Canadian Biomass Magazine

Features Harvesting Pellets Sustainability
Wood pellets: the gateway to innovation for BC’s bioenergy sector


December 1, 2020
By The Wood Pellet Association of Canada

Topics
WPAC's Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, Ph.D, works in the laboratory of the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) at the University of British Columbia. BBRG conducts advanced research and develops innovative solutions for turning wood pellets into high value chemicals and biofuels. Credit: UBC BBRG

Last week, the Government of British Columbia swore in its new cabinet with a focus on keeping people safe and the economy moving during an unprecedented global pandemic. The government also renewed its commitment to delivering affordability and security in B.C.’s communities, and investing in good jobs and livelihoods in a clean-energy future. British Columbia’s wood pellet sector has a key role to play in achieving both of these goals.

As a clean, renewable and responsible source of fibre, wood pellets are the gateway to the future of innovation in B.C.’s bioenergy sector. While wood pellets are well known for providing low-carbon heat and electricity, most experts also agree that pellets are the critical starting point for bio-refineries producing second generation liquid biofuels and advanced renewable bio-materials.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS or Bio-CCS) has also been identified by the United Nations and international climate leaders as the preeminent critical ‘negative emissions’ technology. B.C. wood pellets are already being used at the Drax BECCS project in the UK and the Värtaverket plant in Stockholm is trialling BECCS to offset all transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the city.

Capitalizing on these opportunities will support the province’s ambitious CleanBC agenda, while supporting economic recovery across British Columbia. Together, we have an opportunity to expand and anchor investment, innovation, jobs and clean, renewable products right here at home.

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Every day, the wood pellet sector adds value to B.C.’s forest sector, employing more than 2,500 people directly and indirectly, reducing waste in our forests, supporting the economic stability of more traditional forest products and creating a clean-burning fuel source that is displacing fossil fuels. Most of these jobs create opportunities for rural and Indigenous British Columbians. Based on figures from the European Union, if B.C. used slash piles for modern wood fuel production it would result in the near-term creation of over 7,500 jobs.

Today, B.C. is the largest producer of wood pellets of any sub-national jurisdiction anywhere in the world. The province exports 99 per cent of its 2.5 million tonnes of pellets to Asia and Europe. The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) is helping global customers switch from fossil fuels to B.C. wood pellets – realizing a CO2 reduction of approximately four million tonnes, or roughly six per cent of B.C.’s total GHG emissions. Closer to home, combined heat and power generation by B.C.’s forest sector reduced provincial GHG emissions by 10 per cent overall.

We at WPAC are keen to work with the new government to achieve its climate change goals while increasing the value realized from every tree harvested. For our sector that means:

  • supporting research and development of new, innovative wood-based bioenergy products, such as liquid biofuels and renewable natural gas;
  • expanding existing and growing new markets for B.C. wood pellets;
  • developing domestic policies and programs that advance B.C.’s carbon objectives by replacing fossil fuels and carbon intensive energy sources with bioenergy from pellets; and
  • removing policy and administrative barriers to the utilization of forest harvest residuals now left as waste.

Our vision at WPAC is for a sector that maximizes the value of every tree harvested, to create green, renewable products at the forefront of the global transition to a low carbon economy. We are excited by the possibilities ahead and look forward to working with the new B.C. government to realize those opportunities for the benefit of all British Columbians and customers around the world.