By Gordon Murray
Oct. 4, 2018 - Happy 10th birthday to Canadian Biomass magazine (CBM)! After having published its first issue in August 2008, CBM has emerged as the go-to source for biomass news and opinion in Canada.
By Gordon Murray
I began in my role with the Wood Pellet Association of Canada at about the same time as CBM was established. It did not take long for our two organizations to develop what has become an enduring, mutually beneficial partnership.
Scott Jamieson — CBM’s creator and first editor — convinced me to contribute my first column in the March-April 2009 edition. Since then, I have written a column in every edition and have frequently contributed feature articles to the magazine. Scott has maintained control over CBM, but has since moved up the ranks in Annex Business Media, CBM’s owner, where he is now a group publisher.
WPAC is a tiny organization so we rely heavily on our relationship with CBM/Annex. Here are a few of the ways they help WPAC:
- Website: CBM/Annex hosts and manages WPAC’s website.
- E-news: We rely on CBM’s e-news to keep WPAC members up to date on current issues in the biomass world. Whenever I have important news to share, CBM distributes it through the weekly e-news, which is also shown automatically on WPAC’s website.
- Annual conference: Scott and I had breakfast at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Quebec City one morning after a WPAC member meeting in November 2012. It was then we decided that WPAC and CBM/Annex would partner in producing an annual national wood pellet conference. We have now held conferences in Vancouver (2013 and 2014); Halifax (2015); Harrison Hot Springs (2016); Ottawa (2017); and are back in Vancouver in September 2018. We attract delegates from all over the world to our annual conference.
- Other events: Upon the success of our annual conference, WPAC and CBM/Annex have collaborated on three annual safety conferences, several training workshops, combustible dust webinars, a co-firing conference in Edmonton, a wood pellet forum in New Brunswick, and many other events.
- Marketing and promotion: Annex helps WPAC with graphic design services, brochures, social media, and other marketing materials.
Besides my warm personal relationship with Scott, WPAC would like to recognize other key CBM/Annex personnel including: Tara Jacobs, our super-organized conference manager who does so much to make our events a great success; Ross Anderson, who in addition to serving as a member of WPAC’s board, handles all the sponsorships and exhibitors; and Maria Church and Tamar Atik, the two editors of CBM who keep all the news up to date and look after WPAC’s website.
It is interesting to look back on our industry and how it has changed since 2008.
- Global wood pellet production increased almost three-fold, from 11 million tonnes in 2008 to 31 million tonnes in 2018. In the same period, Canadian production increased from 0.7 million tonnes to 2.9 million tonnes.
- Drax Power has emerged as the world’s largest biomass power station and consumer of wood pellets. Yet the company did not begin wood pellet co-firing until 2009. It completed its first boiler conversion to 100 per cent biomass in 2013 and its fourth boiler in 2018.
- South Korea did not begin using industrial wood pellets until 2012 and has now emerged as the largest wood pellet consumer in Asia, followed closely by Japan, which is also growing rapidly.
- Italy has emerged as the largest and fastest growing premium wood pellet market in Europe, currently about two million tonnes per year.
- I attended the inaugural meeting of the European Pellet Council in 2010, at which time we decided to introduce the wood pellet quality scheme known as ENplus. WPAC has remained the only non-European full voting member of the European Pellet Council. ENplus has grown to cover 70 per cent of the premium pellet market in Europe.
- In 2008 there were no international wood pellet standards. Since then, the ISO Technical Committee 238 has established the ISO 17225 quality standards and have developed many related physical and chemical testing standards. Recently the ISO 17225 standards were adopted by the Canadian Standards Association.
- Ontario Power Generation converted two coal boilers to wood pellets and continues to operate the Atikokan boiler to this day.
- The company Rentech, which was so prominent in Ontario, has come and gone.
- In 2010, Green Circle operated the world’s largest wood pellet plant at 500,000 tonnes annual capacity. Since then, Green Circle was purchased by Enviva. Today, plants with 500,000 tonnes capacity are commonplace.
- Pacific BioEnergy completely rebuilt its plant in Prince George, more than doubling capacity. The plant is now a leader in using forest harvesting residues as feedstock.
- In 2008, Pinnacle Renewable Energy was still owned by the Swaan family. Since then the company has multiplied its number of production facilities, was purchased by ONCAP, then underwent an IPO to become a publicly traded company, and expanded into Alberta and Alabama.
- Shaw Resources and Groupe Savoie began exporting wood pellets through the Port of Belledune to Europe. Shaw’s Rene Landry and Belledune’s Jenna MacDonald have both served on WPAC’s board for many years, with Rene having served the past three years as president
- The Sustainable Biomass Program has emerged as the dominant European sustainability certification program for wood pellets. All Canadian exporters to Europe have either been certified or are in the process of becoming certified.
- Until 2014, WPAC had minimal involvement in managing safety. In 2014, members asked WPAC to establish a safety committee. Since then, safety has become one of WPAC’s primary focus areas. The wood pellet industry has completely turned around its reputation favourably in the eyes of regulators.
All of these changes to our industry have been chronicled in the pages of CBM and in the weekly e-news. After many years of effort by all wood pellet industry participants, we are now in a situation where demand for our product is strong; prices are fair; foreign exchange rates are favourable; we having some success in convincing our critics regarding our sustainability credentials and the greenhouse gas benefits of wood pellets; and our industry’s future looks bright. We are looking forward to continuing our strong partnership with CBM/Annex for many years to come.
Gordon Murray is the executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.