Pacific BioEnergy Corp. (PacBio) recently announced that it has completed the McBride Residual Fibre Recovery Project. The project was conceived in 2018 as PacBio became aware that there was substantial residual harvest or “slash” fibre available from the McBride Community Forest. The fibre was slated to be burned to prepare the harvest sites for replanting. However, climate conditions in the mountainous Robson Valley can often limit burning opportunities as the resulting smoke can settle in the Valley for long periods and negatively impact local air quality. The McBride Community Forest went looking for a solution and PacBio responded.
PacBio has been grinding available forest residuals for the past 10 years to partially supply its Prince George plant where it manufactures wood pellets for customers in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Why burn fibre that can generate local jobs, new contract opportunities and improve Canada’s balance of trade by exporting wood pellets to energy customers wanting to lower their GHG emissions? In fact, PacBio has led the industry during the past decade by grinding fibre that was destined to be ‘piled & burned’. This was a solution that met the needs of the McBride Community Forest while providing additional local benefits.
McBride Mayor Eugene ‘Gene’ Runtz says, “This project was a triple win for McBride. We all breathed easier when we learned that the fibre would be used at PacBio’s plant in Prince George instead of being burned and filling the air in McBride with wood smoke. We all celebrated the grinding and trucking jobs for local residents that came with the project. PacBio told us they would hire local whenever possible and they were true to their word. The project also presented new opportunities for local businesses. PacBio hired local contractors for road maintenance, fibre sorting and truck loading, and rented land at a local business to inventory fibre before it was trucked to Prince George. Opportunities like these are important for a small community like ours and we thank PacBio for making it all possible.”
The project began in February 2019 and involved grinding harvest residuals that would have otherwise been ‘piled & burned’. The project resulted in almost 9,000 tonnes of fibre being used for pellets instead of being burned. It also created seasonal employment for people in the McBride area involved with grinding and trucking, along with new contracting opportunities for local businesses.
PacBio Forestry Operations Supervisor, Conor O’Donnell, says, “The opportunity to create local employment local contract opportunities is one of the side-benefits of projects like this. And, especially in smaller communities like McBride, a project like this one can have a big positive impact and we’re pleased to participate. Hopefully, based on the success of this project, we’ll be able to continue to provide local employment opportunities and secure fibre for our facility though partnerships with local contractors and the McBride Community Forest.”
The McBride Residual Fibre Recovery Project was completed with the support of the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FES). FES is an agency established by the Province of BC to help reforest and sustain BC forests. PacBio applied for funding to partially offset the trucking costs for utilizing fibre outside PacBio’s normal economic range to make the project feasible. FES knew that the community supported the project and that made it even easier to support.
Forest Enhancement Society BC Executive Director Steve Kozuki added “One of the goals of FESBC and the Governments of BC and Canada is to mitigate climate change by improving the management of greenhouse gases in forestry. We are now making significant contributions to achieving this goal because there are so many communities, First Nations, companies like PacBio and others who are working together to create a sustainable bioeconomy that provides good jobs, community stability and cleaner air. This project with PacBio demonstrates that the economy and the environment can go hand-in-hand when the right partners come together with a common vision. The result was additional fibre for PacBio to support its wood pellet operation to make green energy in Prince George, less smoke in McBride, and new employment and economic opportunities for McBride which would not have occurred had the fibre been piled and burned.”
PacBio Woodlands Manager, Joe Kenny, says “Forest professionals work hard to develop solutions to maximize utilization of harvest residuals. British Columbians support the forest industry with the knowledge that forests will be managed sustainably, and that waste will be minimized after logging crews fell the timber. This project speaks to that vision. The Community Forest directed saw-logs to the sawmills for conversion into lumber, suitable wood chips went to the pulp & paper mills in Prince George, and the rest we ground to make wood pellets instead of it being ‘piled & burned’. This project is a great example of the old saying ‘Waste not, want not’. Our Company and the BC wood pellet industry is part of the solution to maximize utilization of harvested fibre and we’re very proud of our role in that process.”
PacBio CEO John Stirling stated, “The McBride Residual Fibre Recovery Project is another example of the innovation that comes with collaboration, a willingness to maximize utilization of harvested fibre, and a resolve to minimize impacts on the environment and people’s health. I want to thank the McBride community, local contractors, and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FES) for their collaboration to make this project a success. We approached the project on the principle that it is better to ultilize already harvested fibre and create new employment and contracting opportunities versus burning it in the Robson Valley and impacting local air quality. We believe this project can be repeated elsewhere in BC with similar success.”