A New Year has Begun and WPAC is Ready!

Canada’s pellet sector is a global powerhouse not just in producing pellets but in the global fight against climate change. In a large part, this is the result of the hard work of our members.

As a sector, it’s our responsibility to keep pushing, delivering, and innovating. The Wood Pellet Association of Canada and its members take this responsibility seriously. We’ve been busy working on every front, both globally and domestically, from supplying global markets with renewable energy to alleviating energy poverty right here in Canada and to making our people and communities safer.

Global Respect

Globally, we have participated in ground-breaking discussions from India to Japan and across Europe and we’ve made tremendous progress on meeting the burgeoning demand for wood pellets and on logistics and policy fronts. Today countries like India are recognizing the potential for biomass to  reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy. Across the world in Japan, Canadian pellets surpassed exports to Europe.

In December, WPAC joined B.C. Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston as part of the Japan Trade Mission delegation at a gathering of key customers, trading partners, governments, First Nations and industry leaders at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo to reinforce the importance of B.C.’s historic trading relationship.

What also stood out for me this year was the uptick in residential and commercial demand for biomass in Europe which now makes up 48 percent of consumption and is supported by incentives through grants, policies, regulations, and education.

Ongoing collaboration with our European partners is key to ensuring the steady growth of biomass.

I recently joined EU decision-makers and bioeconomy stakeholders and authorities in Brussels, Belgium to discuss the broad implications of the European Deforestation Regulation and possible outcomes at a seminar hosted by the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA). Canada was the only non-Nordic nation invited to sit on the expert panel, with participation of more than 40 delegates from across Europe, the UK and the US.

Global Focus for 2024:
  • EU Deforestation Regulation
  • In-person missions to Japan and Taiwan
  • Translated marketing materials
  • Geolocation Pilots

Domestic Demand on the Rise

Interest in the role of wood pellets in both providing renewable energy but also in making communities safer is growing. We are supporting NB Power’s initiatives to increase awareness of the benefits of local wood pellets at both the residential and commercial/industrial levels.

Today, the five pellet plants in New Brunswick have capacity to produce 465,000 tonnes annually, that’s enough to heat 100,000 homes. A big shout out to our members in the Maritimes who hosted NB Power staff on a tour of a pellet operation as well as a stop at the Grand Falls Hospital which has installed bioheat as a primary energy source.

Levelling the playing field for wood pellets in Canada has been a major strategic objective for our members this year.

Rebates and incentives are readily available in Canadians in both the north as well as in New Brunswick and this fall Ottawa announced plans to expand its clean technology and electricity tax credits to include forest biomass conversion technologies for heat and electricity generation. Our nation’s capital was the chosen location for WPAC’s annual conference in September. It was another huge success celebrating the strides we’ve made as well as to look at the next steps we need to take to advance the bioeconomy with innovative solutions and new products that will support the transition to a greener, more sustainable world.

We are immensely proud to support the important work of the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. which aims to enhance forest resilience to wildfire and climate change for the lasting benefit of British Columbia’s environment, wildlife, forest health, and communities.

Much of this work focusses on better utilization of forest residuals. Given the catastrophic fires of 2023, this is an important effort we can all get behind; and an expansion of this type of programming across Canada is critical.

Domestic focus for 2024:
  • Maritimes expansion
  • Domestic marketing initiatives
  • Arctic Energy Alliance Biomass Week
  • WPAC Annual Conference in Victoria
  • Boiler Standards
  • Regional Risk Assessments for Sustainable Biomass Program
  • R&D: Agricultural Biomass & Forest Residuals

Safety at the Forefront

Every day, WPAC members and their employees work tirelessly to ensure leading safety practices are implemented and embraced. We know we will be measured by our collective efforts as an industry. Our reputation and the trust of regulators, the general public and the families of our employees depend on this. In 2023, we focussed on safety both at home and across the ocean in Japan.

Operator Safety Training for pellet manufacturers has officially risen to the next level. Working together with the BC Forest Safety Council, we have launched an industry-wide initiative to deliver a free, comprehensive, digital e-learning safety training program for plant operators and supervisors.

Around the world, process safety management (PSM) is becoming central to worker safety and managing risk. PSM implementation protects personnel, equipment, and production uptime, and is associated with lower maintenance cost, insurance, and capital. The industry will implement PSM through a strategic long-term plan, using the CSA Z767 Process Safety Management standard as the framework. It is anticipated the initiative will be a core focus of the WPAC Safety Committee Workplan for the next five-to-seven years.

Our safety committee continues to provide guidance and direction to our safety initiatives. We meet monthly virtually and over the course of 2023 we held a number of workshops and meetings to explore the latest in safety and reinforce our commitment to the promises we make to our workforce, their families and the communities in which we operate.

We held a safety workshop in Ottawa that provided greater clarity and input on those initiatives, and in November 2023 more than 50 participants—from wood pellet producers, operators, suppliers and regulators—from across Canada met in Prince George, B.C. to discuss evolving trends and regulatory topics.

If you missed this event or want to share the discussions with colleagues, you can find a full report summarizing the Wood Pellet and Bioenergy Safety Summit on pellet.org. Live polling was conducted throughout the summit to capture participants’ observations, recommendations and experiences.

We also made safety a key part of our outreach in Japan this year. In partnership with FutureMetrics, we hosted a workshop to address the risks of silo fires. The workshop was held in Tokyo and was sold out.

Safety Initiatives for 2024:

Partnerships are Everything

We’re a small team at WPAC so none of our initiatives and achievements would be possible without the unwavering support of our members and numerous government agencies that support us on the safety, research and development, and marketing fronts.

Despite what sometimes seems like a mountain of work ahead, we remain focussed on the two key areas: first, to grow a resilient pellet sector that creates green, renewable products at the forefront of the global transition to a low-carbon economy, and second, to maximize the sector’s innovation in the bioeconomy.

Let’s get to it!

Gordon Murray is the Executive Director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada.