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WPAC Report: Progressing Canadian pellet producers’ interests

WPAC reflects on 2019 accomplishments and looks ahead to 2020.


February 26, 2020
By Gordon Murray

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WPAC will present a workshop on Human Machine Interface Best Practices in April 2020. Details will be released soon. Photo courtesy Pinnacle Renewable Energy.

Every fall, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) holds an annual general meeting where we review the progress of the previous year and seek input into the business plan for the following year. During this year’s AGM, members approved these focus areas:

  • Reinforcing the reputation of Canada’s wood pellet supply chain regarding high quality, sustainability and ethical business practices with markets in Europe and Asia
  • Creating opportunities in Canada’s domestic wood pellet heating sector
  • Participating in the development of the Sustainable Biomass Program to provide third-party certification of Canada’s wood pellet sustainability credentials
  • Continuing to improve the wood pellet sector’s safety performance
  • Continuing to support applied wood pellet research and development in cooperation with the University of British Columbia Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group.

Here are some highlights of what we have accomplished over the past few months, and a look at our upcoming activities:

International market support

In Europe, WPAC is a director of both the Bioenergy Europe trade association, which advocates on behalf of the European bioenergy sector, and the European Pellet Council, which is responsible for ENplus wood pellet quality certification. We have nearly completed the fourth revision of the ENplus quality program.

WPAC has also been active in Japan. We recently joined the British Columbia Forest Sector Mission to Japan where, together with our customer Sumitomo, we met with B.C.’s forestry minister Doug Donaldson and chief forester Diane Nicholls to discuss the need for improved fibre supply access for the pellet sector. In February, I will be participating in the annual IEA Clean Coal Biomass Co-Firing workshop in Kokura, Japan to give a presentation, “Demonstrating that electricity production from solid biomass is both low-carbon and sustainable.”

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In May, we will, as usual, be sponsoring and helping to present the Biomass Pellet Trade and Power Conference in Tokyo. WPAC will provide speakers and host a reception for Japanese customers. We will also arrange meetings with Japanese energy industry regulators to discuss potential market access concerns and reinforce the sustainability of Canadian wood pellets.

Canadian market support

WPAC has progressed on three fronts in pushing for more Canadian market support.

First, we have been advocating with Environment and Climate Change Canada for changes to the proposed Clean Fuel Standard Regulation to make fuel switching from heating oil to wood pellets eligible for carbon credit generation.

Second, we have progressed on our initiative to harmonize Canadian and European biomass boiler pressure standards. In February, we will be attending a meeting between the Government of Canada and the European Commission on reducing regulatory barriers under the Canada-Europe trade agreement where our issue has made it onto the agenda. We will also be present at a second meeting between the provinces, the Government of Canada, and the European Union to discuss reducing regulatory barriers between Canadian provinces and the potential adoption of European boiler standards.

Finally, we have completed two market studies, one on Canadian market opportunities and a second, via social media, on Canadian consumer perceptions of wood pellet heating.

Sustainable Biomass Program update

Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) certification is required by all Canadian exporters selling to European power utilities. Since 2018, WPAC has been working on a regional risk assessment (RRA) for B.C. to help streamline the SBP certification approval process for wood pellet producers. The B.C. RRA is on target for completion by March 31, 2020. We have also begun work on RRA’s for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, both of which we plan to complete by March 31, 2021. When those are complete, we will start work on a RRA for Alberta.

WPAC is continuing to advocate for Canadian interests by participating in SBP’s governance and participating in SBP’s recently announced standards review. We are represented on SBP’s board of directors, standards committee, stakeholder advisory committee and carbon working group.

We are also working on a management information system to track the chain of custody and other characteristics of commingled wood pellet deliveries, inventory and vessel loading through the Fibreco and Westview terminals in B.C. This project has been in progress since 2018 and is nearing completion.

Safety update

We are continuing to operate the WPAC Safety Committee, which includes members from across Canada. In January, we released our 2020 Work Plan, outlining our key focus areas for the year ahead.

WPAC, in co-operation with WorkSafeBC and media partner Canadian Biomass, held a Process Safety Workshop on Bow Tie Analysis in November. Bow tie analysis is a method of predicting all the potential causes of catastrophic incidents and implementing critical controls to prevent such catastrophes from occurring. Our next step is to support individual member companies with implementing bow ties.

This year will see multiple safety events – in April, again in co-operation with WorkSafeBC and Canadian Biomass, we will present a workshop on Human-Machine Interface best practices, designed mainly for plant operators. In June, our team will present the annual Wood Products Safety Summit.

Research and development

WPAC is continuing to co-operate closely with the University of British Columbia’s Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG). In 2019, BBRG, with help from WPAC, secured a four-year agreement from Agriculture and Agrifoods Canada for nearly $1.8 million. This funding will enable us to keep our research team and laboratory facilities intact at UBC.

We are in the middle of several important research and development projects, including additional testing on wood pellet off-gassing in support of IMO shipping regulations. This is a second phase of a project that was first completed in 2016. As part of ISO Technical Committee 238, we are working to develop chemical and mechanical wood pellet testing standards for laboratories. Finally, we are developing a plan to implement centralized nitrogen storage for rapid deployment to pellet plants to support silo fire fighting.

WPAC’s governance

WPAC is governed by a seven-member board of directors, which meets quarterly. The 2020 board includes:

  • President – Vaughan Bassett, Pinnacle Renewable Energy
  • Vice-president – Rene Landry, Shaw Resources

Directors:

  • John Stirling, Pacific BioEnergy
  • Jonathan Levesque, Groupe Savoie
  • Todd Humber, Annex Business Media
  • Jose Pedrajas, Prodesa
  • Andre Bedard, Quebec Wood Export Bureau

Gordon Murray is the executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. www.pellet.org.