West Fraser: Utilizing forest biomass

With supply of residual sawmill chips on the decline, we look for other sources such as waste wood

Special to the Tribune: Mark Runge

There has been plenty of discouraging news from the forest industry recently regarding the temporary and permanent closure of sawmills in the interior of BC. A consequence of the reduced lumber production is the reduction in sawmill residual production. Residuals include chips for pulp and paper; shavings and sawdust for pellets, bark and sawdust (known as hog) for energy and steam systems at pulp mills and some of the plywood plants such as West Fraser’s at Williams Lake. As well, hog is used in electrical generators as fuel burned to heat boilers which generate steam and drive turbines such as the stand alone plant in Williams Lake or those built adjacent to a sawmill which West Fraser has done at their Fraser Lake and Chetwynd sawmills.

Read More: West Fraser curtailing operations in five B.C. mills

The reduced supply of sawmill residuals has created increased demand especially for pulp chips. West Fraser has two pulp mills in Quesnel: Cariboo Pulp is a Kraft Chemical pulp mill, Quesnel River Pulp is a thermomechanical pulp mill.

With the supply of residual sawmill chips on the decline we look for other sources such as waste wood on the logging sites. As we process trees into saw logs or veneer logs, there are portions of the tree that don’t meet the specifications of these logs. The top portion, the portion filled with rot and dead trees with spiral cracks all can be used for whole log chipping to make pulp chips. West Fraser’s whole log chipping currently takes place within the West Fraser Q-Saw sawmill in Quesnel.

West Fraser is currently delivering pulp logs from the Williams Lake area where haul distances to Quesnel are economical. We are also purchasing whole pulp logs from the Chilcotin where government programs to reduce carbon emissions have assisted with the vendor’s costs.

Read More: B.C.’s struggling forestry industry needs federal support: Minister Donaldson

The pulp log program that West Fraser has started in Williams Lake provides benefits to the community. We are utilizing parts of the tree that are normally left at the road side as they are not suitable for lumber or plywood. Utilizing this wood requires the logging contractor to process and load it and log hauling contractors to transport it to Quesnel. While not creating new jobs, this program maintains the forestry jobs we have especially during poor economic times for our sawmills.


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Mark Runge is the woods manager for West Fraser.

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