Woodwaste part of pilot projects to cut down on slash burning

Provincial forestry managers are looking at ways to cut slash burning each fall,

By Cam Fortems

Kamloops This Week

Provincial forestry managers are looking at ways to cut slash burning each fall, an effort expected to create jobs and reduce pollution blamed on the industry in a report released this week.

Three pilot projects in the area are expected to soon get underway to transport woodwaste out of the forest for eventual use as pellets, power or pulp.

Kamloops Forest District manager Rick Sommer is heading a committee of district managers across the province looking at ways to make it more economically feasible to move woodwaste to market for bioenergy rather than burning it as is now being done.

The goal is to accomplish it without increasing costs for lumber companies, he said.

“We’re trying to use the toolbox we have,” Sommer said.

Consulting forester Chris Ortner said too much fibre is stacked in the forest and burned.

“The reason we burn in November is you let the material dry and need the forest floor to be wet,” he said.

“You wait until the first snowfall and go crazy . . . I was in the high country then [most recent November] and there was a lot of burning.”

Ortner said there are a number of customers in Prince George, ranging from pulp producers to pellet plants, competing for woodwaste that has economic value in that market.

Lack of the secondary market in Kamloops or willingness by timber companies to target woodwaste may come to an end with success from three pilot projects, at Surrey Lake, at McQueen Lake and at another site near Barriere.

Sommer said there is demand from bioenergy companies for what is classified as waste by primary forest companies interested only in lumber-grade sawlogs.

“They [bioenergy companies] use that fuel,” Sommer said.

“We’re working on different pilots to make it a more attractive option for them.”

Woodwaste from the three pilot programs is expected to go to customers that include River City Fibre in Kamloops and another bioenergy company in the South Okanagan.

Ortner forecasts as much as 50 per cent of the fibre now burned at regional logging operations could be used for pulp, power or pellets.

But, Sommer added, the economics of transporting woodwaste depends on proximity to markets and other factors.

He believes it is too early to set a target.