The increase of forest biomass has been a huge, defining trend of the past decade in Canada's forest sector.
Companies have invested heavily in upgrading and retrofitting their operations in order to maximize opportunities to facilitate a return to fiscal health. Capitalizing on the use of biomass has been a particularly high priority in B.C, where, thanks to the Mountain Pine Beetle, additional fibre supplies have come online. FPInnovations has been a committed partner in these endeavors, conducting research on technology, equipment and harvesting systems, to help inform and support decisions of key industry players.
Over the last year, FPInnovations joined with a group of primary and secondary forestry industry partners and stakeholders in a concerted effort to increase and improve access to Mountain Pine Beetle fibre supplies. The group drafted a series of recommendationsco for the B.C. government, who then released a Fibre Action Plan in September, 2015. Chief among the priorities of the Action Plan is the creation of guidelines designed to ensure the efficient removal and use of residual fibre. In response, FPInnovations has written supporting guidelines that will be available later this year, along with practical direction on integrated harvesting systems. According to FPInnovations magazine, these systems involve, 'planning the harvesting process to ensure residual fibre remains clean and dry, and is stacked in such a way that it can be efficiently collected on a subsequent pass, after which the residuals are commonly chipped onsite using mobile equipment.'
In addition to these efforts, the research institute is also collaborating with industry in order to uncover new ways to extract additional fibre from the forest for use at manufacturing facilities. Ultimately, FPInnovations and its partners expect industry will enjoy improved and cost-effective access to a fibre supply.
FPInnovations' work isn't done once the fibre is in the mills. At this juncture, the institute then works alongside its stakeholders to help them benefit from the full range of energy potential of biomass. The Process Engineering Group, according to FPInnovations magazine, undertakes several projects annually to improve the efficiency and environmental performance of biomass boilers. The power that is generated by these combustion units is then available for use in mills, which subsequently helps them lower their energy costs. In some instances, excess power can then be sold back to the provincial utility grid, and because biomass is a carbon-neutral source of energy, this power can commonly be sold at a premium.
Where FPInnovations adds significant value is in the benchmark operational data, specialized instrumentation and equipment and expertise that can help companies achieve their designed boiler firing rates and targeted energy production levels. According to FPInnovations magazine, when companies make use of these resources, operational improvements are commonly substantial. In a recent project, a company was experiencing challenges with its recovery boiler. Relying on analysis and mill trials conducted by FPInnovations, the company was able to discover the root cause of the issue and improve its firing rate by more than 30%.