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Our Logs’ Story from Truck to Product

Author(s) or contact(s): C.C. Dymond
Source: Competitiveness and Innovation Branch
Subject: Forest Economics, Forest Industry and Products, Socio-Economics
Series: Extension Note
Other details:  Published 2012. Hardcopy is available.


Industry and government agencies are looking to diversify the mix of products from British Columbiaˇ¦s timber harvest as part of industry renewal and to improve sector competitiveness. To get the greatest value from every tree, we need to understand the current and historical use of logs, the supply and demand dynamics of different products, and the supply of wood fibre for potential new uses. However, there are conflicting estimates of the amount of fibre available from mill or harvest residues.

There is one estimate of 6.5 million tonnes production of mill residues in 2004, with 1.8 million tonnes per year surplus. A different study estimated 9.3 million tonnes per year production of mill residues in British Columbia. An older study estimated 7.9 million tonnes of wood and pulp residues, of which 2.2 million was surplus.

Traditionally, trees, logs, and different products have been measured in unique units, such as board feet for lumber, square feet for plywood, or gigajoules (GJ) for energy. In this report, we include the traditional units and a common metric of tonnes of oven-dry biomass. Biomass is the weight of organic material, be it wood or paper.

It varies for different volumes of wood depending on the density and moisture content. Price provides a good example of a common metric that allows comparison across product lines.

By using biomass as a common metric, we can follow the fibre in a log from the hauling truck through different types of mills and into various products. We can use this information to assess efficiency and opportunities for higher-value or longer-lived products. We can also attribute a value (e.g., price per tonne of biomass) to help inform us on the optimal use of wood. For example, does an increase in the total value of forest products indicate that more biomass was used or that the price of one or several products increased?

Because we know how much biomass is harvested from British Columbia’s forests each year, the sum total of the products and waste should add up to the same amount. If they do not add up, then we can use that information to identify gaps in our data and opportunities to improve our knowledge of the forestry sector.

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Updated June 04, 2012