COLUMNS: Forest trade with Europe needs more attention

Many suggest the best way to deal with the ongoing problems with the softwood lumber agreement in the U.S. is to develop alternative markets in Asian countries but Tony Kryzanowski, in a recent Logging and Sawmilling article, describes potential markets in Europe that are being overlooked.

The recent Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with members of the European Market will essentially remove 98 per cent of tariffs and endorse preferred trade status with 28 member states with a population of half a billion people.

The tariffs (from two to 10 per cent) on fibre board products like plywood and oriented strand board will be removed. A mechanism has also been put in place to facilitate dialogue between Canada and European countries to deal with issues raised in the past which have hindered free trade.

In addition to promoting trade in traditional lumber products the author describes the potential of novel products like mass timbers, nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) and lignin. Mass timbers are engineered composite products created by layering dried and graded wood veneers, strands or flakes with moisture resistant adhesive into blocks of material which are then re-sawn into specified sizes. They include products like glue laminated timber (glulam), parallel strand lumber (PSL), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), laminated strand lumber (LSL), oriented strand lumber (OSL), cross laminated timber (CLT), nail laminated timber (NLT), trusses and I-joists.

Many of these products were developed in Europe and industrialized countries like France, Germany and Britain have advanced industries with potential markets for these specialized value added products.

NCC or CNC is cellulose in crystalline form, which is extracted from woody biomass and processed into solid flake, liquid or gel forms.

Special key features like high strength, electo-magnetic response and large surface areas are incorporated into specialty paper products, biosensors and security devices and other electronic products. Canada already has a major commercial CNC producer in the Quebec based Celluforce company.

In addition, Alberta has near commercial volumes of this product.

Lignin is a non-toxic extremely versatile substance mainly produced as a by product from the paper industry. It has high binding properties which are incorporated into a wide variety of products like cement and concrete, animal feeds, oil industry products and a host of other products. West Fraser has also recently opened a $30 million commercial lignin production plant in Hinton Alberta which has a novel more environmentally friendly recovery system.

Kryzanowski also points out the significant opportunity for export of wood pellets to Europe which is expected to grow significantly (it climbed to 10 percent in 2015).

Canada is Europe’s second largest supplier selling $326 million annually but still trailing the U.S. by a wide margin.

The challenge for regions like the Cariboo Chilcotin and other interior areas will be the supply of fibre with the impending down turn in residual material from the lumber industry.

Additional work is needed to find practical ways of getting more residual logging material to markets rather than burning it on site.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.