A recent (2014) and very detailed report provides the current status of forest biomass policy in Canada.
According to the authors, B.C.’s harvest in 2009 was about 48 million cubic metres and covered an area of 122,620 hectares.
It was estimated that we had the largest volume of roadside harvest residuals (tops, branches and cull logs) in Canada — 13.7 million bone dry tons (bone dry means zero per cent moisture content).
This is almost half of the Canadian total and double that of Quebec with the second greatest amount.
The potential exists for B.C. to provide 50 per cent of its current fossil fuel needs from existing biomass resources associated with forestry, agriculture and municipal waste.
Forest residues from existing sustainable forest industry are estimated to be enough to contribute to almost 21 per cent of the province’s fossil energy demand (12 Mt dry/yr).
This figure was arrived at by assuming that 30 per cent of the forest harvest would be residual and 70 per cent of that could be removed.
Unfortunately, most of the residual material is now burned at the roadsides to mitigate wildfire hazards.
Existing technologies could convert this material into alternate energy forms like wood pellets, bio-fuels, industrial heating or electricity.
Residue and dead trees from the mountain pine beetle outbreak are estimated to be able to contribute an extra 11 Mt dry/ yr until 2026 which would be enough to provide 19 per cent of the provinces energy needs.
At present there is no specific forest biomass harvesting policy in place to regulate operations.
If forest companies have a cutting permit they have the rights to all woody biomass on their blocks and may remove and harvest any material they wish within the requirements of retention of coarse wood debris (CWD) under the Forest and Range Practices Act which are minimal.
No specific licence or agreement for biomass harvesting is required.
The Forest Act now includes two timber tenures that have the purpose of accessing road and landing waste that will not be utilized by the person who conducted the original harvest.
These two fibre recovery tenures are the “Fibre Supply Licence to Cut and the Fibre Forestry Licences to Cut.”
Once harvesting is completed on a specific block the primary harvester is required to provide notice whether or not the waste remaining on the block will be utilized.
If not the rights to the fibre may be allocated to the holder of one of the new fibre tenures.
As discussed in previous articles, the main long term focus should be on the future technologies and value added jobs associated with any industry (pulp and paper, sawmilling, wood fibre production etc.)
The large amount of biomass gives B.C. the opportunity to develop new industries and technologies that are now being developed elsewhere.
A compilation of forest biomass harvesting and related policy.
The technical report from 2014 was by Jean Roach and Shannon M. Birch.
Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.