Last week, Alberta’s forest products industry celebrated the opening of a new power generation facility at Manning Diversified Forest Products, in the northwest corner of the province. The facility is unique. It’s the first in Alberta to use an innovative thermal oil vaporization process developed in the laboratories of Turboden in northern Italy. Once it’s up and running, the project will be capable of producing 3.5 megawatts of energy – enough to satisfy Manning Diversified’s needs and supply excess production to Alberta’s grid.
Although it’s unique, Manning Diversified’s plant is not an anomaly for Alberta’s forest industry. Increasingly, forest companies are turning to electricity production to maximize the value of the resource, eliminate waste, and produce an in-demand product – electricity to run our homes, businesses, and public facilities. In fact, the forest industry generates enough electricity to power the equivalent of three Grande Prairies. This is a remarkable achievement considering that the vast majority of this production has come on-stream in the past decade.
Power produced from forestry sources is good news for everyone. It creates jobs in communities throughout rural Alberta, uses a fully renewable resource to generate electricity, and makes use of residual products like sawdust and bark. The beehive burner, once a ubiquitous part of the forest industry, has been almost entirely eliminated. Using residuals also means that no additional trees are harvested to generate power, it’s simply making use of waste that can’t be used to make lumber, pulp, or panels.
For the industry, power generation marks a major step forward in both environmental and economic sustainability. Making the most of the resource is a great way to ensure long-term viability. Frank Oberle, Alberta’s Minister of Energy put it best when he said “You have products that everyone wants… and you have a well-managed forest. Put them together, and you can employ half the town for generations to come. What could be better?” And it’s not just about one town. Alberta’s forest industry employs 13,000 people, indirectly creates thousands more jobs, and is a major contributor to 50 communities. With a continued commitment to innovation and environmental stewardship, the industry is working hard to make Minister Oberle’s prediction of long-term sustainability come true.
Paul Whittaker is the President and CEO of the Alberta Forest Products Association. The AFPA is a private, non-profit industry organization, representing forest products companies operating in Alberta. For more information about the Association or Alberta’s forest products industry, please visit www.albertaforestproducts.caBack