In mid-February, Canadian Biomass attended the Canadian Wood Pellet Heating Conference in Montreal. It coincided with the Montreal Wood Convention and benefited from sharing some seminars and networking opportunities the convention offered since the two conferences are such natural partners.
By Amie Silverwood
In mid-February, Canadian Biomass attended the Canadian Wood Pellet Heating Conference in Montreal. It coincided with the Montreal Wood Convention and benefited from sharing some seminars and networking opportunities the convention offered since the two conferences are such natural partners. Sawmills are now becoming pellet producers, which makes it beneficial for both industries to have the opportunity to gather together to consider opportunities and tackle issues of concern (see article about Resolute Forest Products on page 14).
Gordon Murray, the executive director of WPAC and a regular contributor to Canadian Biomass, launched the pellet conference with a call to action. He urged pellet producers to coordinate efforts with appliance manufacturers to increase domestic use of wood pellets.
“We hardly sell any wood pellets at home despite being the coldest country in the world. We all do our own thing and not nearly as successfully domestically as we should be doing it together,” said Murray.
“Today, pellets make up 0.3 per cent of all domestic heating fuels. Let’s shoot for three per cent,” said Murray. To meet this goal, he suggested the industry work together to develop a marketing strategy to meet a 20 per cent annual growth.
But before the industry can grow and gain some momentum in Canada, it is important to ensure that the fuel sold to individual consumers is of a high enough quality to burn well in residential stoves. The standardization of fuel pellets is an important factor that came up again and again at the conference.
Standardization is required in all levels of the process from the harvest to the end product. This involves a high quality management system that keeps up to date records, proper employee training and daily in-house testing with standardized tests and equipment.
Word of mouth is the best advertising and a bad batch of pellets can sully the industry’s reputation. It is in pellet producers’ best interests to have all pellets sold for home heating conform to a minimum standard.
A standard that guarantees a high quality pellet is important to ensure the customer is burning a clean and efficient fuel but consumers would also benefit from knowing their pellets came from a sustainably-managed forest. Public perception is that pellets are being produced from whole trees and that North American forests are under pressure from pellet plants and their insatiable need for wood. Just as ethanol producers have been accused of driving up food prices, wood pellet producers are under suspicion for using too much wood.
Rather than fight the battle against misinformation alone, the forest industry has some publicly trusted standards in place to demonstrate when wood has been harvested sustainably. Building on these standards can only drive the industry forward.
Amie Silverwood, editor