Building on the foundation of previous research on achieving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions-free mills, FPInnovations scientists have gone a step further and completed a full evaluation of energy efficiency across the forest-sector value chain.
The results will guide its member companies in identifying and correcting energy and GHG bottlenecks.
In two wide-reaching case studies, the energy used by two forest-operations companies, one on the East Coast and the other on the West Coast, were analyzed across their full value chains. The case studies looked at biomass supply, sawmills and wood-products facilities, as well as pulp and paper mills, and final products.
The yearlong project was a collaborative effort by scientists in FPInnovations’ Pointe-Claire, Edmonton and Vancouver offices who have a wide range of expertise in all facets of forest value-chain operations.
“FPInnovations is perhaps the only Canadian research organization with the capability to complete such an in-depth and far-reaching study with in-house talent,” says Tatiana Rafione, a researcher specializing in energy-efficiency analysis. “We have scientific experts in biomass, transportation, mill operations, bioproducts and life-cycle analysis. Collaboratively, we were able to analyze the full spectrum of forest operations.”
The case studies revealed several ways to potentially make each component of the value chain more efficient, helping the forest industry stay on the path towards its GHG emissions reduction targets while optimizing the use of existing biomass.
Improving operating practices include the electrification and replacement of older equipment and installing new technologies at a low capital cost. For example, card locks for fuel dispensers, cab heaters and idle engine shutdown timers.
Biodiesel generated from biomass could help decrease GHG emissions, but there are supply constraints in several regions. However, there is potential to recover biomass residues within the existing average hauling distances, which could then be used within the value chain. In both case studies, 35 per cent of excess biomass was derived from biomass residues.
Sawmills and wood-product facilities
Optimizing operations and reducing energy consumption can make more hog fuel available, which will reduce dependence on external sources, all the while decreasing GHG emissions. These optimization measures can also result in natural gas or biomass savings that could be used to produce bioenergy and other value-added chemicals. Indirect GHG reduction methods include reducing the use of chemicals by replacing phenolic resins with lignin extracted from kraft mills.
Pulp and paper mills
The biggest potential for energy-reduction options lies in this link in the value chain. Not all measures would reduce GHG emissions, but they would focus on maximizing power generation. An example would be biomass savings, which could amount to more than the biomass required to maximize power generation. Alternatively, the use of excess biomass in a gasification unit to generate syngas could replace natural gas in pulp and paper operations.
Operating mechanical pulp mills represents the largest requirement of external electricity in the value chain. Existing cogeneration units have the potential to generate the electricity needed by sawmills, pulp and paper, and panel facilities.
Low capital expenditures
Carbon capture technologies would help eliminate GHG emissions from lime kilns and could account for over 30 per cent of potential GHG reduction. Carbon capture can be expensive, however, one third of the measures identified in the case-studies are considered low capital expenditures.
The results were presented to FPInnovations’ member companies participating in the case studies and an overview was presented at the Pacwest meeting in June 2019.