Home Members & Resources Quarterly Pellet Update from WPAC: September 2021

Quarterly Pellet Update from WPAC: September 2021

by shamual

Welcome to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s September newsletter. We hope you enjoy reading it and we welcome your feedback.

You can view a PDF version of this newsletter by going to https://www.pellet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/WPAC-NEWSLETTER-SEPT21-JLR.pdf. This publication is also available in Japanese. 日本語版を読む

Message from the Executive Director

The summer of 2021 will be remembered for the many unprecedented climate impacts: massive wildfires, record breaking heat waves, and devastating droughts and floods. For the first time, the recently released IPCC Sixth Assessment Report linked global climate change with specific extreme weather events and warned that we should expect more of this in the years to come. “We need immediate, rapid and sustained reductions,” says John Fyfe, senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada and a lead author.” We couldn’t agree more. Replacing fossil fuels with sustainably harvested and produced wood pellets is a solution for today.

In July, the European Commission (EC) released the On the path to fit for 55 package of proposals to make the EU’s policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030. Notably, the package proposes revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) including changes to biomass sustainability requirements. The Canadian pellet industry is well-positioned to meet these criteria. The recent release of the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP)-endorsed Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) for British Columbia, and earlier in Quebec as well as work ongoing in the Maritimes, highlights our members commitment to identifying and mitigating risks associated with sustainably sourcing feedstock for biomass pellet and woodchip production.

Here at home, we are encouraged by the recently released Intentions Paper: Modernizing Forest Policy in BC. The Government of British Columbia is focussing on 3 principles that will govern future actions and policies: increased sector participation, enhanced stewardship and sustainability, and a strengthened social contract. WPAC supports all of these principles.

Keeping our people and communities safe remains our top priority. Last quarter we kept the pressure up: getting approval on the new ISO 20024 standard for safe handling and storage of solid biofuels, partnering on research on fibre pile management, helping to secure a $50,000 grant to Dalhousie University for work on process safety management in addition to our ongoing workshops on critical control management, and creating our safety foundations webinar series to guide employees at all levels of our business.

Despite an unusual summer, the wood pellet industry has demonstrated its resilience, continuing to produce and ship its wood pellets at home and around the globe, safely and consistently. I am proud of the commitment of the men and women who work in this industry and the companies who continue to make their employees’ safety their first priority, support the communities in which they are located, and deliver quality sustainable products to their customers.

I’d like to remind you that our next WPAC annual conference and AGM, again virtual and free to attend with registration, is just around the corner on September 20-22. This year’s theme is “Making a Difference Globally and at Home”.

Finally, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to our two super newsletter editors – Tara Sadler and Karen Brandt. Tara’s day job is sales manager for Pinnacle Renewable Energy, Part of Drax where for the past three years she has helped grow Pinnacle’s worldwide sales. After Tara made the mistake of telling us she has a masters degree in journalism and communication we were compelled to conscript her to lead the production of our newsletter! Karen is a strategic communications consultant who has been providing continuous support to WPAC, especially in the areas of sustainability, safety, domestic market development and political engagement since April 2020. I’m so pleased to have both Tara and Karen as our newsletter team.

Talking Safety Through Improved Fibre Pile Management with Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj

A collaborative effort is well underway through a partnership with WPAC and the Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) through Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj and his team of professors, research associates and graduate students.

The project, which started in 2019 and funded by Agriculture and Agri Food Canada’s AgriScience Program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, focusses on four tasks related to the use of low-quality agricultural biomass: cost-efficient supply chains, best practices on safe handling and storage of pellets, and the development of quality certification for pellets.

As safety is always top of mind, Dr. Sokhansanj and his team are focused on fibre pile management and there are already some key takeaways. “First, keep fibre piles small,” Dr. Sokhansanj suggests. “No more than seven metres high. If the pile is wide, the heat stays in and this can cause problems. If it is narrow, the heat can escape. And store the product for as short a time as possible – first in, first out.”

The second is to keep piles as dry as possible. “If I had my way, piles would always be covered, but I know this is more expensive, so part of our work is to find the sweet spot in terms of cost versus benefit.”

Monitoring the piles is also key, for both temperature and carbon monoxide concentration to detect activity in the fuel bed, or self-heating. Dr. Sokhansanj advises using thermal imaging cameras to identify hot spots early.

And finally, “keep the raw material as clean as possible. Fibre piles should be located on dry, level ground, preferably on an asphalt or concrete surface,” he adds.
Dr. Sokhansanj and his team are halfway through the research project. To learn more, check out our Fibre Pile Management factsheet here.

Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj

Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj

Europe goes Fit for 55 In Greater Push to Reduce Emissions by 2030

New proposals by the European Commission were released in the Fit for 55 package this past July with the aim of reducing Green House Gas Emissions. The reduction is set at a minimum of 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and focuses on areas like land use, taxes, and EU Emissions Trading System for power, industry, maritime and aviation.

Wood pellets continue to be supported by the European Commission as part of the energy mix that will help them achieve their goals through proposed revisions to the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The Commission will evolve from the current RED II to RED III which include changes to the biomass sustainability requirements and support measures.

Overall, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada is generally supportive of the changes. “Canada leads the world in third party certification, so our members will continue to be able to meet the demand as Europe transitions away from fossil fuels,” says Gord Murray, executive director at WPAC, adding that “WPAC and its members remain committed to trees going to their highest and best use and using only the residuals and low-quality wood from well-managed forests.”

bush residuals

WPAC Members Support Wildfire Relief Efforts

It has been a long forest fire season across much of Western Canada. Many of our operations have been impacted by transportation challenges and many of our communities were under evacuation alerts. In addition to keeping product moving to our customers, we were also doing our part locally to assist the wildfire efforts. It speaks to our ongoing commitment to strong, resilient communities.

At an employee level, plant employees were involved in on-the-ground suppression and evacuation efforts, as well as other volunteer efforts.

Pinnacle Renewable Energy, Part of Drax, donated $50,000 to the Canadian Red Cross. The funds will be used through the British Columbia Fires Appeal for immediate and ongoing relief efforts, long-term recovery, resiliency, and preparedness for future events in British Columbia and impacted regions, including consequential events related to the fires.
The Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia will each match every dollar donated to the Canadian Red Cross (CRC), which means that every $1 donated will become $3 to support those affected by the wildfires. To make a donation please call toll-free 1 800 418-1111 or donate online at www.donate.redcross.ca

Vanderwell Contracting Ltd in Slave Lake, Alberta donated lumber for various building projects in the area. The Local Fire-Rescue Unit 161 accepted the gift on behalf of Hall’s 1 and 5 and Michael Therrien, Financial Controller for Vanderwell and fellow volunteer fire fighter, made the presentation as pictured below.

Photo: Michael Therrien, Financial Controller for Vanderwell Contracts and volunteer fire fighter presents Vanderwell’s lumber donation accepted by local Fire-Rescue Unit 161.
Vanderwell Lumber Donation to Fire-Rescue

WPAC presents the 2021 Pellet Virtual Conference September 20-22nd

We’ve put together an impressive series of topics and guest speakers this year’s annual conference and we hope you can join us! We are hoping to break last year’s record attendance of more than 400 producers, suppliers, customers, NGOs and government officials and policy makers from around the world.

Together with our media partner, Canadian Biomass Magazine, we have put together a condensed program to take place in short bursts over three days from September 20 to 22, 2021. The theme this year is Making a Difference Globally and at Home which reflects the opportunities ahead for our sector as well as the key trends and potential headwinds. Key speakers are confirmed and topics include:

• Global Market Perspectives
• Making the Case for Pellets
• Innovating our Way to a Safer, Better Product
• Getting to Net Zero in Canada with Pellets
• The Power of Pellets in the Emerging Bioeconomy

This year we are not charging a fee to participate. We only ask that participants register to access our amazing content. Although costs are lower than normal, we will still incur expenses, so we are most grateful for our sponsors who are making this event possible. I invite you all to join us and I look forward to an excellent event! You can register here.

Nazko First Nation: Rebuilding Forests in Partnership with Pacific Bioenergy

The Nazko First Nation held their 4th Annual Tree Planting Celebration with 400 seedlings donated by Pacific BioEnergy in June. The celebration started as a way to rebuild the forested area devastated by wildfires in the Nazko area, located west of Quesnel, British Columbia.

This year with PacBio’s donation, a mix of pine, spruce, white spruce and tamarack trees were planted throughout the area which add to the natural aspen that has already started to grow. Both parties also participated in a video to commemorate the event that showcases the work done and spectacular overhead scenery of the Nazko area.

“We have a pretty limited capacity, we’re a small Nation, but working with our business partners to achieve the same goals, and not working in different directions helps a lot,” said Florian Bergion, Natural Resources Manager, Nazko First Nation in the video.

WPAC celebrates the partnership between the Nazko First Nation and PacBio. We support all of our members’ activities with First Nations to tackle climate change together while building strong, economically resilient communities. Click here to watch the tree planting celebration.

PacBio recently donated 400 seedlings to support the Nazko First Nation 4th annual tree planting ceremony.
Nazko First Nations Tree Planting (1 of 2)


WPAC and BC Government Invest in West Coast Supply Chain Growth

The wood pellet industry in British Columbia has seen robust growth and to ensure the province is ready to grow with it, WPAC is pleased to announce BC’s support through a government Supply Chain Resiliency Grant of $390,000 from the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. The secured funds will go towards the expansion the Prince Rupert corridor; adding railway tracks, storage and creating an overall stronger and more resilient logistical rail system for the West Coast.

This proactive initiative by WPAC and its members stems from a 30% increase of exported wood pellet volume in 2020. The Port of Prince Rupert is also projected to see another 60% increase resulting in 2 million metric tonnes of wood pellets passing through the Westview Terminal over the next 2-3 years, adding another $165 million in revenue. The Westview Terminal, wholly owned by Pinnacle Renewable Energy, which was acquired by Drax Group in April 2021, is also set see an expansion of track capacity to support this influx of rail cars.

The investment means major producers of wood pellets such as Pinnacle, Pacific Bioenergy, Canfor, Witset First Nation, Skeena BioEnergy, West Fraser and Premium Pellet will be able to better mitigate any supply chain risks due to weather, late vessels, or mechanical problems – all without disrupting the hundreds of jobs associated with production and logistics or impacting their customers.

Work is well underway on Westview’s rail capacity expansion and plans have been developed to minimize any environmental impact on the shoreline ecosystem. With this investment, WPAC and its members are now more than ever prepared to supply the world with a responsible, renewable and clean source of energy.

WPAC and BC Government Invest in West Coast Supply Chain Growth
New tracks being laid at Westview Terminal in Prince Rupert, BC, as part of the Supply Chain Resiliency Grant.

Working Together: The BC Intentions Paper

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada is optimistic about the opportunity to work with Minister Katrine Conroy and officials at the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) to progress the new vision for British Columbia’s forest policy. The policy paper, released this past May, is officially known as “Modernizing Forest Policy in British Columbia: Setting the Intention and Leading the Forest Sector Transition”.

The paper clearly recognizes the importance of the pellet industry, its inter-relationships to the primary and secondary industries, as well as the objectives, impacts, and contribution of the wood pellet industry to sustainable forestry, the bioeconomy, communities, and economic development in British Columbia.

The paper provides three guiding principles that will govern future actions and policies, all of which are fully supported by WPAC:

  • increased sector participation;
  • enhanced stewardship and sustainability, and
  • a strengthened social contract.

The wood pellet industry exists primarily to make better use of forests that are already being harvested. The sustainability certification programs which guide our industry are among the most rigorous in the world. All of our fibre is either a direct by-product of the lumber industry, or the purposeful extraction of dead, diseased or damaged or low-quality trees.

We continue to be concerned however that 10 million m3 of slash piles are left in the bush or burned every year in BC. We have expressed our interest in working with the Ministry to develop initiatives that create cost efficiencies to access this slash while avoiding penalizing licensees for leaving it on the ground. Better utilization of this valuable resource can contribute to better forest health outcomes, and we are pleased to see this issue outlined in the Intentions Paper and upcoming consultation.

We believe First Nations participation is integral to our industry’s long-term success. We continue to see and welcome growing participation from indigenous peoples, including equity participation in some member companies, supply and fibre contracts, and partnerships around logistics activities.

The wood pellet industry has much to contribute to the transition of BC’s forest sector – we have a strong position in future of our forest sector. We look forward to sharing our views and helping British Columbia leverage its traditional natural resource strengths and support its aspirations as a low carbon economy leader.

The BC Intentions Paper Forest Policy
Graphic courtesy of the Government of British Columbia

Support Mounts for Modern Biomass Boiler Standards in Canada

This spring, Dr. Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, Director of Research and Technical Development at the Wood Pellet Association of Canada, hosted an inspiring webinar that further proved there is strong support for biomass boiler standard modernization in Canada.

Dr. Panah welcomed biomass heating expert Dr. Harry “Dutch” Dresser and Research Institute of Sweden Senior Engineer Henrik Persson to speak to the more than 150 regulators, inspectors, manufacturers, distributers, installers, and standards organizations that attended the webinar live to learn and voice their questions.

Together Dutch and Henrik discussed how and why European-made boiler systems have supported the growth of bioenergy and transition to a low carbon economy across the European Union and beyond. There is a strong case for Canada to adopt the European standards but unfortunately trade barriers and red tape stand in the way of repeating Europe’s bioenergy success and climate goals here at home.

We urge all WPAC members to continue speaking up for allowing the import of safe, well-engineered and efficient European boiler systems to be used in Canada. We were encouraged by all the supportive attendees but if you missed the webinar live we invite you to view it here.

Screen Shot for Biomass Boiler Standards in Canada
Screen shot of the webinar, Dr. Yazdan Panah (top) and Research Institute of Sweden Senior Engineer Henrik Persson (below).

Keeping the Pressure on Safety

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada and its members continuously strive to find better processes and make safer plants. Every hour of every day, our members are thinking about safety and at WPAC we are working to provide leadership on safety initiatives. The last few months are indicative of our collective efforts and the importance of partnerships from the plant floor to the research lab and to the boardroom.

  • Approval of the New ISO 20024 standard for Canada, providing principles and requirements for safe handling and storage of solid biofuels in commercial and industrial applications;
  • Process safety management (PSM) research, for which I would like to thank WorkSafeBC for their $50,000 grant to Dalhousie University in partnership with WPAC, BC Forest Safety Council and DustEx Research;
  • Safety Foundations Webinar Series which was a huge success and remains online providing important basic safety management to guide employees and managers involved in the production, storage and handling of wood pellets; and
  • Safety Compendium, a one stop shop for all your safety information needs, compiled by Fahima Yazdan Panah, WPAC’s Director of Research and Technical Development.
  • Great progress on our Critical Control Management and Bow Tie Analysis workshops – now completed at 10 out of 15 plants in British Columbia. With CCM, companies will understand their equipment better; workers will be able to operate and maintain that equipment safely; the equipment will be more reliable; and plant managers will know what activities are most important.

5 Questions with Julie Griffiths, Quality, Sustainability and Environmental Program Coordinator Shaw Resources

In this issue’s 5 Questions we sit down with Julie Griffiths, Quality, Sustainability and Environmental Program Coordinator for Shaw Resources in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia (NS). A natural fit for the position, Julie has undergraduate and master’s degrees in Earth Sciences from Dalhousie University in NS.

For Julie, from the workplace to the home front, sustainability never stops. When not at work, she’s enjoying in her 1000 square foot garden with her two children and husband where sustainability continues to have a role at home too. Julie and her family have built raised beds, a greenhouse, and a playhouse from recycled wood including old pallets. The Wood Pellet Association of Canada is grateful to have someone like Julie working for Shaw Resources (and we welcome any gardening tips!)

(1) What is a Geology & Environmental Specialist and how did you end up working for Shaw Resources?

“I started with Shaw in as a Geology and Enviro specialist in 2011 after finishing my Masters. While I was originally part of Shaw’s aggregate division, in 2013 my roll started to change. I started taking on tasks within the pellet division, including greenhouse gas calculations and sustainability reporting. As the industry demand for sustainable fibre sourcing and certification grew, my role expanded further,” said Julie. “Shaw became certified to both the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) Chain of Custody and Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP). Both require a well-defined environmental management system, third-party audits, reporting, and regular maintenance and updates.”

(2) In 2018 Shaw Pellets became CANPlus Certified – what does that mean and how has that changed your business?

“Shaw has always strived for world class quality, CANplus has made the program more wholesome. In the process of being certified, I facilitated the upgrading of our Quality Assurance labs, quality testing equipment and quality programs at both plants. As part of our certification, our quality program undergoes annual third-party audits, which adds even more credibility and dependability to our product quality,” said Julie. “CANplus is the Canadian standard based off the ENplus wood pellet certification that started in Europe. ENPlus and WPAC work closely to ensure home use-pellets are of the highest quality and environmental standards.” For more information on CANplus or ENplus, please click here.

(3) What has surprised you about working in the wood pellet industry?

“I probably shouldn’t be too surprised, but I’m enthralled at how end users are more and more concerned with the legality and sustainability of the fibre. It’s become a social license to operate.” Like so many WPAC members, Julie thinks “it’s really great to be a part of a greener solution and the ongoing push for sustainable fibre.

(4) What excites you most about your job?

While Julie has always enjoyed working at Shaw, her new role of Quality, Sustainability and Environmental Program Coordinator in their wood pellet division has been a fascinating opportunity.
“I’ll be facilitating all third-party sustainability and quality audits (desktop, on-site, and in the forests), reviewing new standards and research, reporting on greenhouse gases, assessing, and evaluating risk associated with fiber supply sources, and developing our quality and sustainability programs so that they are robust and well rounded.”

(5) What can we expect from you and Shaw Resources next?

“We would like to see some growth and more interest in the Maritime domestic market in using this alternative green renewable energy source for in-home heating,” said Julie. It’s a sentiment shared by many of her WP AC peers as we support the transition from burning firewood, oil and gas for heating in Canada.

5 Questions with Julie Griffith
Julie Griffiths, Quality, Sustainability and Environmental Program Coordinator for Shaw Resources in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia

Regional Risk Assessment for British Columbia Endorsed by Sustainable Biomass Program

Following a three-year rigorous assessment including stakeholder consultations, the Regional Risk Assessment for fibre sourcing in British Columbia is completed – providing the global marketplace with the added assurance that one of the world’s largest wood pellet producing regions also has the mechanisms in place to verify the legality and sustainability of uncertified feedstock in the province.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) initiated the RRA in 2018. Hopkin Forest Management Consulting Ltd and a team of independent natural resource and certification professionals formed the Working Body responsible for developing the RRA. The RRA was developed in accordance with the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) – RRA Procedure.

SBP-endorsed RRAs are a key part of SBP’s focus on identifying and mitigating risks associated with sustainably sourcing feedstock for biomass pellet and woodchip production. RRAs evaluate an entire geographic region and determine the risks associated with sourcing feedstock from that region. This guarantees consistency between Biomass Producers’ risk assessments and eliminates the need for the Producers to conduct individual risk assessments. RRAs have been completed for a number of European countries, the Province of Quebec, and RRAs are also underway for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The BC and Maritime RRAs received financial support from the Canadian Forest Service, Government of Canada, Export Market Opportunities program.

SBP was established in 2013 to provide assurance that woody biomass – mainly wood pellets and wood chips used for large-scale energy production – is sourced from legal and sustainable sources. While the vast majority of Canadian fibre comes from certified forests, any uncertified fibre must be evaluated against SBP criteria, and the wood pellet manufacturer must carry out a risk assessment to identify the risk of compliance against 38 SBP indicators covering 16 criteria for legality and sustainability.

“The whole purpose of a due diligence system is to be able to identify the risk based on the available data; and if that data isn’t there it’s a specified risk and the RRA helps you identify that risk,” says Brenda Hopkin, a registered professional forester who led the assessment. “Many of these risks are the same ones that global customers are concerned about so the RRA helps producers demonstrate management of issues that are important to customers and stakeholders.”

Hopkin believes that one of the key learnings for her team and the participants in the process, including pellet producers from 14 plants across BC, was the importance of understanding the supply base – where is the fibre is coming from and how is it being managed especially when it comes to specified risk.

“RRAs get you to focus on both the probability of the risk and the severity,” she explains. “Once you have that then you can put management practices in place that help you control the probability.”

The RRA was officially endorsed on August 11, 2021 and Biomass Producers in BC will have 12 months to demonstrate alignment with it. The RRA sets a critical path forward for WPAC members as they advance sustainability across the entire supply chain and support domestic and global customers to meet important climate change targets. You can read the SBP-endorsed Regional Risk Assessment here.

Girl Hiking

Brenda Hopkin, a Registered Professional Forester with over 25 years in forestry and auditing experience, led B.C.’s Regional Risk Assessment.