Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Innovative solutions from BC's forest industry

While so many people are focusing on all manner of ways to regulate reductions in CO2 emissions, BC's forest industry is doing some rather amazing things that will have significant impacts.

Our of Port McNeil there is a company call Sea Soil. They take wood waste and mix it with fish waste to produce a composted soil/fertilizer. Not a huge reduction in CO2, but a very innovative use of waste. It is this area of waste where the forest industry does the best.

There are conferences for people in the industry to discuss what can be done to reduce waste, how to use waste and how to make more money. In the industry it is called residual material. First of, producing less waste means that there is more product to sell. More product, more money. Second, waste is only waste if there is no way to make a buck from it. Sea Soil is one example of how to do this.

There is a lot of bark material and sawdust produced in any mill. This material needs to find a home. One way to deal with the waste is to produce power with it. There are two basic approaches to this. First is co-generation - burning the material and producing electricity. There is also the option to make petroleum products out of the waste material. There is a company called Advanced BioRefinery Inc (ABRI) based in Ontario that is working on an economical model for producing bio-oil. The prototype can process about 50 tonnes of forest biomass into about 30 tonnes of bio-fuel - a value of about $15 000.

What is really interesting about their pyrolysis unit is that it is portable. You can take out into the woods and process waste material on site. The process they use produces fuel oil, charcoal and synthetic gas. The charcoal and gas are used in the unit to dry the material before the conversion process. All that is left behind is ash.

It is through innovation that we are going to see any real shift in gasses being emitted. Through people finding ways to make money from what they have to dispose of at the moment is where the real solutions lie.

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