Alberta Forrest

The bioenergy project is part of a larger trend in the forest industry, where waste materials are converted into a valuable source of fuel. Companies work to achieve zero-waste and use the wood by-products created from the manufacturing process to generate sustainable green energy.

Bioenergy comes from many different forms of biofuels and is produced from renewable, biological sources.

Biomass

Biomass, or biofuel, is any kind of organic material that can be used to supply heat and/or electricity.

Wood and wood by-products tend to be more energy dense and less expensive to grow and transport than other forms of biomass. Common forms of wood used as biomass include:

  • Black liquor, which is a waste product produced from pulp and paper mills
  • Fuelwood, such as small logs and branches produced from logging
  • Wood chips, made from cutting or chipping larger pieces of wood
  • Wood pellets, made by compressing wood material and pressing it into cylinders
  • Wastes and residue, such as bark, shavings, and sawdust created from various forest operations

Alberta’s forest products industry has invested over 20 years of research and hundreds of millions of dollars into improved biomass utilization techniques. This research has yielded many advances, including:

  • A reduced environmental footprint
  • The increased use of biomass as an agricultural fertilizer
  • Using biomass to improve growth rates in reforestation
  • Significant carbon offsets

Our member company Canfor is one of many examples where wood waste from the sawmill is burned to generate a sustainable, renewable source of power. Watch the video below to learn more.

Pinnacle Renewable Energy Inc. is an example of one of our many member companies that manufactures and distributes industrial wood pellets. These pellets are burned and used as a greener, renewable power source.

Why are pellets a great alternative to fossil fuels?

  • When pellets are burned, no additional greenhouse gases are emitted. This means that using wood pellets as a fuel source maintains a carbon-neutral cycle.
  • Wood pellets are created from wood waste. Using leftovers from our wood products as a heat source is sustainable.
  • Pellets burn more efficiently than other fuels, and emissions meet even the strictest Environmental Protection Act requirements.
  • A lower moisture content results in higher BTU. Wood pellets have 4-8% less moisture, which also makes for easier handling in freezing conditions.
  • The small size and shape of the wood pellets makes them easy to store and transport.
  • Pellets have the lowest emissions of all solid-fuel burners.

Biomethanation

Biomethanation is another method of producing bioenergy, where organic material is converted into a methane rich biogas. Biogas can be used to generate heat and electricity, which our mills can use in the pulp-making process.

Pulp mills use water from the river in their pulping process and they return 93% of that water when finished. Before that water can be returned to the river it must be cleaned.

In a process known as anaerobic digestion, microorganisms are used to break down organic matter found in the effluent (waste water). During this process, the bacteria produce methane, or biogas. This biogas is then used to generate green electricity.

Slave Lake Pulp mill, a subsidiary of West Fraser Mills Ltd., began exploring biomethanation in 2012. Biomethanation helps reduce their reliance on the provincial grid and natural gas. West Fraser currently generates more than 60% of their energy requirements from carbon-neutral biomass fuels.

Our members at Millar Western have the world’s first zero-effluent market pulp mill. They use their biogas to generate 5.2 megawatts of renewable electricity and capture waste heat from the plant to offset natural gas usage in the pulp drying process.

Find out how our members at Millar Western convert organic material into biogas to produce sustainable green energy in the video below.