Report: Atlantica region must use forest biomass

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted Jan. 8, 2009, at 5:54 p.m. CST

A new report released by the Atlantica BioEnergy Task Force declares that action must be taken to implement renewable energy technologies in the Atlantica Region's forest products industry. The study was compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers and recommends 15 actions that should be taken in the areas of sustainable forest management, biomass management, energy policy, education, research and development and technology implementation.

The Atlantica BioEnergy Task Force includes representatives from regional governments, industry, utilities, federal and regional organizations and post-secondary institutions. The Atlantica Region includes the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada, and the state of Maine in the United States.

According to Bruce McIntyre, the leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers' Forest, Paper and Packaging practice in Canada and a partner in the firm's Sustainable Business Solutions practice, the region is rich in forests and has historically been dependent on the forest industry to drive its economy. However, the region is currently struggling to attract new investment. Without new investment, McIntyre said, the business prospects for the region's forest products sector are bleak, with little room to improve energy efficiency, develop emerging technologies or generate new sources of revenue.

However, PricewaterhouseCoopers' study shows that opportunities exist to revitalize the forest industry by making use of available wood biomass for the production of bioenergy, biofuels, biochemicals and other bioproducts.

Specific recommendations in the report include:
  • The implementation of sustainable forest management strategies in order to improve forest growth and support landowners and contractors in developing efficient approaches to biomass harvesting.

  • Completing the development of biomass removal guidelines as soon as possible, and updating biomass inventories on a regular basis.

  • Working to improve the transportation infrastructure throughout the region in order to facilitate the movement of goods.

  • Evaluating the need to upgrade the electrical transmission and distribution lines across the region to ensure capacity is available for new generation demand.

  • Considering the implementation of four specific emerging technologies. These technologies include an integrated biomass biorefinery that uses Fischer-Tropsch technology; value prior to pulping (VPP) for hardwood kraft mills in Maine; pre-treatment methods, such as oxalic acid chip pre-treatment; and torrefaction.

  • Encouraging New Brunswick Power and Nova Scotia Power to include biomass solutions as part of their overall federal carbon regulation strategies.

  • Creating a demand for biomass fuels and for use in cogeneration.

  • Applying energy efficiency and green electricity greenhouse gas offset measurement protocols that would be used in voluntary or regulated carbon markets.

  • Enhancing the existing energy policy framework to be more comprehensive in scope while developing policy to stimulate bioenergy, biochemicals, biofuels and bioproducts produced from wood biomass.

  • Ensuring the eligibility of financial tools to encourage the early adoption of recommended technologies that could improve mill competitiveness and reduce emissions.

  • Providing fuel tax exemptions and production tax credits for local wood-based feedstocks for renewable fuels, ethanol and biodiesel.

  • Ensuring that state and provincial incentive programs include eligibility criteria for biofuels, biofuel products and biochemicals, and ensure incentive programs contain eligibility guidelines that include the proposed outputs from the other technologies, such as Fischer-Tropsch liquids, ethanol, and torrified fuel.

  • Developing and funding a bioenergy network for the region.

  • Creating collaborative programs with research universities throughout the region.

  • Funding a program in partnership with post-secondary research institutions, industry and government agencies to promote and build pilot-scale plants.

A full copy of the report is available on the Atlantica BioEnergy Web site,