Canadian Biomass Magazine

Making our Future in Bioenergy

February 15, 2012
By Scott Jamieson

This issue of Canadian Biomass highlights both the boundless future and the frustrating present of the forestry biomass sector.

This issue of Canadian Biomass highlights both the boundless future and the frustrating present of the forestry biomass sector.

The future holds the promise of bioproducts that will add value to everything we do in the forest products sector. However, the present demonstrates the harsh realities of trying to make a living creating the modern-day equivalent of firewood.
First, to our future.

Our cover story on nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) is researched and written by new Canadian Biomass associate editor David Manly. David is a self-confessed science junkie, and a recent graduate who was recently recognized for his blogging with Scientific American.

NCC is a potential wonder product – a renewable material from our abundant forests that can make other products lighter and stronger. It may look flaky in our cover shot, but is far from it.


There are currently three Canadian start-ups investing in the technology, including one in Quebec that is backed by pulp
giant Domtar. That venture is ramping up commercial production, and will soon send product out for market testing.

This is forestry’s Holy Grail.

NCC, petro-chemical substitutes, value-added drop-in fuels and more are where we all hope to take this industry one day soon. In the meantime, we have to pay the bills.

That’s where the occasionally frustrating present comes in.

On page 20, veteran forestry scribe Jean Sorensen reports on BC biomass contractor Dave McKay of Triack Resources.

The crew is scraping out a living grinding low-value and waste wood for a fickle coastal biomass market. It’s hog fuel or landscaping material, and one source is as good as the next. Nor does anyone in charge seem to care whether this material is used or burned on site.

Read the article and McKay’s comments, and you’ll get a feel for how hard it can be to get by in a nascent market using an easily interchangeable fuel supply. It’s a volume game in this part of the value chain, and without a reliable fibre supply and loyal client base, survival is a struggle.

The end result is an underutilized resource. Environmentalists may worry about forests being stripped clean by a rampaging biomass sector, but like most of us with a grasp of current forest economics, McKay knows this concern is misplaced.

“We are not even using 5% of the (green) residual wood in our area; I am totally flabbergasted by the amount of fibre left behind,” he explains, noting that there is no local market willing to pay a minimal amount for delivering it.

The wide-eyed promise of tomorrow gives us hope to face the grinding challenges of today. Bridging the two will continue to challenge this industry. It will also continue to fill our pages, drive our website, and fuel our Tweets.

Stay tuned.

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