Canadian Biomass Magazine

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WPAC Report: Lessons learned

WPAC looks to build upon the accomplishments of 2021


April 4, 2022
By Gordon Murray

Topics
A crew installing tracks for enhanced wood pellet rail car storage at Westview Terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C. The project was funded by the B.C. government’s Supply Chain Resiliency Grant and co-ordinated by WPAC. Photo courtesy WPAC.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Canadian Biomass‘ Winter 2022 issue.

“To know your future you must know your past,” is a philosophy that fits the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC)’s approach to moving forward through uncertain, challenging, yet exciting times. WPAC’s well-attended virtual Annual General Meeting in September 2021 focused on the growth and achievements of the past year with an eye on the work ahead for our association, our growing membership and our sector at large.

The good news is industrial wood pellet markets have been growing at an annualized rate of about 1.66 million metric tonnes per year from 2010 through 2021 and, according to FutureMetrics, demand is expected to increase by 8.9 per cent from 2021 to 2022 and by another 14.8 per cent from 2022 to 2023. (Editor’s note: read the 2022 wood pellet markets forecast here.)

Yet challenges exist. Over the past year, the world has had its eye on “Beautiful British Columbia” – a province and her people literally put to the test, facing fires and floods on top of the pandemic. The recovery from these extreme weather events will be long for many, but our sector and our members will keep delivering product to customers despite the interruptions to highways and roads and infrastructure. We will keep giving. And our sector will double down to do its part in the fight against climate change. 

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Through a government Supply Chain Resiliency Grant of $390,000 from B.C.’s Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, funds have gone towards the expansion of the Prince Rupert corridor, adding railway tracks, storage and creating an overall stronger and more resilient logistical rail system for the west coast. The investment means major producers of wood pellets, such as Canfor, Witset First Nation, Skeena BioEnergy, La Crete Sawmills, Vanderwell, Pinnacle/Drax, West Fraser and Premium Pellet, will be better able to mitigate any supply chain risks due to weather, late vessels, or mechanical problems.  

At a time when B.C.’s infrastructure has suffered catastrophic damage due to recent weather events, this investment mitigates disruptions to the hundreds of jobs associated with production and logistics, without impacting customers.

Reflecting on 2021
Looking back, WPAC’s 2020-2021 priorities included enhancing the reputation of superior, reliable, sustainable and ethical business practices, providing leadership on behalf of the Canadian sector in the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) and completing two of the regional risk assessments (Quebec and B.C.), with three more underway. We also ramped up efforts domestically, focusing on challenging information that doesn’t accurately reflect the potential of wood biomass, and we initiated significant advocacy across Canada at every political level.

Of course, our top priority has been and will remain safety. Our sector cannot be successful if our colleagues aren’t safe. People drive safety and our safety initiatives represent a collective effort to make our workplaces safer. Key partnerships with the BC Forest Safety Council, the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group at the University of British Columbia and Dalhousie University, and the participation of nearly 40 organizations, are
driving safety research and innovation in our industry. I am extremely proud of this world-class work and collaboration.

People also drive better workplaces. People like Kelly Cooper, founder and president of the Centre for Social Intelligence (CSI), and the folks at the Canadian Institute of Forestry (CIF-IFC) who are leading the Free to Grow in Forestry initiative. WPAC is committed to embracing diversity amongst our employees and contractors, where each individual has opportunities and access to resources to reach their full potential.

Every day, I am awed by the dedicated women who bring their expertise and passion to this sector. I’m so fortunate to work closely with women like Dr. Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, WPAC’s director of research and technical development; Karen Brandt, our strategic communications advisor; and Brenda Hopkin, who is leading the development of Canadian regional risk assessments being used for SBP sustainability certification. Like many others who walk among us, these women are using their professional skills and unique talents to make a difference in this world, to make a cleaner, more sustainable world.

I am proud of the high degree of support, enthusiasm and active participation of WPAC members in developing and approving a resolution that formally adopts our values of diversity, equality and inclusion. WPAC: Our Commitment to a Better World truly sets out the collective values of our membership.  

Goals for 2022
Looking forward, our 2021-22 priorities include building on our market outreach and advocacy efforts, completing the SBP regional risk assessments for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and starting on assessments for Alberta and Saskatchewan. Domestically, we will work to grow the domestic market with a focus on the Maritimes. We will also establish a research advisory group in co-operation with the University of British Columbia to tap into the full potential of pellets in the bioeconomy. We are also working to support various provincial and federal climate targets by positioning our renewable forests as to the fight against climate change.

As we move ahead as an organization, may we take the learnings from the past to ensure success in the future and may we continue to meet any challenges with the unfailing optimism, teamwork and sustained commitment and dedication I am humbled to witness each day among our members. It is truly an honour to work alongside the best of the best. I wish you all continued success in 2022. Stay safe! •