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2009 June 29

Report from CANBIOs "Making Bioenergy Projects Work" Event

Crystal Luxmore
Biomass projects, big and small, face the same major issue – minimizing cost of biomass supply.

This issue was put under the microscope at the latest Canadian Bioenergy Association event, Making Bioenergy Projects Work by Supply Chain Management Workshop, Tradeshow and Study Tour, held outside Sherbrooke, Quebec. “Biomass buyers don’t care where the feedstock comes from, they just want it delivered at the mill door for the right price, ”CANBIO Ontario Board Member Chris Rees told delegates.

Less administration

Three keynote presentations on Accessing Fibre, from Louis Paquet of the Quebec MNR, Joe Maure Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), and David Palmer of the York Sunbury Charlotte Marketing Board, highlighted the vast amounts of forest fibre that are being released by the provinces to create a biomass industry. 
“The key is to limit the huge amount of administration required to get it,” says Doug Bradley, President and Executive Director of CANBIO.  “Communities simply do not have the resources that the forest industry had to ensure all of the administrative requirements for fibre were met.”

Tapio Ranta, supply chain expert from Finland advised that Canadians use truck-based bundlers for higher productivity in the Canadian context. While Raida Jirjis, a moisture management expert from Sweden, had participants madly scribbling notes on secrets to reducing costs that the Swedish industry has attained in 25 years of supply chain management. Conference delegates get free access to all presentations.  CDs can also be purchased from CANBIO, email Jim Richardson,, to order your copy.

2nd generation biofuels in Sherbrooke

Two days of study tours followed the event – Enerkem treated delegates to well-organized tours of their second generation biofuels pilot in Sherbrooke and their new commercial scale plant in Westbury just completed in December, led by  scientist-entrepreneur and Enerkem co-founder Esteban Chornet. At a stop at grinder operator, Broyage Mobile d’l’Estrie, delegates became part of a press conference to announce the company’s progress, read the French newspaper article here. Domtar took delegates into the woods to see their local grinding operation followed by an insider’s look at their co-gen operation, and a rare look at PM7, the largest fine paper machine in Canada.

The next day Timothy Maker of the Biomass Energy Resource Center took delegates on a tour of biomass district heating facilities in Vermont.  Many of the facilities were just months old spurred by Vermont’s Fuels for Schools Program to modify fossil fuel heating systems to fit biomass to ramp up bioenergy heating.  The program provides generous incentives for public facilities like schools and hospitals to modify their existing heating systems to biomass-based wood pellet and wood chip boilers, incentives that are sadly not available in Canada.  Luc Desrochers, a Bioenergy Researcher at FP Innovations was surprised to hear that most of the feedstock was being purchased from Quebec forests.  “The original plan to buy biomass from local forest operators fell apart because the sawmills couldn’t guarantee a steady supply and the feedstock delivered was a variety of different qualities, making it more challenging to use,” says Desrochers, “so the facilities decided to go for a higher quality woodchip, and they’re all using a Montreal broker.”

Higher price on Fossil Gas needed

The tour inspired at least one Ontario logging operation to consider switching to wood chip or pellet production. However, owner of Opeongo Forestry Service in Renfrew, Bill Hall says Canadian provinces need the same economic incentives as in Vermont for biomass heating to make economic sense. “The tour was inspiring because in Vermont industrial buildings heated with wood pellets are meeting up to 60 percent of the heat load.  But in Ontario we need a similar policies that make natural gas more expensive than wood pellets on a BTU basis.”

“The speakers and site visits at this Quebec event made it clear that the province is at the forefront of bioenergy action in Canada,” says Douglas Bradley, CANBIO President and Executive Director.  “As the national bioenergy association we are committed to partnering with Quebec industry, communities and existing organizations like the Quebec Wood Export Bureau, to help stimulate further investment in this sector – we want to be part of the action.”

Read more on CANBIOs website.