Pete Van Amelsfoort, General Manager of Quality Hardwoods Ltd. in Powassan, Ontario has saved his wood products company over $3.9 million dollars in the past 12 years. How? By switching from heating with fuel oil to heating with wood pellets! Current annual savings average $326,000. With the new carbon tax, the savings jump to $359,000. The switch also cut their annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by over 90%, according to a lifecycle analysis study completed by Nipissing University.
Not bad for a small hardwood drying and dressing facility employing 25 people and producing 7 million board feet per year, huh?
How it all started
Quality Hardwoods is a wholesale hardwood lumber company that acquires, kiln-dries, dresses, and packs hardwood lumber to specifications for national and international markets. “We have good people and damn good reputation. When customers start using our product, they get hooked”, says Van Amelsfoort.
“In 2006, we were buying half a million dollars in fuel oil. We needed a new way to heat our kilns, or it was game over” says Van Amelsfoort. In 2007, Quality Hardwoods decided to go for a modern wood heating system as their primary source of heating. They invested in a renewable wood pellet bioheat system since locally produced wood pellets cost less than half of fuel oil. The system consists of two 1 MW wood pellet boilers to heat their kilns and manufacturing space. “We worked out the specs of the system in the spring of 2007, shovels were in the ground in June, and we were in operation by Christmas” says Van Amelsfoort.
The lowdown on wood pellets
Wood pellets—the system’s operating biofuel—comes from mill and harvest residues. Quality Hardwoods source their pellets from ICS Lacroix in Hearst, Ontario. ICS Lacroix is a small, family-owned business. They make softwood pellets from sawdust and wood shavings from the lumber mills in Hearst.
The mill shavings and sawdust ICS Lacroix use to make pellets obviously derive from trees. These trees come from forests that are managed under Ontario’s sustainable forest management regulations with strict requirements for habitat and water protection and for forest renewal after harvest. This means that the wood pellets that ICS produces are a renewable, sustainable, and low-carbon fuel. In fact, cordwood, woodchips, and wood briquettes are also excellent biofuel choices, providing the same benefits as pellets.
When initially planning the boiler system, Quality Hardwoods received helpful support from Roland Kilpatrick, a Professional Engineer who, at the time, worked for the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). The IRAP program supports businesses that want to innovate, modernize, and increase employment opportunities. “I had just returned from a trip to Finland and Sweden where I saw the benefits of bioheat in action and was looking for an opportunity to support its implementation in Ontario. Then Pete Van Amelsfoort contacted me. The timing was impeccable” said Kilpatrick. “Installing the new system saved Pete money, reduced GHGs, supported local forestry businesses, and increased competitiveness. What more could you ask for?”
It gets better!
What’s more, Quality Hardwoods is currently upgrading their environmental permit under the new provincial regulations. The new regulation aims to make it considerably easier and cheaper to install bioheat systems. It recognizes that bioheat systems are in fact modern, sophisticated, and highly engineered heating systems with low emissions and low environmental risks.
Van Amelsfoort takes every opportunity to showcase their bioheat system at Quality Hardwoods. “The provincial environmental commissioner, Gord Miller, came to visit in 2012 and he was blown away!” says Van Amelsfoort, “Gord wanted to know why we weren’t doing this all over the province”. In fact, the province recently chose Quality Hardwoods as the location to launch a new investment in the forest sector late last year, and staff from the Town of Powassan were there to see the system in mid-February. “Think about what this could do for local economies and the environment in Ontario”, says Van Amelsfoort.
If you want to switch to bioheat but you don’t have answers to your burning questions, you can call Quality Hardwoods; They’ve been there, done that! You can also contact Glen Prevost, Industry Advisor with FPInnovations at firstname.lastname@example.org. Glen and the rest of his team at FPInnovations has been assisting Quality Hardwoods with the environmental upgrade process. FPInnovations is a private-not-for-profit research organization that supports Canada’s forest and forest products sector with innovative solutions. With support from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, FedNor, and Natural Resources Canada, FPInnovations recently published a guide on bioheat from forest feedstocks for clean and affordable energy to help other companies realize and benefit from the benefits of bioheat.