Canadian Biomass Magazine

Industry leaders converge to discuss the power of pellets globally and at home

September 22, 2021
By Gordon Murray, Executive Director, Wood Pellet Association of Canada

Nearly 200 delegates from across Canada and around the globe came together virtually to discuss how the pellet industry can continue to tackle climate change and energy issues while seizing new opportunities both globally and domestically.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC), together with our media partner Canadian Biomass magazine, hosted the free online event on Sept. 20, 2021, where thought leaders in the fields of market trends, policy and communications, safety innovations, domestic opportunities and the future of pellets showcased the case for pellets.

Katrine Conroy, British Columbia’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, opened the conference and challenged all of us to look beyond just energy and to find more opportunities for pellets that will contribute to the emerging bioeconomy and reap some of the carbon benefits within the province as well.

William Strauss of FutureMetrics who presented about market trends believes that under current global policies industrial wood pellets are expected to plateau in a few years.

However, given the speed at which policy is evolving, he also believes that the industrial pellet sector could reach about 45 million tonnes per year in 2027 – more than double 2020 demand.

This was reinforced by both policy director Giulia Cancian of Bioenergy Europe and communications expert Karen Brandt of Brandt Strategy Inc. who both pointed to emerging policy trends such as the EU’s Fit for 55 and British Columbia’s Modernizing Forest Policy as key initiatives that represent significant opportunities for wood pellets but will require more constructive communications to support fact-based dialogue.

Safety continues to be front and centre of our efforts and this conference was no different. Cherie Whelan, with the BC Forest Safety Council moderated a panel with safety leaders Dr. Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, WPAC; Kayleigh Rayner Brown, Dalhousie University/Obex Risk Ltd.; Grace Cox, Canfor; and Dr. Shahab Sokhansanj, UBC. They highlighted the major safety initiatives across the industry from safety foundations webinars to critical control management and process safety to fibre pile management. The message was consistent: partnerships and good communications are key to success.

Keeping his eye on climate goals was Dr. Jamie Stephen of Torchlight Bioresources who walked us through the essential role for wood pellets in reaching net zero. Stephen believes that without bioenergy we lose the chance to enhance forest management, miss the opportunity of bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and can’t achieve climate goals.

“Bioenergy must be viewed as both a climate mitigation and adaptation necessity,” said Stephen.

“Net zero cannot be achieved without large scale BECCS and active forest management.”

Stephen’s presentation was a natural segue into the last panel “The Power of Pellets” moderated by British Columbia’s Chief Forester Diane Nicholls. She believes that while the industry is on the right track we haven’t yet tapped into pellets fullest potential which she sees as the entry point into the rapidly developing world of biofuels and biomaterials.

Taking up that challenge were three experts Jonathan Levesque at Biomass Solutions which is developing and installing new technologies and bioheat and bioenergy solutions in Eastern Canada – transforming the way Canadians think about heat and energy. Dr. Jack Saddler at UBC believes the sky is the limit and provided leading research to substantiate the role of wood biomass in the biofuel economy and aviation sector, and Steven Drayton at the Drax Group, showcased how the company is leading the way globally in carbon capture technology and highlighting the full potential of North American pellets in the battle against climate change.

Vaughan Bassett with Pinnacle Renewable Energy, part of Drax, and Chair of WPAC noted in his closing remarks that we are at the intersection of climate change and the emerging bioeconomy and our industry is at an important point in its evolution. Reaching our fullest potential will take everyone pulling in the same direction.

Thank you to all who joined our conference, and our esteemed group of presenters, for your contributions in making this year’s Annual Conference a huge success. Conferences like this are good opportunity to review our collective efforts and achievements and to discuss the road ahead. Of course successful conferences like this are the result of a dedicated team of professionals behind the scenes and our gold sponsors Danson’s Grills, Kahl, and Pinnacle Renewable Energy, part of the Drax Group as well as our other sponsors CN Rail, Fink Machine, SGS and Stela Drying Technology.

If you were unable to join the conference the presentations will be available on our conference website in the next few days. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for next year’s in-person Conference and AGM in Vancouver, B.C., on Sept. 19-21, 2022.

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