Canadian Biomass Magazine

Features Harvesting Sustainability
WPAC completes draft BC Regional Risk Assessment, open for public consultation


April 23, 2020
By Gordon Murray, Brenda Hopkin

Topics
Typical raw material for wood pellets in British Columbia. Photo credit: Pacific BioEnergy.

The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) recently completed a draft Regional Risk Assessment (RRA) of woody biomass fuels produced in British Columbia and is now seeking public input.

This RRA has been completed according to procedures defined by the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP). There are multiple reasons for this.

The majority of wood pellet exports from Canada are used to replace coal in large power plants in Europe and Asia. Our large utility customers prefer wood pellets because they are renewable, sustainably produced and reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by about 90 per cent compared to coal. However, it is not enough to merely say that wood pellets are produced sustainably. We actually have to demonstrate it by using rigorous third-party certification programs. Our European utility customers require all Canadian wood pellet exporters to be SBP-certified.

SBP is a non-profit international standards organization that has developed a certification program for woody biomass, which is mostly used in the form of wood pellets and woodchips as fuel for industrial, large-scale energy production. The program is intended to provide third-party assurance that the biomass used as fuel is obtained from legal and sustainable sources.

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A RRA is part of SBP’s approach for identifying and mitigating risks associated with sustainably sourcing feedstock for biomass pellet and wood chip production. A RRA evaluates an entire geographic region against the SBP standard to determine the risks associated with sourcing biomass feedstock from that region. This results in consistency of risk designation for all Biomass Producers (BPs), i.e. wood pellet plants, sourcing from that region. Once the RRA is approved, individual BPs will complete an assessment of their own fibre sourcing against the designated risks in their supply base areas. The RRA process is set out in SBP’s RRA Procedure Version 1.1.

The draft B.C. RRA report is now available online for public review. For access, click here.

WPAC initiated the RRA for the province of British Columba in 2018 and appointed a Working Body (WB) comprised of a team of subject matter experts to carry out the investigation and draft the RRA report. The draft RRA report assesses each indicator following the requirements of SBP Framework Standard 1: Feedstock Compliance Standard for the province of B.C. as a whole. Where there is a high probability that an indicator is being met in B.C., it is assessed as “low risk.” Where there is a reasonable likelihood that an indicator is not being met, or there is insufficient information available to assess the risk, then the indicator is assessed as “specified risk.”

We are asking reviewers to identify:

  • New or missing information that is relevant
  • More up-to-date data that may have recently become available
  • Errors or omissions
  • Documented evidence that strengthens the assessment

We will acknowledge and track all comments received and will follow up with the appropriate stakeholder if a comment requires further investigation. We will collate and evaluate responses and revise the draft RRA report as appropriate. Stakeholders will be advised via email as to how their comments were considered and addressed in the revised RRA.

Once this consultation process is complete, we will send a revised RRA report to SBP for their review and approval process.

Gordon Murray is the executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. Brenda Hopkin is the president of Hopkin Forest Management.