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Logging and Sawmilling Journal October/November 2010

September 2011

On the Cover:

A John Deere front end loader tackles the residual wood pile at Dapp Power, an Alberta power plant that burns residual wood fibre to produce electricity. The use of residual wood continues to be an area of very high interest for the forest industry, and the Residue-to Revenue Residual Wood Conference coming up in October in Vancouver will feature the latest in wood residue applications and projects. For full details on the conference, and registration information, please turn to page 28 of this issue. (Dapp Power photo by Tony Kryzanowski).

Spotlight

B.C.’s policy for wildfire hazard in the wildland-urban interface inadvertently pits communities against forest companies. But a solution is available through a cooperative arrangement which could also help bioenergy industries.

Biomass-based power in Alberta

An Alberta power plant is proving there is a solid business case for biomass-based power, and it has attracted international investment attention.

Meeting the demand for wood pellets

B.C. wood pellet producer Pacific BioEnergy is meeting the challenge of growing demand with a $24 million expansion and—through energy efficiency initiatives— working with power partner BC Hydro to achieve significant energy savings.

Finding the Formula

Gulbranson Logging, one of the largest logging contractors in B.C., has found a successful equipment formula that includes Waratah processing heads and Hitachi
carriers.

Residual wood-fueled co-gen

Seneca Sawmill’s new $45 million co-gen plant is not only energy efficient and profitable—being fueled by residual wood material—but also offers the company and its mills flexibility in future additional kiln drying of its lumber.

What’s in…The Edge!

Included in The Edge, Canada’s leading publication on research in the forest industry—now incorporated into Logging and Sawmilling Journal—are stories on Canadian Wood Fibre Centre/Natural Resources Canada, Alberta Innovates - Bio Solutions and FPInnovations research projects.

Successful logging formula

Gulbranson Logging, one of the largest logging contractors in B.C., has found a successful equipment formula that includes Waratah processing heads and Hitachi carriers.

Tire tips for loggers

It makes good business sense—and financial sense—to get the most from the tires on your logging equipment. Logging and Sawmilling has a few tips on how to do exactly that.

Tech Update

Logging and Sawmilling Journal has the latest information on what’s new in Pellet Mill Equipment.

The Last Word

Jim Stirling on how B.C.’s Lakeland Mills is creating new business opportunities with wood-fired bioenergy.

Supplier Newsline

 

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Producing wood pellets—with a power partner

B.C. wood pellet producer Pacific BioEnergy is meeting the challenge of growing demand with a $24 million expansion and—through energy efficiency initiatives—working with power partner BC Hydro to achieve
significant energy savings.

Brad Bennet and Tim KnoopBrad Bennett, vice-president of operations for Pacific BioEnergy (left) and Tim Knoop, general manager, with some of the company’s wood pelletizing equipment.

Managing growth is a challenge—especially when you’re innovating quickly in a globally emerging industrial sector. For B.C.’s Pacific BioEnergy (PBE), a pioneer in producing wood pellet fuel, the challenge was made easier by focusing on energy efficiency, with the help of BC Hydro.

One of the first wood pellet facilities in Canada, Pacific BioEnergy, was established in 1994 in Prince George, B.C. At that time, the main demand for wood pellets came from the “bag market”—retail supply for homeowners with pellet fuel home heating systems. But the rise of international action to mitigate climate change led to a dramatic shift in demand.

Carbon-neutral demand

“Wood-based pellet fuel is considered a coal replacement that’s carbon neutral, and it’s part of the climate change initiative that a lot of European countries are putting into place,” says Brad Bennett, Pacific BioEnergy’s vice-president of operations. “Since 2002, that’s really where the growth has come.” (Unlike burning coal, which releases carbon long-sequestered out of the earth’s atmosphere, the burning of wood only releases carbon that was recently absorbed and trapped by the tree—representing a sustainable cycling of carbon, rather than a net atmospheric increase.)

By 2007, the company was producing about 170,000 tonnes of wood pellets per year—up from about 30,000 tonnes per year in its early days—with all of it headed to the European power utility market as a replacement for coal. In 2010, a strategic partnership with a major European energy supplier resulted in a 10-year contract and a $24-million expansion of PBE’s facilities, bringing the company’s annual production to 350,000 tonnes per year.

Challenges with supply

While demand was increasing, PBE faced flux in its supply chain too. With building and housing markets hit by recession, demand for B.C. wood products dropped, reducing the availability of PBE’s traditional input material—sawdust and shavings from sawmills. “All of a sudden, boom!—we had the market, we had the ships showing up, but we didn’t have any product to fill them,” remembers Bennett. “So we had to find an alternative.”

The huge stands of pine beetle killed-wood afforded a new opportunity, but Bennett says this fibre created new challenges too. “It comes in a bigger particle size, which requires more horsepower to break it down, and there’s a different moisture content and a certain energy usage to dry it,” he says. “It was a whole learning curve.”

As PBE handled growth and production shifts, it had a helping hand from BC Hydro. “We use a lot of power,” says Bennett. “We grind material to a smaller size and a lot of the systems we use are air driven systems, so there’s significant horsepower blowing material through drying systems and conveying it throughout the plant. Then there’s the pelletizers themselves; they compress the wood through a series of dies and each one has a series of 400 hp motors. Then there are conveyors and loading systems; our electricity usage is quite high.”

Pacific BioenergyIn 2010, a strategic partnership with a major European energy supplier resulted in a 10-year contract and a $24-million expansion of PBE’s facilities, bringing the company’s annual production to 350,000 tonnes per year.

Analysis, incentives, and 5.3GWh of savings

“BC Hydro essentially grabbed us by the hand and said, ‘Looking at your facility, we think you can find significant savings in energy by digging deeper and really analyzing what you’re doing as a business’—from the type of raw material that we buy down to how we ramp our plants up and down, to the types of equipment that we’re purchasing, and so on.” The company hired an energy manager and conducted a New Plant Energy Study with support from BC Hydro, and made use of a project incentive of more than $1 million as they scaled up.

“We started in the engineering stage of the facility itself and then recognized that
BC Hydro could assist in certain areas with certain pieces of equipment, so it was an iterative process,” says Bennett. “Being aware that incentives were available allowed us to think about it as we went through the selection process, and therefore make the right choices. It helped us over the hump in a lot of cases, rationalizing pieces of equipment that would not have traditionally been rationalized on a normal capital ROI basis, and led to some real savings on power usage. Again, it goes back to helping us understand our plant and our process better: where and how power is used throughout our process and how we could minimize that power usage, and make a more effective plant in the end.”

The energy efficiency measures implemented through collaboration with BC Hydro are calculated to save Pacific BioEnergy 5.3 GWh of electricity annually. And Bennett says the company’s work on efficiency continues. “The energy manager program has opened our eyes to other opportunities that we’re exploring, that probably we wouldn’t have seen normally, when you’re busy every day and quite often don’t have the opportunity to dig down. And it ultimately brings our cost down too, so we’re pretty thrilled by that. It’s been a great project.”

Pacific BioenergyFeedstock for the plant (above).With worldwide demand for wood pellets currently at 10 to 12 million tonnes per year, and expected to reach 40 million tonnes per year by 2020 in Europe alone, Pacific BioEnergy has plenty of opportunity to continue its growth.

Efficiency – and competitiveness

With worldwide demand for wood pellets currently at 10 to12 million tonnes per year, and expected to reach 40 million tonnes per year by 2020 in Europe alone, Pacific BioEnergy has plenty of opportunity to continue its growth. Bennett says their work on energy efficiency to date has positioned them to continue to compete effectively in this fast-paced global industry.

“BC Hydro helped us understand our business at a much deeper level than we did before,” comments Bennett. “Through the Power Smart program we were able to make wiser choices, that under conventional thinking would have been difficult to make. We’re more effective, not only just in how we use power, but in running the facility in general, being more efficient in how we run it, and making more money, frankly.

“BC Hydro has been a good partner.”

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This article originally appeared in BC Hydro’s Current eNewsletter. (www.bchydro.com/news/newsletters/current.html?WT.mc_id=rd_current)

 

 


 

 

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