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Wood meets metal

It’s an exciting time to be in biomass grinding. As Leonard Legault, president and CEO at All-Wood Fibre Ltd. in Prince George, B.C., says, “The grinding industry is still new, but there is tremendous potential yet to be realized


October 24, 2013
By Treena Hein

It’s an exciting time to be in biomass grinding. As Leonard Legault, president and CEO at All-Wood Fibre Ltd. in Prince George, B.C., says, “The grinding industry is still new, but there is tremendous potential yet to be realized, and we are confident that the opportunities for using wood in this way will just keep getting better over time.”

CBI  
One of two CBI 6400T grinders used by the team at All-Wood Fibre in Prince George, B.C.


 

Biomass grindings are being used in a wide variety of ways in many sectors, more than ever before in Canadian history. From pulp and paper and pellet manufacture to power generation and specific local applications, ground material is in strong demand. Expansion is on the horizon in many areas of the country and optimism is in the air.

Canadian Biomass checked in with five companies across the nation using some of the leading grinder brands to find out when and why they got into grinding biomass, what their end products are used for, why they bought a particular grinder make and model, and much more. Read on to find out how things are going right now – and about plans for the future as well.

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ALL-WOOD IN PRINCE GEORGE
According to Legault, productivity is the name of the game in grinding. At All-Wood Fibre Ltd. in Prince George, they currently run two CBI 6400T grinders, each utilizing 1,050 hp. “What I like best and why we chose them is because CBI machines are productive and very tough,” Legault says. “They do not fall apart. We primarily grind for wood pellet companies that require a high quality product and CBI delivers.”

Bandit  
The Bandit 3680 (700 hp) hard at work at Excel Transportation Inc. in Prince George, B.C. Image courtesy of yellowribbonphotography.ca. 


 

All-Wood Fibre also produces hog fuel for pulp industry boilers in the area, and also provides site cleanup for log yards. “We purchase our wood fibre from several forest companies that operate in the area and from private individuals as well,” Legault explains. “The fibre is generated from logging slash left at roadsides, and if not utilized, it will be burnt for no value whatsoever.”

All-Wood Fibre has been in the wood fibre business since 1994, when they started with whole log chipping for the pulp and paper industry across Western Canada. “We knew that one day the residual fibre left behind and wasted would be needed, and that grinding would start to become important,” Legault notes. “With proper support, newer technologies will provide more opportunities for everyone in the future.”

Temiskaming in Kirkland Lake
At Temiskaming Wood Products in Kirkland Lake, Ont., they have always chosen to purchase Vermeer grinders. Owner Rick Nychuk says over the last seven years, he’s always found them to work well. He also likes them because his operators and mechanics are already familiar with them and Vermeer provides “good product support.”

Vermer  
Temiskaming Wood Products in Kirkland Lake, Ont., uses a Vermeer HG6000 for all of its chipping operations.


 

About a year ago, Nychuk purchased a Vermeer HG6000, and says its double bolt system has turned out to be a great feature. “Compared to a single bolt system, we haven’t had a bolt break since we got it,” he says, “which means we haven’t lost any teeth.”

The grindings (from timber tops) become hog fuel for Northland Power’s 25-year-old co-generation plant, which also uses natural gas to create power. Temiskaming Wood Products was approached to provide grindings for Northland’s Kirkland Lake-area plant around 2007. Nychuk explains, “They were running low on wood supply and asked us to get involved.” He adds, “I also harvest and run a sawmill, so the bark and sawdust from that goes for hog fuel as well.”

Triple G in Grande Prairie
Hard at work over at Triple G Construction Inc. in Grande Prairie, Alta., are two Peterson grinders, both model 4710 B, with 760 hp each. Grinding operations supervisor Mel Toerper says Peterson machines were chosen for a few important reasons, one of them being their flexibility to make distinctive products.

Peterson  
Triple G Construction Inc. in Grande Prairie, Alta., uses two Peterson grinders (model 4710 B 760 hp) to process biomass from a variety of sources for a variety of end-uses, including as material to power cogen plants and “contaminate mix” for drilling rigs.


 

“This is because of the unique rotor direction of the machine,” he says. “The products we make vary from large two-foot wood strand to sawdust. We also like Peterson’s reliability and high production level.”

Triple G supplies grindings to co-gen plants in the area, and they also can be used for “contaminate mix” on drilling rigs. Larger-sized ground material can be used for road and pad stability, and for frost retention on roads and leases. Its raw wood comes from old wood pallets and matting, mill byproduct and top piles. Toerper says his company did not get into grinding strictly to make a profit out of processing biomass.

“We also wanted to prove that natural wood can be 100 per cent usable,” he says. “As public demand for utilization grows, the biomass industry is going to expand and improve to further protect our environment. The future looks promising for the industry as a whole.”

Excel in B.C.’s north
At Excel Transportation Inc. in Prince George, B.C., future expansion and diversification of operations is in the works. In June, Excel purchased Pine Star Logging, a biomass grinding operation and former logging company for which Excel provided hauling services. Excel’s grinding operations supervisor (former manager at Pine Star Logging) is Keith Brandner. “Around 2008, Pacific Bioenergy called for more material,” he says, “and Pine Star put in a proposal and switched from logging to grinding pellet feedstock for them.” Brandner brings the technical expertise required to generate a high-quality fibre, which Pine Star was commended for.

Brandner and his team operate a Bandit 3680 (700 hp), purchased in 2008. “We actually changed the teeth number to 30 instead of 60 and modified the machine so that we can turn the teeth,” Brandner explains. “Bandit came to see our changes and now offers them as factory options.” He says the modifications don’t work in every application, but they are very good for the production of pellet material. Brandner bought a Bandit because of the strength of the local dealership, and has found the machine to work well. The company’s feedstock is logging debris from a 100-kilometre radius. “About 90 per cent of it is mountain pine beetle-killed wood, so it’s very dry and excellent for pellets,” Brandner says.

“Excel sees the bio-energy industry as an opportunity to provide value-added services to our customers,” says Annie Horning, Excel’s CEO. “We are always looking for opportunities to create synergies within our current operations and have invested in this strategy with a focus on the future. Pine Star’s high product standards were a good fit with our vision of securing valued partnerships with our employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. We look forward to future growth and diversification in this industry.”

AXCOR in New Brunswick
Demand is strong for grinding in the St. Anthony area of New Brunswick, and at a company called AXCOR, owner Denis Cormier has chosen a Morbark to do the grinding work. Cormier went with a new Morbark in early spring 2013 because of his previous experience with Morbark. He says he was familiar with the brand and had good reliable service with a nearby dealer, which also happened to have a Morbark in stock at a competitive price. Cormier chose the model 4600XL on tracks with a 1050 hp engine.

“The majority of our work is for co-gen power plants, paper mill boilers, mulch and compost in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine,” Cormier says. “We grind mostly logging debris (treetops and branches) and residues from lumber mills and manufacturers.” Cormier has been grinding biomass since 2005, when he decided that it would be the best way to get a return for the byproducts from the family sawmill.

At that point in time, the company had only one market for grindings, a paper mill that has since closed. “This forced us to find other markets and customers in a different part of the province,” Cormier says. “We did find other markets, which eventually led us to buy the Morbark 4600XL. It’s the ideal size of machine for the kind of work
we do.”

In terms of what lies ahead, Cormier observes, “By the look of it at this stage, co-gen seems to be getting more popular, which is a good thing for us. It provides a steady flow of work and hopefully we can expand in the near future.”

It’s clear that in some areas of Canada, biomass grindings are in high demand, especially in regions with pulp mill and co-gen plants. But grindings are being used for other applications as well, and it’s this diversity of end products that will continue to provide current stability – as well as a foundation for future growth. For their part, grinder manufacturers are taking notice, providing more flexibility in their designs, as well as better durability and higher production levels than
ever before. •


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