Canadian Biomass Magazine

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Canada’s Certification Edge

There are times when it makes sense to work alongside international colleagues to develop our industry, whether to promote biomass as a low-carbon addition to the global energy mix or to help establish quality or safety standards that will serve the entire supply chain.


June 5, 2013
By Scott Jamieson

There are times when it makes sense to work alongside international colleagues to develop our industry, whether to promote biomass as a low-carbon addition to the global energy mix or to help establish quality or safety standards that will serve the entire supply chain.

And then there are times when it’s better to pursue a uniquely Canadian solution. That is now the case with forest sustainability.

The need became clear at the International Biomass show in Minneapolis in April. The first session drew together notables from various American biomass associations, and one topic kept bubbling to the surface – that the perceived sustainability and carbon footprint of the sector was about to become a major issue south of the border, and one largely out of industry’s control. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the midst of determining just how green biomass really is.

Make that U.S. biomass, as the EPA would be looking at biomass’ footprint within the American context only. Still, industry members were concerned that the EPA’s findings would colour the entire sector, both for domestic and export markets. After all, should the EPA determine that U.S.-sourced biomass falls short in sustainability or carbon performance, potential buyers in the EU and elsewhere may well doubt its place in their own green energy portfolios.

Nor are Canadian biomass suppliers out of the woods. All too often European and Asian markets lump us together as “North American” suppliers.  We can do little about how the EPA sees its domestic biomass sector. We can do everything to distinguish our own forest-based biomass sector as uniquely Canadian, and thus uniquely sustainable. Here are just a few distinguishing characteristics we need to quantify, and then communicate, both here and abroad.

  • Certification: Canada is a leader in forest certification. Between that and rigid provincial forest regulations, we can prove the sustainability of our forest biomass.
  • Integrated fibre supply: The forest biomass sector is closely integrated with the existing forest products sector. The vast majority of its current supply is residual products from either the mill or the landing. Any roundwood harvested is either salvage logging (beetle kill) or fibre for which there is no other market (off species, low quality). The infrastructure and harvesting crews are rarely sent in for biomass products alone, as the economics seldom justify the effort.
  • Low carbon footprint: There are no commercial zero-carbon solutions that can replace fossil fuels completely at this point, but compared to coal, oil or gas, the average footprint of getting

Canadian biomass to market is a small fraction. We need to know the exact fraction for the various supply scenarios.

The industry must be able to quantify and effectively communicate these key factors so that everyone along the supply chain understands the Canadian biomass advantage.


Scott Jamieson, Editorial Director
sjamieson@annexweb.com


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