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WPAC Maritime Bioheat conference highlights potential for biomass heating in Canada


June 7, 2021
By Todd Humber
Presented by:
Canadian Biomass
Women in Construction

The first-ever Maritime Bioheat Conference, Net Zero by 2030: Growing the Region’s Largest Source of Renewable Energy, sponsored by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) and Canadian Biomass Magazine, put a spotlight on the immense potential for biomass heating in the Maritimes.

Rene Landry, WPAC vice-president and director of Wood Pellet Operations with Shaw Resources in Nova Scotia, closed the June 2 online event by pointing to the opportunity to position pellets as the leading heating fuel for commercial and institutional applications in areas off the natural gas grid, like the Maritimes.

“Customers around the world see the benefits of using Canadian wood pellets; and slowly Canadians are coming to realize this, too,” he said.

“By using local natural and renewable resources, provinces like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick could reduce CO2 emissions by 3.2 million tonnes per year, and save nearly $1 billion for household and commercial heating.”

But it will take work, he added: “We need policies that recognize the benefits of biomass at all levels of government, with incentives for investments and a co ordinated industry approach when we talk to regulators and other decision makers.”

300 plus attendees

More than 300 delegates registered for the three-hour conference, which was supported by gold sponsors Heizomat Canada and Triple Green Products, and silver sponsors Fink Machine Inc. and BCA Énergie. They represented all aspects of the biomass industry, including sawmill operators, forest owners and managers, suppliers of biomass fuel and biomass heating equipment, as well as commercial and institutional project developers, engineers and architects, and government/institutional decision makers.

Listening to leading bioheat experts from across Canada and Europe, participants heard how Canada, as the world’s second-largest producer of wood pellets, can provide global and domestic marketplaces with clean, renewable and responsible energy as both strive to meet ambitious greenhouse gas targets.

“The technology and innovation that exists in this sector is tremendous, and this is not necessarily my grandfather’s wood stove,” MP Kody Blois (King-Hants) said in his welcome address.

“We’re talking about highly efficient mechanized types of systems that are going to be available and are available, and we need to continue to drive that. Obviously our export market is helping to satisfy energy-related challenges outside of Canada; now we have to look at opportunities that exist in our back yard.”

Canada versus the world

Other countries are far ahead of Canada. Dr. Jaime Stephen, managing director of TorchLight Bioresources, said Canada has more demand for space and hot water heat than any other country in the world yet only one per cent of its population is served by central energy plants fueled by biomass/wood, natural gas, municipal waste or waste heat (pumps).

In the Nordic countries, the number is 55 per cent to 95 per cet.

He questioned why Canada is looking to electricity to reduce its GHG emissions when in some jurisdictions, including the Maritimes, electricity is often more carbon intensive than other energy sources.

In her presentation, Goodbye oil, hello pellets, Christiane Egger, vice-president of FEDARENE, deputy manager of OÖ Energiesparverband and manager of the manager of the Ökoenergie-Cluster, said pellets (residential) and wood chips (institutional) are the dominant heating source in Upper Austria. More than 35% of all dwellings are heated by biomass—twice as many as those heating with oil. The 18% using oil for heat account for 45% of CO2 emissions.

“Oil heating is not modern any more, it is dying out,” she said.

“Changing is simpler than you think, and the investment pays off with lower energy costs and environmental benefits.”

Bioheat success in the Maritimes

Théo Losier, development officer with New Brunswick’s Biomass Solutions Biomasse (BSB), spoke of bioheat success stories in the Maritimes, including North America’s first steam wood pellet boiler at the amalgamated Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB) and the Université de Moncton (UDM) Shippagan Campus.

“This was ground-breaking stuff,” Losier said. “Here, we have a carbon-friendly product coming from New Brunswick wood waste, and we are turning it into a clean source of energy that is supporting local businesses and jobs while reducing emissions and costs — it is the future of energy.”

He says other New Brunswick public buildings, including schools and hospitals, now are considering using pellets for energy.

Numerous benefits

Terrence Sauvé, who works with Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to increase resource efficiency and competitiveness of farming and agri-food operations, talked about the benefits of bioheat — from more efficient heat to a lower environmental impact. He said an FPInnovations guide that provides people in Ontario’s rural and remote communities with the information and confidence they need to use biomass for space and domestic water heat is a must read.

“We are late in the game,” he admits. “But the technology is here, we have qualified vendors and qualified technicians.

“We just need to get out the word out there. We all talk about renewable electricity but we do not talk about renewable heat like the UK did with their renewable heat incentive.”

Gustav Melin, CEO of Svebio, the Swedish Bioenergy Association, said one reason Sweden’s forest industry is competitive is that 96 per cent of the energy it uses is bioenergy. “We are able to use waste from forest industry to supply bioenergy. When we harvest a tree about 50% of the volume becomes energy.”

Diversification

The point was echoed by Dr. Jeremy Williams, president of ArborVitae Environmental Services Ltd. He pointed out that biomass is a way to diversify the forest sector, especially with the shift toward more solid wood in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. “Biomass can support the entire sector by providing a market for low-grade fibre.”

A key, he said, is to provide more incentives and publicize pilot projects, as well as overcoming misconceptions from the environmental community about the source of the fibre.

If you are interested in learning more about bioheat opportunities in Canada and were unable to join the conference, you can listen to the presentations by clicking here or visiting www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/virtual-events/maritime-bioheat-conference/