Column: Recent government study shows significant residual fibre available

The provincial government is promoting the increased use of residual fibre.

The provincial government is promoting the increased use of residual fibre (left at the roadside following logging) by a number of changes in legislation and policy as described in its recent “Fibre Action Plan.”

Part of this plan was a recent study  by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations staff which showed sufficient residual fibre was available to replace the loss of sawmill waste material when the saw log component is reduced owing to beetles.

The 2015 Fibre Study done by  Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Resource District staff measured the amount of fibre that remains post-harvest in the Williams Lake TSA. The district staff sampled 10 blocks, five from cruise based cutting permits and five from scale based permits. These findings are the result of systematic and random sampling to show general trends with the current utilization practices.

The results showed a 22 per cent and 28 per cent residual fibre remaining post harvest from cruise based and scale based billing respectively. Cruise-based billing uses field plots to determine the volume of sawlogs delivered to the mills while scale based uses the weight of logs delivered.

According to the biomass studies done by BC Hydro (Biomass Energy Potential of BC), an average log processed for lumber produces 47 per cent lumber and veneer, 33 per cent wood chips for pulp, seven per cent for sawdust, eight per cent shavings and five per cent bark.

The sawdust and shavings that go to the pellet plants and five per cent bark that goes to the power plant totals 20 per cent.

The residual fibre left at the logging site consisted of small tops, logs, broken logs and bucking waste.

Most of this material is burned at the roadside to meet fire prevention concerns. During the market slowdown in 2008/09, local companies delivered some of this material to pellet and power plants to make up for the reduced supply of waste from the lumber mills.

The amount of chips, sawdust and shavings will slowly decrease as the sawlog volume reduces due to the shelf life of pine caused by beetle impacts.

Pulp plants will have to start utilizing pulp logs to make up for the shortfall of chips (i.e. normally 33 per cent from the average sawlog).

The pulp logs could be sent directly to the pulp mills for processing or processed at existing chippers in some local mills.

Processing of pulp logs for chips produces very little fibre for the pellet plants but it is anticipated that the percentage of bark may increase as the switch to pulp logs uses smaller diameter logs.

The harvesting and trucking industry will have to adjust to handling and trucking the small tops and logs to the residual fibre users.

As the shelf life of the pine decreases in the stands west of the Fraser river the harvest will switch to green wood closer to town there by reducing the haul distance for the residual fibre.

As the BC Hydro reports show the use of this residual fibre should be economical if there is a significant bark component still coming from the lumber mills and the residual fibre is relatively close to the pellet and power plants.

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.

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