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The Rise of Wood Pellets in Canada

Wood pellets are comprised of industrial residues from various wood product manufacturing processes. After compression, a binder is added to form a useful biomass fuel. The densification of wood is not a new process in Canada with the 1st patent issued in 1880. According to this House of Commons Journal, this patent “described a process in which sawdust or other wood residues were heated to 150 degrees faranheit and compacted to the ‘density of bituminous coal’ with a steam hammer.” This operation of densification has since branched into several forms including pelleting and cubing among others.

Canada’s growth in wood pellet production grew substantially throughout the 20th century especially along the West Coast due to increased exporting capabilities and a growing global demand. Additionally, continued growth in other forestry industries coupled with Canada’s large-scale certified forested land meant no shortage of materials. Indeed, during this time period the global acknowledgement of the benefits of wood pellets were recognized. According to Pinnacle Renewable Energy, advantages of the pelleting process include –

  • low moisture content which renders an improved BTU and storage/handling capabilities
  • reduced environmental/health liabilities (i.e. toxic emissions)
  • recycling of would-be wasted material

British Columbia hosts 2 wood pellet exporting terminals along the Coast including: Westview Terminal in the Port of Prince Rupert and Fibreco Terminal in the Port of Vancouver. These two terminals combined exported 2,268,412,393 KGM in 2018 to multiple Asian and European countries. Most notable of these trade partners are the United Kingdom, Japan, United States and South Korea. Of the 2,651,1440 KGM exported from Canada in 2018, British Columbia accounts for approximately 86% of the total.