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Momentum growing for Hazelton torrefied pellet plant project

In Canada, a proposed wood pellet production plant in Hazelton, British Columbia (BC) continues to take steps forward. Project proponents have recently returned from an international pellet conference in Japan where interest in the project is strong and the demand for pellets as a replacement for coal in energy production is forecast to grow dramatically.

Canada’s first commercial-scale torrefied wood pellet plant is being planned for Hazelton, British Columbia (BC). The 100 000 tonnes-per-annum plant is being developed by Gitxsan Forest (photo courtesy Gitxsan Development Corp).

The pellet plant project is being developed by Gitxsan Forest Inc., a subsidiary of Gitxsan Development Corporation (GDC), the economic vehicle of the Gitxsan Nation.

Our project would manufacture 100 000 tonnes of pellets a year and create about 45 full-time, direct jobs and about the same number of indirect jobs in the region. It is about a CA$50 million project, and we are moving forward with potential international customers and with financing partners, said Rick Connors of Gitxsan Forest Inc. (GFI), a partner in the proposed plant with Quebec technology company Airex Energy Inc..

Connors says the Japanese biomass market is forecast to grow to as much as 33 million tonnes per year as the government is mandating a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and replacing coal or using it in combination with wood pellets in energy production is one way to do this. Pellets are typically sold on long-term, 10-15 year, contracts.

Our project will make ‘torrefied’ wood pellets. It is a process similar to roasting coffee beans. The advantage of torrefied pellets over the white pellets we are more familiar with is that they can be used in coal-fired plants without expensive re-fits to the plant itself. Airex has a unique technology that we will be the first to use in North America of this scale, Connors said.

Fibre for the project would be provided through GFI and other area forest licensees including a few local sawmills who will provide waste sawmill residues that are traditionally difficult to dispose of and will now be used as feedstock for the new plant. Pellets will be shipped by rail to Prince Rupert then loaded on to bulk carriers for Asian markets.

People in the northwest have heard plans for various pellet plant proposals over the last ten or so years. None of these have been as well thought out or planned to the same degree that we now have. We have the fibre the project needs, the technology and product the market needs, and we are confident we will soon have funding in place that will allow us to break ground by the end of this year, said Connors.

Making contacts in Japan, Sylvain Bertrand (centre), CEO, Airex Energy at a well-received networking reception sponsored by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) during the pellet conference in Tokyo.

About Gitxsan Nation

The Gitxsan “People of the River of Mist” traditional territories occupy an area of 33 000 km2 in northwest British Columbia (BC), Canada. The territory is made up of glacier-capped mountains, lush forests and swiftly flowing rivers including the Babine, Bulkley, Kispiox, and Skeena Rivers, heavily influenced by the North Pacific Ocean climate. A matrilineal society that consists of Frog, Eagle, Wolf, and Fireweed Clans, each clan consists of a series of independent Houses (Wilp) with their own High Chief, and traditional territories and fishing sites.

There are approximately 13 000 members of the Gitxsan nation worldwide, with about 70 percent living on the traditional territories. Most live in five Gitxsan villages – Gitwangak, Gitsegukla, Gitanmaax, Sik-e-dah, and Kispiox – and two provincial municipalities, Hazelton and New Hazelton. The Gitxsan people make up about 80 percent of the total population living on the territories with the balance primarily of European descent.

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