Industry port and pellet tours kick off WPAC 2015

By Katie Fletcher | November 04, 2015

A sold out day of tours launched the third annual Wood Pellet Association of Canada conference Nov. 3-5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In addition to the Port of Halifax, conference attendees visited Shaw Resources and Scotia Atlantic Biomass pellet plants.

The day began with a bus tour of the Port of Halifax, including stops at ocean terminals, Halterm, south end container terminal, Halifax grain elevator dry bulk terminal, CN rail yards and corridor, Richmond multipurpose terminal and Ceres container terminal.

“The port has the deepest water on the East Coast of North America flowing into it, it’s a natural harbor and in some places it is up to 200 feet deep,” said Patrick Bohan, director of supply chain solutions at the Port of Halifax.

Bohan discussed shipping at the port. “It takes about six to seven days for a ship that leaves Halifax to get to its first port of call in Europe, but now days 45 percent of our trade is actually with Asian nations, followed closely by 40 percent with Europe and the remaining 15 percent of trades go to South America, the Caribbean and other miscellaneous destinations,” he said.

This year, the port will handle over 1,500 vessels. WPAC conference attendees got to catch a glimpse of the Halifax grain elevator on the bus tour, which has 140,000 metric tons of dry bulk storage in its silos. One quarter of those silos is actively used for exporting pellets, according to Bohan. About 36,000 tons of Viridis Energy’s pellets are currently at the port. Bohan shared that later this month, Viridis Energy will be doing a large, dry-bulk load—about 33,000 metric tons of pellets—on the vessel Genco Ardennes.

Shaw Resources’ Eastern Embers pellet plant in Hardwoodlands, Nova Scotia, was the next stop on the conference’s list of visits. The plant’s first pellet production was commissioned in 1995, and uses predominately softwood fiber made primarily from spruce sawdust and shavings, sourced from a number of sawmills in Central Nova Scotia. The plant focuses primarily on bagging residential heating pellets. On the tour, visitors got to see the pellets bagged and then stacked on pallets and wrapped with the company’s automatic palletizer.

The tours rounded off with a trip to Viridis Energy’s Scotia Atlantic Biomass facility. Julie Millington, general manager of Scotia Atlantic Biomass, spoke to the group about the type of feedstock at the plant. “We bring in full logs, its biomass logs, so basically anything that can’t be utilized for any other process,” she said. “If you can’t make lumber out of it, you can’t make pulp out of it, as long as it has two ends and it holds together, we can use it.”

Millington shared that Scotia Atlantic has just took on a new company that brings them ends of fence posts for material. All of the material to the facility is chipped and premixed. The plant runs five presses and has a three-pass dryer.

Millington mentioned how the plant used to run 24/7, but has been right sized to a 24/4 running cycle. “That’s simply due to getting the right material at the right price into this facility,” she said. “There is a lot of competition in this area. We are near Northern Pulp paper mill, Nova Scotia Power, Shaw Resources’ plant, there are a lot of different facilities.”

According to Millington, Scotia Atlantic’s five pelletizers are not all always running at the same time depending on the amount of material that they can get through the facility. She says in the summer the facility can run all of the pelletizers flat out and produce about 400 tons per day. However, in the winter there is more moisture in the material, so it takes more time to run through. This year, Millington said they have a lot of dry material inventory on the site, so they are going to try to be up in the 300 to 350 range even in the winter months. “Our goal is to chase our bottlenecks,” Millington said.

A wood pellet quality workshop took place in the afternoon. Amongst topics discussed during the workshop were international pellet standards and where they are applied (ISO, CSA, ENplus, PFI industrial), American new source performance standards, a review of pellet quality certification schemes (ENplus, CANplus, PFI), how to obtain ENplus and CANplus certifications and how to obtain PFI certification.

WPAC’s 2015 conference continues through Nov. 5, opening and closing with remarks from WPAC’s executive director Gordon Murray.