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Mayor’s Report – June 17, 2015

Meet the Mayor

June 17, 2015


I was driving past CANFOR a few days ago when I chanced to glance to my left and what should my wandering eye behold but two shiny silos and a tent big enough to contain the town. Now I see it every time I drive by. It’s something impossible to miss. Something is happening on the east side of the CANFOR property that is going to be good for Chetwynd.

The construction is a pellet plant well on its way to commissioning, the project of the partnership of Pacific Bioenergy and CANFOR. I wrote about it late last summer when it was little more than a dream starting to wake up. Now we are so close to the start-up that the owners actually have a tentative date – perhaps even more than tentative.

Most of your Council members had the privilege of a guided tour of the construction site. We came away with a profound appreciation for the mind that can visualize the completed project before a single pile has been driven into the yielding earth that underlies much of the District of Chetwynd. (Some of the piles were driven down 20 meters before sufficient resistance was encountered.)

And then there is the skill of the construction manager and workers who must translate two-dimensional construction plans into three-dimensional structures that actually do what they are supposed to do.

So what are these structures supposed to do?

Every day the sawmill produces tons of material we once considered waste. We burned it in open pits and later in beehive burners. Later still it was transferred hundreds of miles to facilities that had a use for it. But not all of it. There was still a lot of waste. No more. That material is not waste. It’s money.

The new plant will take care of all the stuff (and maybe more). Hog fuel will be consumed in a highly efficient burner to produce heat and electricity. The electricity will be used to power the machinery and the heat will be used to dry the sawdust and shavings from between 30% and 50% moisture content to less than 5%. Using a belt dryer that operates at a much lower temperature than older technology dryers, the dried sawdust and shavings are much more energy rich than material used in older pellet plants.

From the dryer the sawdust and shavings are conveyed to an enclosed hammer mill that reduces the particles to the appropriate size before they are compressed into pellets and stored for shipping in a silo next to a railway spur yet to be constructed.

The facilities you can see today from up town are the storage silos for sawdust and shavings and the massive tent for surplus sawdust to be drawn upon when the sawmill is idled on weekends. It’s an elegant concept that is coming together before our eyes.

You will get your chance for a guided tour of the plant once it is producing pellets.

Merlin Nichols, Mayor