Future of Canada’s forestry sector is renewable
Push aside dated notions of Canada’s forest sector as dominated by lumberjacks focused solely on logging trees and processing the wood. Today’s forest sector is high-tech, with employees skilled in biochemistry, genetics, computer modelling, satellite imagery, and digital processing writes Chadwick Wasilenkoff in the Vancouver Sun. Today’s bio-economy is a dynamic global market that mirrors a paradigm shift to products that originate from natural renewable sources. Mills that have focused on processing timber and pulp are beginning to diversify into bio-energy, bio-chemicals and bio-materials, which include wood fibre and biomass that is converted into renewable fuel, food additives, non-toxic chemicals, solvents, plastics, textiles, and other products.
A study issued by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) earlier this year details how the Canadian forest sector is becoming a central, thriving player in our new bioage. This research demonstrates how the forest products industry of Canada is poised to repurpose the chemicals and bio-materials extracted from trees to exploit a potential global market estimated at around $200 billion.
The forestry sector is finding new life in innovative solutions that are not only helping the once struggling industry turn around, but also helping to usher in a green movement. After two years of work by FPAC, FPInnovations, and the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) of Natural Resources Canada, a new program called the Bio-pathways Project was set into motion this year with the goal of revitalizing the Canadian forestry sector. The project looks outside of traditional uses for wood, lumber, pulp and paper in an effort to create new jobs and sectors with a more sustainable future for the country and its citizens. New products include bio-active paper -paper towels than can indicate contamination; nanocrystalline cellulose composites that can replace materials in aircraft; wood-based textiles (such as rayon); and cross-laminated timber - a technology that produces strong beams and panels for construction products. As the CEO of a security and specialty pulp and paper company, we are in the process of transforming Quebec’s Thurso mill from a traditional pulp mill to a specialty dissolving-pulp operation. Dissolving pulp, a chemically refined bleached pulp of pure cellulose fibres extracted from trees that are used to produce rayon, is a popular cotton substitute in China and other markets. With our Quebec facility, we are transforming an underutilized asset that struggled for market share in the low-value-add commodity marketplace. The evolution to dissolving pulp from traditional pulp metamorphoses the mill into a globally competitive, low-cost producer with a sustainable and profitable long-term future.
The future of the forestry sector is here today, and it offers a bold, innovative, profitable and environmentally conscious path for the industry. Our global concern to reduce greenhousegas emissions leads us through the forest to invest in renewable-energy technologies that use wood fibre.
As reported by Natural Resources Canada, “many mills across the country now convert their wood residues into heat and power for their own operations with nearly 60 per cent of the sector’s energy coming from waste biomass with some facilities already acting as net sources of green power. The industry’s goal, as stated by FPAC, is to become a net producer rather than a net user of energy by 2020.”