Reader questions proposed pellet plant

Opinion

To the Editor:

We read often recently about a “savior” foreign company dangling millions of dollars to build a plant in Trenton that manufactures a blackened compressed wood pellet fuel that is exported to fuel in electric power plants in place of coal. Much caution is needed about this.

For the last 52 years we have heard this story. Buy N.S. resources cheaply and remove the profits to foreign shareholders.

First though, the sawmills that used to supply wood chips to NPNS can now instead saw more lumber from logs — at a value much greater than chips or biomass. They then can begin manufacturing value-added products such as Gluman beams and posts and CLT timber sheets for walls and floors. Both of these are now being imported into N.S. when they can easily be manufactured in province without a plant costing millions.

Second, all sawmills need some woody waste to fuel the lumber dryers. Several also have CHP plants that make very hot water or steam that powers an electric generator. This powers the mill motors and lights and the surplus is sold, under contract, to NSP who feed it into the nearby provincial grid for sale to ratepayers. Many sawmills have very little, if any, surplus wood waste; if they did that waste can be sold, at a low price, to the large old inefficient CHP plant that NSP has near Port Hawkesbury. Recently beginning in 2019 the NSP plant was importing wood fibre biomass and chips from N.B. and Quebec.

Third, by what process does a light colour wood become the almost black compressed pellets? Ground up, wood fibre is dried somewhat before being made into pellets but the proposal requires some additional process to become black. Drying sends off CO2 and some PM2.5 dust into the air above and surrounding the plant. If additional pre-burning is required before being made into pellets, what are those emissions? And the proposed plant location sits among a residential area. What are the health implications?

Fourth, a new pellet plant that requires the huge tonnage of low value wood waste that an $84 million plant requires to make the investment pay off for the shareholders demand would require clear cutting our forests — something that must be stopped.

This large demand also reduces the firewood supply and drives up the cost of home and small business heating costs. It reduces the hardwood logs that should be going to a sawmill to make a value-added lumber. It reduces the acreage of sugar maple forests that make a valuable product — maple syrup for domestic and export sales. There is already a great demand for sawdust and shavings from farms and pellet plants.

Forestry in Nova Scotia is in transition that results in more selective harvesting — not clear cutting on our poor quality forest soils. More forest management jobs that will slowly heal our clear cut forested areas while absorbing CO2 and emitting oxygen. Select harvest management results in a future forest industry and increases eco-tourism — all while re-establishing stream and freshwater river fin fish habitat. River fishing is a multi-million dollar industry. On shore in tank aquaculture is increasing in N.S. and uses un-polluted water.

The proposed addition of high efficiency EU designed wood chip fueled boilers for heating public buildings and greenhouses will use some low value wood from forest thinning operations. There are already several buyers of biomass and wood chips for heating such as the Dalhousie Bible Hill campus. More are in the planning stage.

Don Wilson

Member of HFC Nova Scotia

Brule Point, N.S.