Like the Town of Trenton’s motto, Richard Spinks wants to “Strike while the iron is hot.”
The iron, in this case, is an investment proposal that comes from an international consortium represented by British businessman Richard Spinks who wants to develop a second generation biomass pellet manufacturing facility in Pictou County. Specifically, he wants to open in Trenton, on the former Daewoo property, and he believes the time is perfect because of the closure of Northern Pulp.
In Pictou County last week to firm up plans for his proposal, Spinks said, “Following extensive consultation with many of those affected by the NP mill closure, it is our position that the maintenance of a viable supply chain in Nova Scotia forestry must be a priority for there to be a future in the forestry sector in Nova Scotia.
“The value of the existing supply chain cannot be overestimated. If lost, it will be very difficult to recreate, if possible at all and its importance to all stakeholders associated with forestry and processing from woodlot owners to finished product manufacturers will face difficulties should it fail.”
Spinks represents RMD Environmentals, a BC registered company, with Indigenous ownership. He says his company believes its proposed technology solution is uniquely able, within a short enough time frame, to provide an alternative and environmentally sustainable outlet for sawmill waste and forestry residuals under the specific environmental, economic and climatic conditions found in Nova Scotia today.
“What we produce is not the ubiquitous white pellet produced in huge volumes using higher quality feedstock predominantly in the southeast United States,” Spinks said. “Our process has great economic and environmental advantages for the forestry industry and downstream processing industries.”
He added, “In the context of Nova Scotia and sawmills, we will be able to take all of their waste materials, including the bark, and poorer quality materials that other types of processes won’t. It’s great for the environment and the sawmill owner because he can sell us all of his waste for us to process into an end of life clean fuel to be used in place of coal. Furthermore, unlike many processes the only inputs to our process are waste wood and forestry residuals and water; and as far as outputs, we have biofuel and clean water, no chemicals whatsoever are used in the process.”
The fact that his proposal can use what he calls “significantly lower quality fibre as feedstock” also means they can reduce the number of hectares that need to be harvested to produce the same amount of fuel as compared to other processes which use higher quality feedstock and in line with the ‘Lahey Plan’ being implemented by government now.
Spinks said when he was watching Premier Stephen McNeil say in December that he would honour the Boat Harbour Act, he became convinced that his proposal will work here. He spent two years in Newfoundland working on a similar project.
“I am extremely familiar with Atlantic Canada, its forestry, challenges and the relationship between forestry, sawmills and pulp and paper, as well as what happens to the sawmill sector when those pulp mills close down and pulp and residuals have no takers near to the sawmills.”
Atlantic Canada has “among of the most expensive fibre on the planet,” he said, listing trucking costs, harvesting costs, fuel costs, staffing costs. “I travel all over the earth looking at exactly this and in some regions it is possible to be paid as much to recycle wood waste, as much as sellers in Nova Scotia need to be paid for theirs simply to survive.”
He is convinced his proposal will be a balm to the forestry industry here.
“The circumstances being faced by woodlot owners, forestry and sawmilling operators in Nova Scotia today have set the stage for transition into modern, clean environmentally and economically preferable products for new markets at home and abroad.
“Any alternative proposal to provide an environmentally sustainable and economically viable solution to the current situation being faced by the Nova Scotia forestry sector, that results in forestry stakeholders, from woodlot owners to sawmills and others providing services to the supply chain seeing a significant reduction in revenue/value for their waste and residual fibre would not work in Nova Scotia. The solution must be able to work with synergies without harming the owners and operators economically. Additionally, it needs to be investing into a growing, not a shrinking market, to give the longevity that the industry needs to feel confident.”
Spinks is serious about his proposal. He said RMDE had written to confirm its intention to purchase the site, buildings and rail infrastructure known collectively as ‘The Trenton Works’ in Pictou County, subject to required permitting and licenses being granted and confirmation by Nova Scotia Lands, which owns the property, of their acceptance of RMDE’s offer. This also depends on forestry industry participants supporting the project, by agreeing to sell their former pulp mill deliveries to RMDE at Trenton.
“RMDE will also now confirm to AEG (Active Energy Group), subject to the same conditions and completion of the Trenton Works purchase, that RMDE will acquire the exclusive rights over the CoalSwitch technology from AEG Plc, for Nova Scotia, and place an order for plant, to be installed and supplied by AEG, to operate at the site in Pictou County.”
Spinks said the plant will be able to produce up to 600,000 metric tonnes of the CoalSwitch second generation biofuel product per year, depending on the volume of waste fibre and residuals available for recycling at the plant for sale to existing off-take customers in Europe.
“In future, it is even possible that the clean biofuel produced in Trenton could be used to displace coal used to generate electricity in the province, currently, potentially providing an end-to-end environmental solution from Nova Scotia forestry waste and residuals, to the benefit of all Nova Scotians.”