Got Wood?

By Bryan • canada, china, nanjing • 30 Nov 2004

In terms the resource scarcity problems facing the P.R.C., the energy plight of Chinese cities often receives the most media attention. Energy is the most basic resource unit, from which all other resources are derived, it is also the one resource which can be said that everyone is concerned about. Therefore, it is not surprising that energy issues are often at the forefront of public discussion with regards to resource allocation and distribution. Despite being one of the most covered issues, I am always surprised that although energy exists as the building block of natural resources, it’s importance in the management of other resources (ie. water, forests, marine etc.) is often marginalized. I’ve thought that this is possibly due to the idea that the concept of incorporating energy demands into, for example, forest managment decisions would introduce an un-manageable externality which isn’t really in the domain of managing forest resources.

However, with regards to managing resources, a (warning…buzz word approaching) holistic approach is required, rather than examining resources as seperate entities. For instance, in Northern British Columbia, logging camps are supplied with energy via large CAT diesel generators. Many of these camps are quite large (200+beds, with first aid, entertainment, hot water, showers, heat, full service cafeteria) and require large amounts of electricity to run. Generators are run 24/7 even when camp population is small and consume vast amounts of fuel. I’ve spend a considerable amount of time in the bush working around these camps and while it is nice to steal a shower and raid the lunch room after about a week in the tent, they’ve always represented, for me, the largest instance of waste in the forest industry. Especially when a far superiour energy source exists right next door.

Harvesting practices in remote locations can sometimes be very wasteful. The distant proximities from processing facilities prevents large amounts of lower quality timber and fibre from being utilized. This waste is usually piled and burned. While this is not necessarily bad thing, as fibre retained will increase the biological and nutrient content of the site, retaining such amounts of semi-processed fibre constitutes a massive waste of the energy used during the initial harvesting (ie. fuel for fellar bunchers, forwarders, skidders, processors, crew trucks). While I have a firm understanding of the economic and ecologic reasons for leaving material on site, it has always bothered me that this material couldn’t be used as a fuel source. Collection and processing would be incredibly simple and efficient and only a small amount of the overall wastage would be needed to meet the energy requirements of each logging camp.

While wood energy appears to be a atiquated energy source, wood fuel systems have become encredibly efficeint in recent years. Such systems are capable of not only providing heat and hot water, but can also act as a boiler for electrical generation.

Many logging camps are in isolated regions and fuel and supplies are imported over large distances. Given the extremely close proximity to a plentiful, cheap and local fuel source (waste fibre from cut-blocks) it would concievable camps to convert to wood energy systems which would supply heat and hot water. Electrical needs could be met using smaller, more efficient fuel generators.

While I am unaware of any camps that utilize this system of energy generation, however; I know of an ore truck repair garage in Northern B.C. (which is ironically located adjacent to a logging camp) which generates their own heat and hot water using a wood furnace.

Energy used in transportation of generator fuel is reduced, energy efficiency during harvesting is increased, energy effiency of the camps is increased and greenhouse gases are reduced by conversion to a carbon-neutral fuel source enabling companies to acheive their Kyoto commitments. However, eventhough I suspect that a wood heat system could be easily integrated into exisiting heat ducts, replacement could prove costly as significant amounts of money has already been invested in upgrading and maintaining existing camp facilities. To completely change energy systems could be seen as inefficent. Maybe when fuel and diesel prices skyrocket…

Re-reading what I just posted has confirmed the idea that I desperately need a vacation. I’m unsure how I began commenting on China, and ended with listing possible solutions to reducing GHG’s in the B.C. Forest Industry. I had originally planned an equally boring entry about water use in Xinjiang, but here we are. I’m planning to climb Huangshan in the winter, hopefully while there is a nice blanket of snow on the ground. Maybe by then I’ll have increased my coolness factor and write something…well…cool.

Tags: , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Fraser

    hehe….I’m gonna print this post out and distribute it to insomniacs anonymous.

    they’ll think you’re cool when it helps them fall asleep.

  2. Bryan

    *sniff sniff*…..

  3. Bill

    Sorry dawg…im with fras on that one…but i still love ya man

  4. B

    yeah…heh heh…I’m one cool dude.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *