Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. resumed operations at its Williams Lake plant Saturday following a fire Wednesday.
Leroy Reitsma, president and chief operating officer of Pinnacle, confirmed no one was hurt in the incident and property damage was kept to a minimal.
“We were very pleased with the work of the fire department and our employees,” Reitsma said.
When asked if fire was a concern at pellet plants, Reitsma said the company is “very much looking forward to” completing the proposed upgrade to the plant.
“More recent advances in technology will better safeguard us from fires,” Reitsma said, noting the plant was built in 2004.
He said Pinnacle has plans to make upgrades to both its Cariboo divisions, with the bulk of the $30 million investment aimed at modernizing the Williams Lake plant.
“We are committed to the community of Williams Lake and we want to continue to improve our business there.”
Currently, Pinnacle is seeking a letter of recommendation from the City of Williams Lake for a permit amendment to replace the existing baghouses with a modern cycle filter system. Another improvement would include the addition of a low temperature bed-drying system to help minimize emissions while allowing the plant to diversify its fibre supply.
Reitsma said Pinnacle wants to offer an economic outlet for harvest residuals such as slash piles as well as other wood fibre sources that are becoming available as part of community fire proofing initiatives.
“That’s where we’re really trying to play a role,” he said. “Climate change caused the pine beetle epidemic and now we are trying to clean it up in a way that provides a fuel for a greener energy. We are shifting the way in which we acquire our fibre while doing something positive.”
Reitsma said the company has already partnered with Tsi Deldel as part of the initial to increase slash pile utilization.
Pinnacle currently has nine plants; seven in B.C., one in Alberta and one Alabama.
Quesnel was the first plant to operate but has since been shut down due to a lack of access to fibre.
Williams Lake was the second plant the company built.
The Meadowbank plant, located south of Prince George, is the only other plant in the Cariboo and will also receive emissions control technology upgrading.
“We believe (the modernization) positions us to sustain our operations well into the future.”
When Pinnacle started, its product was mainly used for wood heat, kitty litter and horse bedding. While it still has a market for those uses, the company has found a greater need in Europe and Asia where their condensed pellet is being used on a large industrial scale by replacing coal to generate heat used in producing electricity.
“It’s a carbon neutral replacement for coal.”
Reitsma said the upgrades slated for Williams Lake will make the plant more visually appealing and reduce emissions.
“The technology we are selecting is intended to have a very low visual effect, and the lowest emissions by means of drying that we are aware of,” he said.
“I think we have a great story to tell. We are certainly hopeful that the community will be supportive and that we can move forward on this project.”
Currently Pinnacle is awaiting the ministry’s decision on whether or not they can complete the upgrades. While Reitsma wouldn’t say what the next steps would be if Pinnacle doesn’t get the permit for Williams Lake, he did stress it is critical.
“This project is fundamental to the long-term economic viability of the Williams Lake operation.”
At a meeting in early April, the mayor and council determined they needed more information before endorsing the permit.
Currently about 38 people are employed at the Williams Lake plant, which is situated along the railway tracks down by the water, which has been a bone of contention for some residents.