), Senior Director, Sustainable Fibre Supply at FPInnovations.
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
Afforestation, or the practice of planting trees on non-forested lands, is a common practice among many of Canada’s forest industry competitors in other countries. Yet it is not common in Canada, with only about 33,000 hectares currently planted.
Alberta Innovates (AI), the publicly funded corporation for research and innovation, believes tree farming has considerable economic and climate change mitigation potential. AI is supporting research to advance knowledge and raise the profile of this renewable resource.
AI has provided a $130,000 grant to Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) under the Alberta Bio Future program. The investment is intended to support the recovery of wood fibre from an 18-hectare short-rotation woody crop (SRWC) demonstration forest that has achieved maturity in southwest Edmonton.
The Alberta Bio Future program has a continuous intake component administered by Alberta Innovates, aimed at diversifying the provincial economy and accelerating the growth of Alberta’s bioindustrial sector by taking advantage of emerging opportunities. It focuses primarily on projects that add value to biomass in agriculture and forestry, while creating new and improved bioindustrial products and bioindustrial technologies.
“This project focuses on purpose-grown biomass, so that’s why it was of interest to us,” says Steve Price, Executive Director of Bioindustrial Innovation at Alberta Innovates. “In this province, we tend to look at natural forest stands but we don’t look very much at the opportunity to actually farm tree species.”
The scientific information gathered from harvesting the Edmonton SRWC site will help to identify a way to gain greater recognition and acceptance of short-rotation woody crops as a potential new agricultural crop and biomass resource. Such crops would supplement the forest industry’s fibre supply and potentially be a tool for climate change mitigation and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by acting as a carbon sink.
Derek Sidders, CWFC Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer, says Alberta Innovates has been a valuable supporter and partner in research and technology transfer as it relates to the economic and climate change mitigation potential of SRWCs.
“This technology is 100 per cent contributing to the development of the bioeconomy, as well as carbon sequestration, carbon mitigation and the growing of renewable biomass for the production of energy,” says Sidders. “The financial support provided by AI is going to help tell the story of this Edmonton site from start to finish and help to develop a technology transfer package that will include field and best practice guides for practitioner use.”
The knowledge developed in Alberta will be shared across Canada.
The Edmonton site was established in 2002. It consists of a large variety of hybrid clonal poplar, aspen and willow species planted in an orchard-style pattern to demonstrate which species have the best growth potential as an agriculture crop in both Alberta and Canada.
The demonstration forest has achieved remarkable growth response from several species, with some poplar varieties growing as much as 400 cubic metres per hectare of wood fibre in just 15 years. This is 8 to 12 times faster than poplar growing in the natural forest. Also, some fast-growing willow species, which can be harvested every three years for up to six rotations, achieved as much growth as 8 oven-dried tonnes of woody biomass growth per hectare per year.
Price says the project will demonstrate and evaluate economical ways to harvest, process, and transport these solid wood and concentrated biomass species. Such data will help to make the business case for both landowners and industry to come on board to develop these commercial crops.
From the province’s perspective and its desire to grow the bioindustrial sector, short-rotation woody crops also represent a designer feedstock that could function as the raw material in the production of a variety of bio-products and bioenergy.
“Coal-fired electrical generation is being phased out in Alberta, but during that phase-out period, there is opportunity to move toward biomass-based electricity production,” says Price. “You could use biomass from the natural forest, or you could be producing that biomass in purpose-grown plantations.”
Wood recovery from the Edmonton SRWC site will also provide valuable information about what biomass volumes can be expected from growing such crops as fast-growing, purpose-grown willow as bioenergy fuel.
Alberta Innovates believes that tree farming has considerable economic and climate change mitigation potential.
For more information about the Alberta Innovates Bio Future program, visit https://albertainnovates.ca/funding-alberta-bio-future/, or contact Julia Necheff at email@example.com.
BY TONY KRYZANOWSKI
The data collection phase from harvesting and processing the wood fibre from the mature, 18-hectare, Ellerslie Short Rotation Woody Crop (SRWC) demonstration plantation in Edmonton is underway.
It will provide the foundation for a series of field guides, best practices manuals, instructive Internet e-lectures, afforestation carbon capture research and development, and virtual tours being developed by Natural Resource Canada’s Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC).
The goal is to provide industry, landowners and practitioners with useful guides to help them establish successful SRWCs to enhance their wood fibre resources, to supply government policymakers with quality scientific data to verify and demonstrate the role that SRWCs can play as carbon sinks as part of a climate change mitigation strategy, to provide landowners with another cash crop option, and to fuel interest among investors in this renewable, sustainable, predictable and fast-growing raw material for the development of a variety of bio-products.
The Edmonton site, which is part of a national network of SRWC demonstration sites, was established in 2002. Prior to harvest, it consisted primarily of large stem hybrid poplar and aspen, in high yield, orchard-style, afforestation plantations, yielding over 400 cubic metres per hectare of growth in just 15 to 17 years. This is 5 to 10 times faster than typical poplar growth in a natural forest. It also consisted of concentrated biomass plantations delivering 6 to 8 oven dried tonnes of wood fibre per hectare per year, ready for harvest within three years and self-propagating at least five times.
Derek Sidders, CWFC Program Manager, Technology Development and Transfer, says that actual recoverable volume data gathered from the Edmonton project will be used to validate predictive growth response models, which could prove invaluable for commercial use and in developing climate change mitigation options.
CWFC is measuring and validating volumes, fibre characteristics and carbon impacts as part of the recovery effort, and also gathering data on harvesting efficiency versus conventional logging in a natural forest.
To recover fibre from the high yield afforestation plantations on the site, they contracted the services of a conventional feller buncher. Because of the efficient layout of the plantation, there was no need for a skidder. The Edmonton site represented a typical SRWC site, featuring excellent access, flat terrain, and well-drained soils. This resulted in a highly efficient harvesting process, where the feller buncher operator was able to harvest the mature hardwood while protecting selected understorey softwoods planted in several of the blocks, intended to demonstrate CWFC’s innovative mixedwood afforestation pattern.
“The harvesting was very efficient with very little movement of the feller buncher because the trees were the same size, on relatively flat terrain, with equal spacing between them, and excellent landing access due to the fact these were fields previous to afforestation,” said Sidders. “The site layout allowed us to minimize harvesting costs to less than 80 per cent of natural forest logging.”
For the concentrated biomass plantations, CWFC are using the Canadian-developed and now manufactured biobaler technology to create round bales and also a small stem wood fibre Claas harvesting head mounted on a Jaguar forage harvester combination. It produced chips blown into an accompanying wagon pulled by a tractor alongside the harvester. The chips were either compressed into bales or loaded into trailers for transport.
The harvested wood fibre will be subjected to several onsite processing studies as part of this recovery program.
“We are developing a variety of onsite processing options that would give us a final value to meet commercial specifications for a desirable end product before it is shipped to the final user,” says Sidders. “This includes primary processing to create chips and secondary processing by sorting the chips according to size and then packaging them to the final users’ specifications.”
The largest stem wood is being shipped tree length for pulp, while the residues and biomass plantation wood fibre is being processed to a variety of specifications, depending on the end user’s needs, with the goal of high production and minimal handling to address costs associated with this process. The value chain data collection and validation process, from harvesting to delivery to the end user, is a key part of this unique project.
CWFC is also completing intensive tree and fibre sampling and validation of growth trajectories to gather both the quantitative and qualitative data needed to verify the value of SRWCs as a climate change mitigation tool.
“We are looking at the carbon sequestration aspect in terms of how much biomass we have accumulated on the site and related carbon units sequestered from the atmosphere as it relates to carbon dioxide equivalent,” says Sidders.
The sequestered carbon in the trees will be fractionated to take into account harvesting, processing and transportation of the wood fibre to reach its final destination. Researchers will be able to calculate the total carbon sequestration potential of each plantation as well as track the total lifecycle of the carbon after recovery.
As part of this research project, they also evaluated the use of the wood fibre in bioenergy production and determining its value as a fossil fuel offset in green energy production.
“The site layout allowed us to minimize harvesting costs to less than 80 percent of natural forest logging.”
For more information, contact Derek Sidders at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the upswing in the construction sector in Canada and the United States, the supply of chips produced by Quebec sawmills is greater than the demand, creating large surpluses in various regions of the province. In addition, the wood panel industry is facing a number of challenges associated with the constant procurement of raw materials, which relate to the quantity and quality of the supply.
Faced with this situation, a major Quebec manufacturer in the particleboard sector seeking to diversify its sources of supply has partnered with FPInnovations to help it achieve this objective.
FPInnovations’ employees have evaluated various options that can be implemented in the short and medium term to produce—from sawmill rejects—the wafers desired by the particleboard industry. Two options have proven promising following design studies and tests on production equipment: using canter heads during secondary breakdown to produce wafers or a two-step process to process solid wood residues into wafers.
To produce chips, some mills in Quebec have cylindrical chipping heads that are used during secondary breakdown operations. A typical Quebec SPF sawmill and a cutting tool manufacturer have joined forces with FPInnovations to demonstrate the feasibility of such a concept to produce a type of wafer for the particleboard industry.
FPInnovations’ staff determined the new cylindrical head configurations required to produce wafers of the desired size and shape for the particleboard manufacturer. These new cutting configurations were then tested on cants at the partner mill during the winter of 2017-2018, by adjusting the feed rates of the cants to simulate optimal configurations and produce wafers for particle-size analysis.
The results of these tests were very positive: the wafers produced were perfectly in line with the particleboard manufacturer’s dimensional requirements, with an acceptance rate of over 95 per cent for the wafers intended for the core of the panel. This new technological configuration would allow a mill to ship 8,000 to 15,000 anhydrous metric tons (AMT) of wafers, depending on the mill’s annual production volume, to a particleboard manufacturer. Depending on the investment scenarios required and the sawmill operating conditions, a return on investment within five to eight months is foreseeable.
The second wafer production option was to evaluate an existing two-step European process in collaboration with two Quebec SPF sawmills and an equipment manufacturer. This wafering process consists of first transforming the rejected logs and slabs into “maxi chips”, longer and thicker chips than those usually used in the pulp and paper industry, and then converting them using a knife ring flaker already available in particleboard mills. This two-step process is in fact well suited to sawmills, which will need a drum chipper adjusted to the required configuration.
Two test campaigns proved the feasibility of the process in question on existing equipment. Based on the results obtained, 75 per cent to 80 per cent of the wafers produced met the specifications of the particleboard manufacturer. In the face of declining demand for chips for paper making, this option would allow a few sawmills producing between 65,000 and 75,000 TMA of chips to sell 8,000 to 15,000 AMT of wafers annually. For this option, depending on the investment scenarios required and the operating conditions of the mill, a return on investment within a 12 to 16 month time horizon is conceivable.
In summary, the proposed technologies will give Quebec sawmills a number of opportunities for diversifying their byproduct offerings, while providing particleboard manufacturers with solutions to secure new sources of supply.
Further information may be obtained by contacting William Tropper, Senior Scientist in FPInnovations’ Advanced Wood Manufacturing team, at email@example.com.
FPInnovations would like to thank the Quebec government’s Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs and Ministère de l’Économie, de la Science et de l’Innovation as well as its partners Pallmann, Keyknife, Cédrico, Matériaux Blanchet and Scierie Landrienne, who took part in this project to help the lumber industry add value to the mill byproducts.
FPInnovations and its partners took truck platooning research a giant step further recently and earned a spot in history by successfully road testing the emerging technology in the deep forests of Quebec in the first trial of its kind in Canada.
The day-long trial took place in Rivière-aux-Rats, Quebec and signals the beginning of a transformation of the forest transportation industry on a scale not seen in decades. It could also solve the chronic issue of a skilled-driver shortage that’s plagued the industry for years and shows no signs of abating. The tests involved two platooned trucks hauling logging trailers on resource roads between a Resolute Forest Products sawmill and the company’s logging site 75 kilometres away.
Drivers were at the wheels of the trucks but in the future, only the lead truck will have a driver and the following trucks will be fully automated.
“These tests are a major accomplishment,” says Francis Charette, FPInnovations lead scientist. “To the best of our knowledge, no one has tested platooning in a forest environment before. As a respected forestry R&D organization, FPInnovations is ideally positioned to bring together specialized research organizations and commercial industries to further our common goal of introducing platooning on forest roads.”
The trial is part of a joint research project in collaboration with Transport Canada, Alabama’s Auburn University and Resolute Forest Products. Platooning was also recently successfully tested by FPInnovations, Transport Canada, and Auburn University on public highways in Quebec. The platooning technology was developed by Auburn University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“There are switchbacks, steep slopes and dense forests that impact the communications systems between trucks,” says Édouard Proust, FPInnovations engineer. “We expected that and we’re working on the technology to solve the issues.”
Until this trial, there was no data available on how a platooning system would work under the thick canopy of a forest. “Now we know what the technology gaps are, and we’re addressing them,” says David Bevly, Auburn University mechanical engineering professor and director of the GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory. “Our platooning technology has already been successfully implemented on highways and it can include forestry operations.”
Truck platooning is an emerging vehicle technology in which trucks are linked by a computer system that maintains the desired distance between trucks, as well as controls acceleration and braking, reacting faster than a driver typically can. Platooning uses a dedicated short-range radio communications (DSRC) protocol approved for communications at high-speeds, as well as a GPS system, and radar technology. Highway platooning is already legal in several U.S. states, including Tennessee and Georgia. However, platooning is only in the testing phase in Canada.
“We’re very glad to be a part of the tests,” says Jonathan Perron, Resolute Forest Products’ director of forestry operations. “The forestry industry has to be innovative to compete globally and the concept of automated platooned trucks following one lead truck driver can help us improve our efficiency despite a labour shortage that’s affecting our industry across the country. We also believe that this type of technology will help us attract a new generation of forestry workers.”
FPInnovations will build upon the results of these tests to continue pioneering forestry truck platooning research in Canada.
For more information, please contact Édouard Proust at Edouard.firstname.lastname@example.org, Researcher in FPInnovations’ Roads & Infrastructure group.