Is, or could the biomass plant become, a net emitter of GHGs compared to coal?
Details of the sale of Helfler Forest Products operation in Lower Sackville NS are just emerging. The profitable biomass power plant will apparently be run as a separate business in the future, which is new to Kevin Bromley, a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner who is quoted by the CH Feb 2, 2017: “I’ve never seen (a biomass power plant) run independently. Every one I know has been tied to a forestry company. This is the first time I’ve seen a purchase by a non-industry buyer.”
It’s clear according to the article that a priority will be for the biomass power plant to continue “sell electricity to Nova Scotia Power under an ongoing 20-year deal”, while it’s not so clear what will happen to the sawmill operation. “Operating the sawmill, though, is something the new owners are strongly suggesting they want to farm out to someone else.”
View CH article
Also: Hefler Forest Products on the block (posted November 26, 2016)
The apparent separation of the biomass plant from the sawmill operation is worrying from another perspective; it raises the possibility that the biomass plant could be taking in a lot of primary forest biomass to meet its contract with NSP. Assuming that the biomass plant has been utilizing mostly wastes to this point or until recently (or hasn’t been – view Lumber co. forced to burn logs for NS Power), future or ongoing operations that include a large portion of primary biomass would cause the plant to change from reducing GHG emissions compared to coal to being a net emitter of GHGs compared to coal for the next 50+ years.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will look at this issue; at least they won’t until our political leaders of all parties begin to take the science of the issue seriously. View: Natural Resources Canada GHG Calculator confirms Nova Scotia forest bioenergy schemes are worse than coal (posted Jan 3, 2017).