Every fibre has a home
By Andrew Macklin
June 15, 2015 - It has been easy to be led down the path of debate and discussion in Nova Scotia, enticed by the opportunity to provide an opinion on the fibre controversy playing out in the media.
Rarely a week goes by without an editorial or a social media comment posted exclaiming the idea that quality sawlogs are making their way into hammermills and biomass boilers from Port Hawkesbury to the Musquodoboit Valley. Claims spread like wildfire that high-quality fibre is being used where low-quality fibre belongs, getting pressed and burned for use in biomass operations.
So when I had the opportunity to look first-hand at what was happening in Nova Scotia, I couldn’t resist the temptation to address the fibre issue.From my observations taken from a few days travelling through the biomass operations and woodlands of central Nova Scotia, there is simply no evidence of a fibre controversy.
On the site of the Scotia Atlantic Biomass pellet plant (see page 10 for our feature story), stacks of deadwood and low-value timber are plentiful, but the high-value logs are non-existent. They do not find themselves in the yard at Scotia Atlantic, as contractors look to the area’s sawmills to purchase the high-value fibre cut alongside the wood earmarked for pellet production.
No place was that more clearly seen than in the forest to the east of Stewiacke, where a lengthy network of roadside piles showed the vast value chain of the freshly-cut logs. Along the road sat nine stacks, each designated for the various sawmills, pulp mills, and biomass operations that the pile was destined for. Each pile a different quality of log, a different species of wood, and a different quality of fibre ready to be picked up and taken to the mill.
At the centre of the Nova Scotia controversy, the Nova Scotia Power biomass boiler at Port Hawkesbury Paper, a similar scene was within sight. On one portion of the site, pulp logs were stacked for paper production, while a separate portion of the property is designated for logs to be chipped for the biomass boiler. At a glance, the high-value logs concerning so many citizens in the province were nowhere to be seen.
The reason why high-quality sawlogs could not be found at the biomass operations is simple… money. In an industry where the bottom line has shrunk and the contractor population greatly reduced, the demand for quality lumber and the need to maximize the value of every tree cut means that every fibre finds its home… where it belongs.
The financial reality facing logging contractors is simple: a pulp log is worth approximately 30 per cent more than a biomass log, and a high-quality sawlog can be worth as much as 300 per cent more.
So while there may be the odd minor example, where a sawlog finds its way into the wrong stack and onto the truck destined for a biomass operation, the fibre controversy playing out in Nova Scotia is, for the most part, completely unfounded.