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Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the current status of the call for bioenergy?

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources and BC Hydro are working together to ensure the learnings from Phase 1 and commitments from the 2009 Throne Speech and Forestry Round Table recommendations

Please refer to the BC Hydro website for more information about the two-phase bioenergy call for power.

Which areas have the most potential for bioenergy tenure opportunities?

Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations region and district staff conducted a study in Fall 2007 to estimate the potential tenure opportunity for bioenergy.  Since that time, decisions have been made to offer local First Nations the tenure opportunity without a tie to the BC Hydro Bioenergy call.  The remaining opportunity is guided by forest stewardship requirements, available low-grade timber, and available Allowable Annual Cut.  For more information, see the Bioenergy Harvesting Opportunities and Volume Estimates for Potential Tenure page.

Does government plan to create a licence specifically for obtaining biomass for bioenergy?

New ideas are always being considered for how best to provide biomass recovery opportunities, but the market should dictate how that biomass is used.  Several new tools have recently been instituted to improve access to harvest residuals including: stand-as-a-whole" pricing, Forest for Tomorrow Licences to Cut, BC TS Innovative Timber Sales, and soon, Fibre Supply Licences to Cut and Forest Licence to Cut (specific to roadside and landing accumulations).

How can I tell if a licensee has no further interest in roadside biomass accumulations and they’re available for my use?

Contact the licensee directly.  You may find there are circumstances where companies are willing to coordinate their harvesting and post-harvest activities with the removal of the biomass.

Do all the pine trees in a mountain pine beetle-attacked stand die, and do they die at the same time?

No.  Some pine trees survive.  Reasons vary why some survive and some are killed, but include the health of the pine tree before attack and the severity of attack.  Beetle attack in an infested stand can be ongoing over several years.  Some pine trees die within one or two years of the stand being initially attacked, while others don't die for five years or more.

How long will the fibre supply from the infestation last?

This depends on a number of factors including the:

  1. Rate of harvest of pine. The Allowable Annual Cut (AAC) determined by the Chief Forester is the maximum harvest level.  Markets drive the rate at which tenure holders harvest (up to the AAC) and the timber species (pine versus non-pine) they target for harvest.  Based on the Chief Forester’s AAC and current harvest practices, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations estimates that pine will form a major component of the harvest profile for another 10–12 years.  However if markets weaken, the actual harvest rate may be lower than the AAC and the pine harvest opportunity may last a few years more.
  2. Amount of wood available for harvest and the need to reserve some dead pine from harvest. Not all of the dead pine will be made available for harvest.  About 40 per cent will be available, while another 40 per cent will be in stands outside the timber harvesting land base or reserved from harvest, and 20 per cent will be in stands that aren’t economically accessible.
  3. Duration of the biofuel shelf life. Over time, the percentage of sawlog material in an attacked stand declines so that eventually very little, if any, sawlog material is left.  The non-sawlog material remains suitable for pulping, engineered wood products and bioenergy as long as it’s standing.  Recent observations in the central interior indicate that some stands are experiencing accellerated wind damage 10+ years after death.  But many are not.
  4. The need to reserve some dead pine from harvest. Pine often exists in stands along with other species such as spruce, fir or larch.  It’s preferred that non-pine dominant stands be retained for harvest after the pine-leading stands are no longer viable harvest opportunities.

Pine is a pioneer species, meaning that it will reforest an area first after a natural disturbance.  But on many sites, other more “shade tolerant” species will grow in under the pine and eventually take over as the dominant species.  Because of firefighting over the last 50 years, many pine stands have significant crops of understorey which have potential to form the next harvest.  The dead pine overstorey will not be made available for harvest where these understorey crops are considered to be healthy and well-stocked.

How long do pine trees remain suitable as fuel feedstock after they have been killed by beetles?

There appears to be a relationship between soil moisture and the rate of deterioration.  In wetter sites the dead pine trees may rot and fall over within a few years after death.  In drier areas they may remain standing for 20 years or more.  In either case, once a tree falls over it will very quickly lose any remaining value.  Most pine–leading stands are on well–drained, relatively low nutrient sites where pine outperforms other species.  In most cases pine trees are expected to remain standing for 15 years or more after death.

Where will fuel-wood come from after all of the available pine has been harvested?

There will always be some level of “waste” from harvesting and milling operations.  However competition for this waste is expected to increase in the coming years.  There are also stands of very low quality trees that will not be of interest to sawmill operators, but may be suitable for bioenergy.  The limiting factor will be the market's ability to pay the delivered wood cost.

What about sawmill sawdust and shavings? Is this not also biofuel stock?

Yes it is.  In many cases it’s already being used as a replacement for natural gas (to heat kilns) and to generate electricity.  It is also the primary feedstock for pellet mills.  If available, it may be the least expensive option relative to salvaging roadside material and harvesting standing timber.  Talk directly to sawmill managers to determine the availability of this biomass resource.  The challenge is securing a long-term source for your plant.  Between 750,000 and 1.2 million tonnes of hog-fuel was produced, but not utilized in 2006, in B.C. With the reduction in sawmill activity over the past 2 years, unused mill residues are now a rare commodity.

Will I have to pay stumpage for “bioenergy wood”?

You may have to pay if the licence that authorized the harvesting of the bioenergy wood requires that you do.  The determining factor is whether or not the wood in question meets or exceeds the minimum cut control specifications of the licence.  For many licences, any wood recovered that is smaller than a 10 cm bottom diameter or 3 metre length (unless bucked to that length) would not be cut accountable.  For licences issued specifically for salvaging harvest residues, all wood recovered may require a payment of stumpage (likely around $0.25/m3 + any bonus bid).  However, we recommend you refer to the Coast or Interior Appraisal Manuals (https://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hva/) for the full story on stumpage.

What about other uses of this wood? Is electricity the best use?

If we are going to harvest and the wood can’t be used for sawlogs or other forest products, it makes sense that it goes to the next highest value use.  Electricity production, wood pellet production and, biorefining for renewable fuels and biochemicals are some of the emerging opportunities.  Which is best is a subjective question answerable only once you have determined your value set.  Some might say that longevity and stability of the market are more important than highest spot (short term) price.

With the bioenergy initiative, are we still practising sustainable forest management?

Yes.  Sustainable forest management involves maintaining values such as soil, water, fish, wildlife, biodiversity, and timber.  This will continue to be required by the Forest and Range Practices Act.  Harvest level continuity is more difficult, as a large part of the timber resource has been affected by the mountain pine beetle.  So we will see significant reductions to the AAC in many management areas affected by the beetle once the Chief Forester determines that a lower level of harvest is necessary to protect the mide term timber supply and/or non-timber resource values.