On potential climate benefits of the New Glasgow Nova Scotia District Heating Project 11Jun2022

Claims of climate benefits for any forest bioenergy project need to be backed up with  rigorous and transparent carbon accounting; there is some indication that the New Glasgow project, in contrast to other forest bioenergy projects in Nova Scotia, is moving in that direction.

UPDATE June 20, 2022: ‘just came across this article which provides some background to the New Glasgow project: Is burning biomass the answer, in UNRAVEL APR 21, 2021 “Jamie Stephen wants to bring district energy systems to Nova Scotia…”
UPDATE June 15, 2022: Environmentalists raise questions about proposed biomass heating system – on CBC Info M (audio); New Glasgow to study biomass heat as way to meet climate goals, CBC News · Posted: Jun 15,
UPDATE June 13, 2022: Two sets of comments related to this post are appended at the end of the post, the first set is from comments on the Healthy Forest Coalition Facebook page. The second is a lengthy comment received from Jean Blair of TorchLight Bioresources. It includes an invitation to participate in surveys she is conducting as part of a “research project at Dalhousie aiming to understand perceptions around forest bioenergy and forest management in NS, and if acceptance can be improved by watching an informational video on the topic.” I haven’t commented on the comments; they illustrate a range of perspectives. This issue is not going to go away. I think we would be well served by some critical panel discussions of the issues with reps from different sides of the debates hosted, for example, by MTRI or NS Institute of Science, or a university.
I listened yesterday a.m.  to  CBC Information Morning  interviews related to a district wood based heating project proposed for New Glasgow:

Is New Glasgow a good candidate for a biomass heating system?
CBC Info AM, June 10, 2022 “Natural Resources Canada has given a Nova Scotia company funding to find out if a district heating system could work in New Glasgow. Hear how the facility would burn low grade wood and wood chips to heat more than 90 percent of the buildings in the community.” Some details at https://heatnewglasgow.ca/

Host Portia Clark talked at length with James Stephen of TorchLight Bioresoucres which is managing the investigatory project. He gave a good explanation of the concept which involves burning “low value wood” to heat water which is then distributed via pipes to participating business, institutional and residential properties. It is a system widely used in Northern Europe.

I was impressed that Portia Clark asked the questions that I would have asked related to  carbon emissions. The responses were reasonable except for the response to her last question which in my view repeated some of the cliches the forest industry and supportive government departments often use to promote (or defend) forest bioenergy.

A transcript of the part of the interview dealing with climate benefits is given below, followed by my comments on the statements that I regard as very misleading (those  are bolded in the transcript).

Immediately after I listened to the interview, I consulted the website James Stephen had mentioned,   www.heatnewglasgow.ca , and submitted a comment & question via a form under the Contact Section.

I received a reply just as I was completing this post; the comment & question and the response are also given below. The reply  provided some reassurance that the consultants in this project are  addressing the concerns I had following the interview.

I thought it is all worthwhile reporting on NSFN because there has been  much controversy over bioenergy in NS, and it illustrates why claims about climate benefits of any bioenergy project need to be backed up with  rigorous and transparent carbon accounting.

Transcript of the portion of the interview dealing with climate benefits of the District heating Project

PC: Jamie, to the fuel here, the energy source, how much wood might new Glasgow’s district heating facility require?

JS: So to put it on a  comparator that people might understand you probably be looking at you know around 3 to 4% of the amount of wood fiber that used to go to Northern Pulp.

So this type of system, you know there’s obviously been some economic challenges in New Glasgow because of the closure of Northern Pulp and this system will create that market for low grade wood fiber to enable more ecological forestry. And so you know, it’s certainly not going to replace Northern Pulp in any which way or form in terms of the amount of wood fiber demand, but it certainly will provide an important market to allow us to do that type of ecological forestry which  everybody is wanting to see done more in Nova Scotia .

PC: And when you say “low grade” or “low quality wood”, what do you mean?

JS: So for instance, you know people forget that there’s a variety of trees in a forest and if you want to have a sustainable forest you not only need to have the market for the high quality sawlogs which we use to produce lumber for housing etc but also those trees that are of a species or of a quality that are not, you know, sufficient to go to a sawmill. So if you want to have a sustainable forest, you also have to harvest some of those lower grade trees and that’s where a system like this is essential to be able to implement the recommendations of the Lahey Report.

PC: And then the wood would have to be transported obviously to wherever it’s chipped or the chips would have to be transported so you have to factor in, as far as the carbon footprint, that too don’t you ?

JS: Absolutely. What I would say is people tend to really overestimate the amount of diesel fuel etc used in transportation of wood relative to the amount of energy contained within it. So you’re typically talking about … a truck load of wood and you’re transferring 100 kilometers, you know might consume the equivalent of 1% of the energy content of the wood.

PC: And how far would they would be coming from, I mean would it be local to the New Glasgow area?

JS: Absolutely I mean there’s there’s a lot of low grade wood fiber within Pictou county and so you know we’re really realistically, this volume can easily come within 50, maximum 75 kilometers of New Glasgow.

And so we’re working with the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodland Owners and also act for in terms of sourcing that wood and looking at where would it be you know which properties would it come from, which cooperatives would have come from, and creating that plan and that’s really part of this study as well.

PC: We heard the mayor there at the beginning of this conversation saying you know New Glasgow really wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has an ambitious goal, and when you’re burning wood or any type of fuel, CO2 is added to the atmosphere so maybe it would be better to in light of climate change, let that low grade wood return, the argument would be to the earth; and how do you address that equation?

JS: Well what we can say is that Nova Scotia forests are what is called a “net sink” which means that there’s more growth in any given year than removals. Timber harvest in Nova Scotia is 65% below where it was in 2004.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of untruths out there about forest carbon accounting. What we can see is that obviously, yes, when you burn wood there’s a CO2 release, but people forget that when you remove those trees it  creates space and allows other trees that are remaining to grow healthier,  to grow faster because you’ve created that space. And so  in any give year is actually gonna be no release of net releases CO2 because of the additional growth of the remaining trees. [SOIL]

PC: Jamie we have to leave it there but it sounds like a conversation worth returning to as you get deeper into the study. Thanks for your time this morning….

JS: …As I said if anybody wants to provide input to the study OR heatnewglasgow.ca, please visit, this is really a community project…


In regard to “Nova Scotia forests are what is called a “net sink”

The grouping of working forest land with non-working forest land and then concluding that there is “more growth than removals” is very misleading; surely our forests exist to sequester and store carbon  for more than just the forest industry.

The  question to be asked is, what is the balance on the working forest land?

Right now  we don’t know because even the feds do this kind of grouping when they report carbon balances for managed forests including those of NS. That practice is increasingly being  challenged, e.g. view these two articles, one in a scientific journal and the other an opinion piece in the National Observer:

Net carbon accounting and reporting are a barrier to understanding the mitigation value of forest protection in developed countries by Brendan Mackey et al., 2022, 2022 Environ. Res. Lett. 17 054028. “Current national greenhouse gas inventories obscure the mitigation potential of forest protection through net carbon accounting between the fossil fuel and the land sectors as well as within the different categories of the land. This prevents decision-makers in national governments, the private sector and civil society having access to all the science-based evidence needed to evaluate the merits of all mitigation strategies.” View related article: Tasmania slowed logging and became one of first carbon negative places in the world
Nick O’Malley, May 2, 2022 In the Sydney Morning Herald

Canada’s climate goals are built on flawed forest carbon accounting, enviro groups say
By Natasha Bulowski in the National Observer, Apr 22, 2022 “Canada designates “large areas” of unprotected primary forests that haven’t been subject to human interference as “managed.” It takes credit for carbon removal in those areas but ignores large sources of emissions, the 2021 environmental group report says. Because natural disturbances such as fire, insects, and disease are not human-caused, the federal government omits the emissions they cause to the tally. Yet when trees in wildfire-affected areas regrow naturally, Natural Resources Canada takes credit for the CO2 they suck up, which the report says goes against the IPCC’s guidelines.”

With increasingly sophisticated technology for monitoring forests and GHGs, increasing scrutiny of the accounting methods, and increasing urgency to make reductions in GHGs, its likely that such accounting practices will not last much longer.

In regard to “Timber harvest in Nova Scotia is 65% below where it was in 2004”

This is a comparison Big Forestry folks often like to make. It is also  misleading, at least as used above.

The chart below shows the total volume of wood harvested in NS 1990 to 2019

Wood harvests  were historically less than 4000  cubic meters, but exceeded 5000 cubic meters  1995 through 2004. These higher levels exceeded the wood supply for softwoods  in several years;  further,  the age distribution of our forests overall shifted with net loss of older age classes and gain in younger age classes thereby reducing carbon storage and forest biodiversity. The trend was on its way down after a peak close to 7000 cubic meters in 1997, but salvage harvesting from Hurricane Juan (2003) bumped up the 2004 level (source: State of the Forest Report 1995-2005. – so that’s a particularly inappropriate year to select for comparison!

In any case, if we want our forests to serve both wildlife and  as a source of wood, we need  to leave a significant portion of the “excess growth” to grow old and decompose in the forest, i.e. we don’t want to harvest anywhere near the maximum that is possible from a wood supply perspective alone.

In regard to thinning and the contention that ” in any give year [there] is actually gonna be no release of net releases CO2 because of the additional growth of the remaining trees”.

That’s a quantitative argument; it claims that the volume of wood (and the contained carbon) removed by thinning is equal  to or less than the gain in growth (and additional  capture  of carbon)  by the remaining trees. It has been quite well investigated – see some of the research below. In some cases, it’s been found that yes, the gain in growth more than compensates for the removal in thinning. In other cases, it is less.  So it is situation-specific, and one simply cannot make the blanket claim that  Mr. Stephen made. We need the proper accounting for the specific situation(s) to determine whether in fact thinning and burning the thinnings results in “no net release of CO2 because of the additional growth of the remaining trees”.

Likewise, proper and transparent  LCA  (Life Cycle Assessment) accounting for carbon balances and GHG emissions more broadly for the proposed district heating project would be prudent if New Glasgow is genuinely concerned that the project be at least carbon-neutral, and is broadly accepted as such – especially given the bad press around the Post Hawkesbury Biomass unit run by NS Power.


As I was completing this post, I received a response to a form submission I had made following the interview from Jean Blair, PhDDirector of Planning and Outreach at  TorchLight Bioresources.

My Message

I heard the interview on CBC this am. ‘Particularly interested in your comments about climate benefits etc. Are you doing any detailed accounting/modelling of the projected carbon balances (re: “a lot of untruths out there”)?


Good Afternoon… Thank you for your interest in our project!

We will be quantifying the GHG impacts of biomass heat compared to fuel oil, electric baseboards, natural gas, and air source heat pumps. The biomass fuel will only be sourced from certified sustainable (e.g., FSC, SFI) forests.

If the project goes ahead, we will implement carbon tracking and traceability to prove that growth across the supply landbase exceeds removals and other losses.

This will ensure that, in any given year, there is no net release of CO2 from the overall system and that carbon storage levels in the forest are not reduced.

Modelling is fine, but tracking and traceability are the next level of ensuring positive climate outcomes. We are working with the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodland Owners and ACFOR to ensure forests are managed sustainability and in a way that maximized biodiversity while delivering actual atmospheric GHG reductions.

So that provides some indication that this project will be more objective – and hopefully more transparent – in regard to the carbon balances of forest bioenergy projects in Nova Scotia than has been the case in the past.

UPDATE June 12, 2022. I see that Jamie Stephen is a speaker in an online panel presentation/discussion on the topic Canada’s forests: Our greatest carbon asset or liability? . The event is on June 16, 2022, hosted by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, and people can register to view it. I’m curious. What will be the overall message of this event?


Some of the research on effects of thinning on carbon balances

Thinning Can Reduce Losses in Carbon Use Efficiency and Carbon Stocks in Managed Forests Under Warmer Climate
Alessio Collalti et al., 2018 “Results show that autotrophic carbon sequestration decreases with forest development, and the decrease is faster with warming and in unthinned forests. This suggests that the combined impacts of climate change and changing CO2 concentrations lead the forests to grow faster, mature earlier, and also die younger. In addition, we show that under future climate conditions, forest thinning could mitigate the decrease in CUE, increase carbon allocation into more recalcitrant woody pools, and reduce physiological-climate-induced mortality risks.”

Thinning Effects on Biomass and Carbon Stock for Young Taiwania Plantations
Jiunn-Cheng Lin et al., 2018 Nature Scientific Reports “… The results of this study showed that the total carbon stock of stands with thinning treatments was less than that of the non-thinned stands…If the objective of Taiwania plantations was to store large amounts of carbon in the young growth stage, without regard to the initial rate of storage, a better option is no-thinning. However, the medium thinned forests seem to be more promising for carbon sequestration than the no-thinned forests if a longer period is considered.

The Carbon Consequences of Thinning Techniques: Stand Structure Makes a Difference
Coeli Hoover and Susan Stout Journal of Forestry • July/August 2007 ” In this forest type, changing stand structure by thinning can affect carbon sequestration and stand growth either positively or negatively. Those effects can be significant, with long-term implications for the growth of the stand. In general, structures that favored volume production also favor carbon sequestration.”

Carbon Sequestration and Forest Land Thinning
NRCS Alaska Forestry Technical Note 1, 2008. Helpful explanations on p2 of the document on Effects of Thinning and Effects of Harvesting on carbon sequestration and storage.

Short-term effect of thinning on the carbon budget of young and middle-aged Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) stands
K.Aun et al., 2021. Forest Ecology and Management Volume 492, 15 July 2021 “Thinning is the main silvicultural method for improving stand growth and wood quality, however, despite the relevance and extensive use of thinning in forest management, its effect on stand carbon (C) balance is still poorly studied at the ecosystem level…The present case study estimated the two-year post-thinning effect on the C balance of a pole stand and a middle-aged Scots pine stand growing on mesotrophic sandy soils. Moderate thinning from below reduced the stand C storage by 21–24%, however, the amount of C accumulated in woody biomass, which was removed by logging, is expected to recover in both stands in the following four years. The reduced biomass of the trees contributed to the decreased annual net primary production (NPP) of the stand by 9–11%. The absolute value of net ecosystem production decreased by 0.9 and 0.7 t C ha−1 yr−1 in the pole and the middle-aged stand, respectively; still, both thinned plots maintained their C sink status.”

A Few of the Related posts on NSFN

Image of stashes of cut logs at disabled Brooklyn Power plant in Nova Scotia underscore need for proper accounting to back up green energy claims 1Mar2022
Post on NSFN Mar 1, 2022

Canada’s faulty forest carbon accounting laid bare 30Mar2020
Post on NSFN Dec 28, 2020

Elmsdale Biochar initiative provides some good news on the forestry front, but we still need rigorous forest & forestry carbon accounting for Nova Scotia 28Dec2020
Post on NSFN Dec 28, 2020

Time for Nova Scotia Government to come clean on forest bioenergy feedstocks 19Mar2019
Post on NSFN Mar 19, 2019

Burned, the Movie about forest bioenergy, continues to make the rounds in Nova Scotia
Post on NSFN Feb 17, 2019

Marcus Zwicker: Managed forests sequester more carbon than unmanaged forests
Post on NSFN Feb 20, 2019

Can Dalhousie/AC lead the way on proper accounting for bioenergy in Nova Scotia?
Post on NSFN Nov 22, 2018 & for an update, see Dalhousie University’s decision to source “sustainable biomass” from J.D. Irving and Wagner a “piss-off”Dalhousie University’s decision to source “sustainable biomass” from J.D. Irving and Wagner a “piss-off” by Joan Baxter in the Halifax Examiner, Mar 1, 2022.

Forest management group proposal for biomass heating provides an opportunity for Nova Scotia government to “get it right” on forest bioenergy
Post on NSFN Sep 26, 2018

Plourde/EAC offer constructive analysis of The Report from the Independent Review and suggest ten things the government should do immediately
Post on NSFN Sep 7, 2018 “Says Plourde: “It is doubtful Nova Scotians will see another forestry review anytime soon so that leaves the biomass issue hanging out there unresolved and blows the best shot we had for dealing with it for years to come. Premier McNeil should request Lahey and his team continue their work and specifically address the missing biomass piece. But I’m not holding my breath.”

Some reservations about The Report on the Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia
Post on NSFN Sep 7, 2018 “…aspects I found weak or disappointing: – The very limited discussion/critique of forest biomass/bioenergy: This is an issue I had identified in my submission, but that I also predicted would not be dealt with in any depth. I had expected The Report would recommend LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments) for biomass operations, but it does not, The Report rather encourages small, regional biomass operations (Rec 35 in the Executive Summary…), but there are no brakes proposed to limit their scale. Forest Biomass/Bioenergy harvesting will remain a major contentious issue in Nova Scotia.

While we wait for the Independent Review of Forest Practices in Nova Scotia, Port Hawkesbury Paper hires ex-DNR forest bioenergy advocate
Post on NSFN Aug 15, 2018

Nova Scotia forests, forestry and GHGs 2: Who accounts for the EU’s emissions from bioenergy generated from imported chips?
Post on NSFN Jul 27, 2018

NSP, PHP, NSDNR and FSC appear to be complicit in burning primary biomass from Loon Lake area, increasing GHG emissions, and calling practices “sustainable”
Post on NSFN Mar 17, 2018

Executive Director of Climate Change at Nova Scotia Environment challenged on the “renewable energy” status of Pt Tupper biomass facility
Post on NSFN Mar 17, 2018

Bancroft on the real costs and dismal returns to Nova Scotians of running the PHP biomass plant 24/7
Post on NSFN Feb 7, 2018

Natural Resources Canada GHG Calculator confirms Nova Scotia forest bioenergy schemes are worse than coal
Post on NSFN Jan 3, 2017

UPDATE JUNE 12, 2022: Some of the Comments on this topic on the HFC Facebook Page
The post was about this article: The Future Is Now: 90% Of New Glasgow’s Buildings Could Be Connected To A New District Energy Project

RB: A timely article by DGP on this issue. Would love to see smaller woodlot cooperatives involved doing ecological forestry like this, but I’m still pretty skeptical about biomass use in NS in general. I’d love to see it work, but I also fear our forests may be too depleted already to have ANY wastewood for such ventures.http://nsforestnotes.ca/2022/06/11/on-potential-climate-benefits-of-the-new-glasgow-nova-scotia-district-heating-project-11jun2022/

NM: So many businesses that manufactured hardwood flooring went out of business because they couldn’t access the wood they needed because it was going into biomass. Just no for so many reasons.

LR: So who’s greedy little hands are in this venture, runs in my mind one of the previous governments cronies had shares in the company who was supplying these biomass furnaces to these buildings. Thing is wood chips for pellets were originally said to come from waste products from mills , which soon morphed into clear cutting for wood chips, waste wood became anything that wasn’t pulp wood. Which ended up being every damn tree that wasn’t spruce, or pine. So regardless what the efficiency rate of these bio mass furnaces, are said to be, it’s not the way we should be heading it just another means or excuse for industrial forestry to justify the demise of our forests, and its business as usual.

AF: Logging contractors run on very small margins no one running on private land is putting any thing in the biomass pile that can be sold for more

ML: As you may know, biomass for heating is not the same as biomass for electricity. The former generally has an efficiency that ranges from 60% to over 90% while the later is lucky to achieve 20%. In the opinion of the HFC, biomass for heating can be an acceptable alternative to heating with oil and inefficient forms of electricity. So long as the trees are not procured through clearcut means, an avenue for residual byproducts of lumber production and ‘low grade’ wood is desirable to achieve an industry that is able to be better positioned to support ecological functions and multiple values.

SL: Thank you for this explanation. Hopefully the wood will not be from clear-cutting.

RB: Thanks, Mike. I agree, if we could get industry to actually agree to only use waste wood. The problem I see is that they already claim to be using waste wood to produce electricity, yet we have already seen photographic evidence of whole trees being burned at places like Port Hawkesbury. How can we be sure only waste wood will be used for heating?
And if we are already sending biomass overseas in the form of chips and whole logs, where does our local waste wood for heating in NS come from?
There are more questions than answers when it comes to industry claims around biomass, and the trust simply isn’t there as far as I can tell. Nor do I think industry has earned any trust with the public when it comes to how our forests are being managed.

Post by TN linking to the CBC Interview
This interview about a wood biomass district heating system for New Glasgow aired Friday. It features an interview with Jamie Stephen, the managing director of Torchlight Bioresources, which received the lucrative contract to do a feasibility study for the town. I saw the thread below about this (Buzz article), and I’d welcome people’s thoughts on what Stephen says in the interview.
Here are a few questions this issue raises for me:
Are we putting the cart before the horse with biomass district heating? That is, shouldn’t we start managing forests sustainably for a while before we talk about building these systems? Also, I’m a bit perplexed by how the town would go about putting a network of pipes under all of the buildings, homes, roads, etc. I’ve seen what this looks like to bring in natural (fracked) gas to a town and it involves a huge carbon footprint: tearing up roads, sidewalks, repaving, and all of the diesel involved in running the heavy equipment. Does the benefit of district heating really outweigh all of that?
I’m genuinely interested in hearing people’s respectful thoughts.
One other concern I’ll raise: If you look at Torchlight’s website (https://torchlightbioresources.com/), you’ll see that it’s slick but also anonymous — there are no names, not even Jamie Stephen. A Google search reveals that his bio was posted on the site once upon a time, but it has been removed. That gets my spidey senses tingling.https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-27-information-morning-ns/clip/15918218-is-new-glasgow-good-candidate-biomass-heating-system?

AF: A good market for lower grade trees would mean people with saws could leave the best trees standing for the future and focus on reversing 40 years of borilization do to past clear cutting practices
Many clear cuts have grown back with species more like the boreal forests and less like acadian forests short lived fir and white birch could be cut to encourage more tolerant hardwoods like sugar maple and yellow birch
Much has been said about focusing the industry value added and higher and products but that’s a prosses we should have started 150 years ago we must avoid high grading or taking the best first
Totally understand people’s scepticism on this and the blame Lands on industry and dnr shoulders Lahey review recommended more transparency at DNRR until this happens trust of the public will not support any DNRR plan
Industry must make real change to regaining social license hiring local people with saws to thin forest in a responsible way will require this low grade market

CB: Thank you for your great last sentence: ‘Industry must make real change …hiring local people with saws to thin forests in a responsible way will require low grade market’. The huge mechanized tree harvesters actually should be outlawed.

GW: The environmental community has had an impact in changing things positively in Nova Scotia in the last number of years. Hold these people to the fire(pardon the pun) on what you’d like to see for sustainable practices. Don’t kill a good idea before it starts. I’ve heard things in the messaging that are not accurate and concerning as well. Let’s challenge them to be world leaders

AF:I know much has been said about saw logs ending up in biomass. This would never happen on private land with private contractors wood price is artificially deflated buy crown wood flooding the markets no private contractors could take the financial loss of selling higher value wood as biomass informed private land owners would not except high value saw logs being sold as biomass as this would mean big losses on stumpage checks form the sale of their wood
If crown wood is excluded from this facility the free market value will stop any possible burning of valuable logs

UPDATE, June 13, 2022: Comments received from Jean Blair June 13, 2022

Thanks for your blog post about our project…

Some notes about the content of your post below – feel free to include in your blog in any way you see fit.

Point taken that 2004 is not a good year to compare current harvest levels to. I always prefer to look at longer term averages to avoid those anomalies – there is still 40-45% reduction in harvest levels from 2012-2022 compared to 1995-2005, when the decline started. Annual forest growth in NS results in about 14 million tonnes of CO2 uptake annually, a difference of >1 million tonnes per year (sequestration – removals due to harvest). Of course there are other removals too, due to disturbance, but according to the most recent data I can find, NS forests are still a net C sink, unlike the Boreal.

In regards to the comment about working vs. non-working forest. This distinction makes sense across much of Canada, especially where remote Northern forests are not managed nor are they officially protected. In Nova Scotia though, I don’t think a distinction can or should be made. In part because the size of the province and the fact that most (all?) forests are relatively close to human populations and managed (or protected) in some way. In part because, under the ecological forestry model, there are three types of ‘management’ zones – protected zones, high production zones and ‘matrix’ zones, such that protected (non-working) areas of forest are an important part of the management approach.

In regards to the comments and articles about forest thinning, absolutely the impact of any silviculture treatment is going to vary by forest ecosystem, stand, and how it is actually implemented. I will note though that partial harvest approaches used as part of the ecological forestry matrix are not ‘thinning’ in the traditional sense. Stand thinning typically is used in even-aged, single species forests, usually in pine or other coniferous stands, that are ultimately clear-cut. The partial harvest techniques used in mixed forests, like those in Nova Scotia, typically include single tree selection (aka stand improvement cuts) and various forms of shelterwood harvest. Nova Scotia’s recently published “Guide to the Ecological Matrix” gives a good overview of these techniques.

Again, in terms of carbon impacts, results vary but in general the research (which is limited compared to research on thinning) suggests that carefully planned, low intensity, but frequent harvests in mixed forests managed for multiple ecosystem services can increase carbon storage due to improved tree vigor, growth, and stocking. Because we realize the importance of public acceptance/support to the success of this project, and because we actually do want to see healthy forests in Nova Scotia, we will ensure that biomass comes from forests managed according to the guidelines in the ecological matrix and we will make sure that that source is transparent (some sawmill residues will also likely be used). I have attached an article that outlines some of these findings in mixed, secondary forests in the US (see the references in this paper too). There is another (older) study here that has similar findings and a useful graph showing that moving from clear cutting to partial harvest should increase forest carbon. Yes carbon storage is usually found to be highest in protected forests but we still need forest products so we can protect it all! Careful management can also reduce the risk of stand-clearing disturbances.

Finally, separate from the New Glasgow project, I am undertaking a research project at Dalhousie aiming to understand perceptions around forest bioenergy and forest management in NS, and if acceptance can be improved by watching an informational video on the topic. You may have already seen the surveys through the heatnewglasgow.ca but if you have not already, I encourage you to do one or both. If you felt so inclined, it would also be wonderful if you could point your followers on the blog to them as we want to hear from anyone who lives in the province. Find the surveys here.

Thanks again for engaging…

Related Post on Annapolis Royal & Area – Environment & Ecology, June 17, 2020 & Comments
LISTEN:: Here is a direct link to the Information Morning interview with David Graham Patriquin and Raymond Plourde about the preposed biomass heating project for New Glasgow; Information Morning – NS with Portia Clark: Environmentalists raise questions about proposed biomass heating system

GF: On PEI the contractor or land owner gets $100 a cord for biomass wood road side . There thinning a lot of plantations. What I found interesting it’s stabilized the fire wood price and supply . One might think every think the trend would be every thing into biomass , but it does not appear to be the case on PEI. I think there are over 25 district heating plants on PEI. At one time only 9 % of PEI was forest due to agriculture. Today they have 43 % coverage , planted or other wise.
BW: I think these are the factors that have to be considered. To me, the greatest concern is that they don’t build these plants and then not have the surplus wood they think they will have. It’s like what happened with Port Hawkesbury and other biomass plants. They say all they will need is sawmill waste, etc.. but then next thing there isn’t enough of that, and it’s on to whole tree harvesting to keep everything going because these plants cost too much money to let them shut down or run as lower capacity. I look at what has happened with the DRAX plant in the U.K. It can never seem to get enough wood and I think they have recently expanded it even more. If I recall correctly, they have bought out Pinnacle Energy Resources and are now shipping wood cut down in British Columbia, to England to burn at DRAX. That cannot be energy efficient and certainly doesn’t seem very sustainable. I think everyone has to start being a lot more forward thinking about projects before they start them — which hopefully is what will happen in the case with New Glasgow. If it can run with what it can locally source, that’s one thing. For example, if they expect to start cutting down trees in Annapolis County to ship up to New Glasgow to burn, that isn’t okay.

GF: you are aware there are hundreds of bandsaw mills around the province . Some are hobby of coarse , but there always some that would like to expand . To do that you need to satisfy dept of environment what you will do with the waste.there no danger of grinding up whole trees for biomass. There are two main reasons why I think this . One the price of lumber would have to drop dramatically which means saw mills will shut down. The fire wood offered to the public is rejected due to species mix like poplar , Grey birches . It does not look like lumber will be dropping in price soon , and currently the public only wants maple for fire wood so we have ample species that used to be bought by NP.
While pluorie is correct that there is nothing in the Lahey report about a market for low grade wood , it was not Lahey job to specify which markets or job opportunity need to exist. He only provides a framework of what the elogicial forestry concept is to NS and with in a frame work that cutting wood will be a part of that process . If no cutting was a requirement one paragraph would have been suffice. However Bob Seymore who the bulk of the material came from in his recorded sessions posted, was clear with out a low grade market for wood , nothing can be done .

BW: I don’t have a problem with low-grade wood being used for various purposes including for biomass. What I do have a problem with is building out costly infrastructure with the supposition that low-grade wood is plentiful enough to feed the system sustainably, but then after a couple of years, it is realized that there will never be enough and it will need more fuel that can only come from trees that should have been left in the forest. That is the problem with so many of these schemes – and I don’t just mean biomass and forests. They are sold to us on the basis of “cheap fuel” (for now), but then later on, we discover that there isn’t enough fuel source. An analogy is building a big house that you’re going to heat with the wood out of your own back yard and after a couple of years there is nothing left, it’s winter, and you have to start burning your furniture to keep it warm. That’s basically what seems to happen. Everything is great at first, and then the trees within easy distance are gone, and it means going further afield to get more wood, and then you start burning the wood that it was said you wouldn’t be needing to cut down. This isn’t just us doing that. it is happening all over the world and that’s why the market for biomass is forecast to zoom upwards over the next 2 to 5 years. Everyone is looking at biomass as the solution to everyone’s problems. I think it will turn out to be like every other thing — you get too many people wanting to use the same thing, and next thing you know, there isn’t enough to go around. The bad thing in this case is that our forests do have another valuable service that they supply and that has to do with water retention in soil, moderation of the watersheds, and carbon sequestration, and that is without even taking into consideration the habitat provided for plants and wildlife. If too many people around the world, are banking on burning trees to create heat and power, I think it’s pretty obvious where this is going — and it’s not to somewhere very nice…I guess what I am getting at is that we sit here in this province, thinking that we are immune to the bad things that happen to people in other parts of the world — droughts, floods,forest fires, contamination of our water from polluting industries, deforestation, over-population, etc.. Aren’t we a bunch of smart guys! The truth is, all of the bad things happening elsewhere in the world can just as easily happen to us as well if we aren’t careful – and in fact, some of them have already happened. I don’t know how things are where you are, but where I live, every time there is a heavy rain, the watershed up above us on the south mountain which has be literally SCALPED of forests all along the top above us — to supply the forest industry — is dumping all of that water into our rivers and brooks so that it tears down, floods us, then pours on out into the oceans, leaving the lakes above us dropping to ridiculously low levels in summer. Do you think I haven’t seen this kind of thing in my travels to other parts of North America? There is nothing about Nova Scotia that makes us “special” or “immune” to bad things happening if we are too stupid to be careful with how we do things here. I see way too much evidence of “stupid” to have much confidence that those in charge actually have a clue about what they are doing to the environment in this province.

HeatNewGlasgow:Good discussion here! This is TorchLight’s page that we created for the New Glasgow project. Our goal with the project is to enable ecological forestry in the region by strengthening the local market for low grade wood from private forests. Forests will still be managed and harvested primarily for saw logs but to avoid high grading and make the whole system economical, a market for low grade wood is required. We will be looking at using both low grade wood from the forest and sawmill residues, Ensuring there is a long term, sustainable wood supply available locally is a very important part of the study. For context, to heat all of New Glasgow would require somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50,000 tonnes of wood chips annually. Northern Pulp used well over a million tonnes annually. Should the project move forward, a biomass/carbon tracking and monitoring system will be implemented as we know this is key to gaining public acceptance. No stand will ever be harvested just for biomass as, aside from the environmental implications of this, it would not be profitable.

GF: I’m not sure if it’s been thought about , but the development quickly of electric big trucks would make this project very suitable for them. I think the haul in radius will be very suitable and serve as a suitable catatilust for future projects with in residential areas. Most opposition to the trucks has been noise. Electric will eliminate that.

HeatNewGlasgow: The importance of a market for low grade wood in the ecological forestry model is indeed recognized in the Lahey report as well:
“I recommend concerted action on developing alternative markets for low‐quality wood, such as small‐scale wood energy projects, as a way of strengthening demand for private wood in the region.” (page x of Executive Summary)
Small-scale is relative, compared to a pulp mill the New Glasgow project is small. Again, long-term wood supply is a very important part of the study….We understand the skepticism and that this will not move forward without the enthusiastic support of the community, which is why we are working closely with the Federation of Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners (part of the Family Forest Network), as well as our forest operations partner ACFOR, to ensure biomass sourcing is done in a way that supports healthy forests – and not just on paper. Operator training and monitoring of the fuel supply region will be critical to achieving positive outcomes for the climate and the Acadian forest. I (Jean Blair, Director of Planning and Outreach at TorchLight) have spent the last 15 years working and studying in the fields of ecology/forestry (my bachelor’s degree is from Dalhousie, in ecology) and climate change mitigation and have spent many nights camping in Nova Scotia’s forests – I have no desire for this to move forward if it means degrading forests and contributing to climate change. We hope to prove the skeptics wrong!

AK: The steering committee of the Family Forest Network has received no information from Torchlight or any other partner in the New Glasgow project, and it is inappropriate to reference the network in this context. FFN is focused on an ecological forestry pilot on smaller, privately owned woodlands.

HeatNewGlasgow: apologies for the premature reference I have removed it from the post – I was only pointing out that FNSWO is a partner on our project and is also a part of the network. I will get in touch with you outside of this platform and hopefully we can arrange a time to chat. Our aim is also to support ecological forestry in smaller private woodlots.

RN: Here Nova Scotia Community Colleges | NSCC are leasing boilers to heat there schools. The company leases the furnace out for 10 years and supply all the wood chips. Based out of South West Nova, its scary how much land is being stripped.

GF: there might be a lot of cutting going on , but it’s to supply the $300 dollars the square foot cost to build new houses and renovations.

RN: the company purchases cheap trash wood from contractors. They stock pile for a year a head than chip. So everything is cut, I assume contractor picks out any mill wood.

GF: I’m pretty sure the mill wood is picked out ..for 40 years we have lobbied and planned to make NS the place to come , live and play . I know because I was on many community committees. All that grant money received over the years to do this promotion finally hit the nerve of those with the cash , and now they commith with a commitment to increase our population by 1 000 000 more by the provincial government. Get ready for change.

BW: Plenty are already learning we have a terrible health care system, the forests here in the southwest are being torn down before our eyes, people’s properties are being flooded by out of control watersheds, the dept. of transport does ridiculous things to reroute culverts causing screw-ups they won’t fix, and plenty more disasters. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to move here if they have things good where they are. People come here thinking they will be able to get medical care, or that if they get too old to live in their home, there will be a space for them somewhere. hahaha

RN: yes there will always be change and hopefully we never stop learning. The changes we have seen in the last 40 years, the lesson from that change is going to cost a big price, never to be recouped.

BW: Exactly. If anyone thinks for one second that the forest industry is going to be some great saviour to the economy of Nova Scotia, sorry to tell them that they have rocks in their heads. Forestry has had decades to show that they can do things right and help the province and what do we have to show for it — a bunch of degraded forests — the Crown lands have been trashed. Now we have gold mines moving in on us!! WOOOOOWOOOO!!! Gimme a break.

GF: I also point out any cutting going on like you speak about would be subject to any current wildlife habitat / water course regulations . The processing facility will also be responsible to either pay a fee into a government fund or produce a silvicultural plan based on the credit value. The type of wood also determines the type of silvicultural work completed. For example if it’s softwood, the credit value must be spent or completed in softwood, vise versa for hardwood, but you can’t take the value of one and spend it on the other. The registry of buyers regulations and the science behind the sivics of the trees ensures there is a sustainable supply of wood

HeatNewGlasgow: thanks for sharing. There is a link to our surveys on the site – we want to hear from as many Nova Scotians as possible, it’s important to have a say!

BW: The problem with surveys is that they can be used against us. We’ve seen how DNRR and Westfor have used the HPMV comments submission forms as a way of pretending they have conducted community engagement. They give us this “opportunity” to submit comments, and lack of comments is seen as whole-hearted community approval for whatever is being proposed. You know well that when people started sending emails with their comments to DNRR instead of using a complicated submission form that wouldn’t work properly on our slow, rural connections, DNRR then banned submission by emails — as a way of banning us from commenting. We are so accustomed to being stick-handled and manipulated, that filling out survey forms is viewed as a form of manipulation.

GF: So what am I supposed to do with a larch stand planted in 1982? During my 10 years of running the private land program we had some land owners plant larch. There main idea was to use the larch for firewood . Larch has basically the same btu as hardwood. One stand in particular a merchantable thinning was done , the wood went to NP. The fence post market is literally flooded so that market is not an option. The stand has not yet reached a sawable size , and when it does the best part will be one butt piece. In order for the stand to reach additional size it will need additional thinning . Lots of attention to micro plastics in the water . Some lobster fisherman have begun using wooden traps again and some have built special mills for this . Lobster trap wood , cut 53 inches sells for about $300 a cord . So during the thinning process your going to get some, but with no NP market for biomass/pulp wood this material for the lobster trap will never get to the person needing it the lobster fisherman.

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