A transcript of comments on Woods & Waters Nova Scotia (Public Facebook Page) after WWNS Admin posted a link to this post 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
Note: I have a general policy when copying comments from social media of citing only initials not full names of participants so as to focus on the issues, not on the individuals making the comments. The post was made Mar 1. Comments continued up to later in the day on Mar 4, as transcribed below. – DGP
AH: “Freshly cut logs or freshly chipped logs” so misleading. Last place a contractor is going to send saw logs is for bio mass.
DGP to AH: Fair enough. Could you explain why you think that terminology is misleading? I am certainly prepared to change it. How would you describe those logs stashed by Brooklyn Power? The point is they are straight from living trees, they are not processing wastes from a sawmill, and that makes a difference in the carbon balances. If they are turned into chips or some other component of “Hog Fuel” its the same thing, they are derived from living biomass directly, they are not byproducts from a sawmill. If a stand is clearcut, and some logs are sawlogs, and other logs are not suitable for the sawmill and they are chipped and then sent to a bioenergy plant – those are not legitimate “sawmill wastes” from the perspective of carbon emissions. That is the distinction that is important, so i def. do not want to be misleading about it.
SF to DGP: they are not logs. They are tops from the harvest of high value sawlogs, primarily hemlock and pine with some popular mixed in. There were no other markets for those products when they were harvested and were byproducts from high value forestry and certainly no one was targeting it in the woods due to it’s very low value.
That round wood inventory in the picture predates the closure of Northern Pulp when there were high value and robust markets for sawmill byproducts and a small but expensive round wood diet was needed to keep the plant running when the grid demanded it.
Brooklyn energy consumes 100% byproducts from high value lumber production since the closure of NP full stop.
DGP to SF: Thanks, I appreciate the response. Let me understand, (i) what we see in the pic is mostly “tops from the harvest of high value sawlogs, primarily hemlock and pine with some popular mixed in”, or is it mostly the “small but expensive round wood diet roundwood needed to keep the plant running when the grid demanded it”. [It looks like the latter to this untrained eye looking at a Google Maps image] (ii) As I understand it, the big mills at least have their own chipping operations… so normally, would not “tops from the harvest of high value sawlogs, primarily hemlock and pine with some popular mixed in” be processed into chips at the mills, i.e. why would they be in that stash of logs. (iii) I need some clarification of “That round wood inventory in the picture predates the closure of Northern Pulp when there were high value and robust markets for sawmill byproducts and a small but expensive round wood diet was needed to keep the plant running when the grid demanded it.” So I understand you to say that there were not enough byproducts to always keep the mill running when “the grid demanded it” when NP was operating. So could that situation arise again? (iv) When forest stands are clearcut or thinned by your contractors or by WestFor more generally, what happens to the harvested trees/cut logs from those trees that cannot be used as sawlogs? Are those amongst the “byproducts from high value lumber production”? …Anyway this all helps. Thanks.
LATER (MAR 4) I RECEIVED THIS RESPONSE SEPARATELY: ” The pile is certainly tops. There might be the odd stem from thinning but for economic reasons contractors in the woods carefully sort their wood to maximize their return. Sawlogs are at the top of the food chain.
“I’m not aware of any sawmills in the west that have chippers and receive biomass or pulp to chip. All of our chips are from sawing lumber. I can’t speak for the other mills. NP and PHP both have stationary wood rooms for turning low grade wood into chips for pulp or paper. They are very efficient and cost effective.
“As far as where those products go today. They rot and provide nutrients for future forests as there are limited markets since the closure of NP. Especially in the west.
“Low grade markets are going to be essential in the future for high value forestry. Localized wood heat is a good opportunity but it’s developing at a snails pace. There are many solutions out there but nothing is going to happen quickly. I hold a lot of optimism for the future of forestry in NS but people need to stop calling names and throwing stones and need to work together.”
RB to DGP: Crickets from the industrial forestry spokespeople. Guess they can’t answer any of your questions, nor substantiate any of their claims.
A quick google search for “pictures of logs at Port Hawksebury biomass plant” produces lots of images clearly showing this is not waste wood. Not by a long shot.
DGP to RB: Thx. I missed that one. Yes, those need explaining
SF to RB: I have a thing called a job.
I’m not a concrete jungle dweller turned rural activist. I work in the forest sector just like the 5 generations in my family before me. My family with be running a sustainable business long after you are gone.
I have read enough of your banter on the various activist groups to know that you already seem to know everything and seem to be incapable of respectful conversation.
I provided some information to David and the other users of this page. I believe I did so in a respectful way.
If you want answers I would look elsewhere because I have better things to do with my time…
Have a nice day!
RB to SF: No problem. Just calling out misinformation when I see it. There’s no way those are tree tops as anyone who looks at the pictures can tell. Thanks for your respectful reply… You sure can. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. And like that picture of the piles of logs just outside the Brooklyn power plant, it’s quite clearly a mixed aged forest of whole trees that’s been clear cut. It’s as obvious as the nose on your face. Surely someone with your experience knows that.
DGP to SF: ‘Trust you will still respond to my clarification questions.
WH: Currently no markets for low grade roundwood (traditionally referred to as pulpwood, or biomass – not pulpwood grade). Freeman does not have a chipper for roundwood. Tops of trees including all branches are left in the woods, the other low grade products are cut from the bole of the tree.
DGP to WH: Thx. That is some reassurance. But there remain very basic issues with a plant of this sort and it’s hard to see it won’t be susceptible – depending on markets – to repeat a situation in which there are “high value and robust markets for sawmill byproducts” and then an “expensive round wood diet [is again] needed to keep the plant running when the grid demands it.” This is the achilles heel of the whole forest bioenergy business. Also, we have justified such operations on the basis that they are “better than coal”. But we are phasing out coal altogether, so then what is the reference (the “counterfactual”)? Efficiencies would have to be unachievably high to make a forest bioenergy plant better (fewer CO2 emissions) than using natural gas or even diesel fuel to produce electricity. To really reduce the CO3 emissions, the “hog fuel” should be made into longer lasting products that store the carbon… that’s what the industry should be pursuing. So OK, you need the bioenergy plant to allow your operations to be sustainable business-wise. But it cannot be justified by arguing that this is ‘green energy’, that it is ecologically sustainable. You prob disagree. Ok, but ‘Trust me’ is not good enough for either side, and that was the point of my original post – “Fully transparency and complete accounting of feedstocks and full LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments) of the GHG emissions are required to settle claims about whether a particular forest bioenergy operation can be considered genuinely green/carbon neutral) or not.”
WH: Markets for low grade roundwood are required for ecological forestry as outlined in the Lahey report. In the absence of these markets there is no revenue stream to pay for forest restorative treatments that target unacceptable growing stock. Our industry group continues to work diligently on alternative opportunities, including a pyrolysis plant the produces activated carbon and processes chemicals (acetic acid, acetone, and methanol) for large stable export markets. Other opportunities include small wood heat, biofuels, district energy, distributed heating infrastructure, and the like. These opportunities are all capital intensive, take time, and most have great risk – It’s not like buying something that comes with performance guarantees. Hopefully over the medium and long term these new markets can be established.
DGP to WH: Good enough and Thx for participating in the conversation. To reduce strife and make more broadly supported policy decisions, we need to: Do rigorous accounting/modelling financial and ecological, so we have clear ‘facts’, not hype. Make it all fully transparent. Respectfully debate the issues and learn from each other. Everyone avoid name-calling and demonizing individuals.
AH:It will always be a never ending back and forth battle in this industry. Damed if you do, damed if you don’t.
DP to AH: That was the whole point of my original post, in a way this discussion illustrates it perfectly: “Fully transparency and complete accounting of feedstocks and full LCAs (Life Cycle Assessments) of the GHG emissions are required to settle claims about whether a particular forest bioenergy operation can be considered genuinely green/carbon neutral) or not.” So surely that is something the 5 generation sawmill folks and the concrete jungle dwellers can agree on.