Selective Cuttings

Investments in Forest Industry Transformation

November 20, 2013

The Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT)  program aims to support Canada’s forest sector in becoming more economically competitive and environmentally sustainable through targeted investments in innovative technologies, supporting the technologies through the “valley of death” to commercialization. Since IFIT was announced in 2010, it has invested in a range of promising technologies.

Name of proponent: Alberta-Pacific Forest Products
Location: Boyle, AB
Project description: Methanol purification

The kraft chemical pulping process cooks wood chips with chemicals to extract the cellulose, which is used for pulp production. Methanol is naturally produced as a by-product by this process, but has been uneconomic to separate from waste streams. The methanol purification technology allows for the extraction of the methanol, which can then be used in the pulp bleaching process, with surplus methanol sold into the market. From there it can be used to produce of hundreds of chemical compounds, including solvents, resins, paints and plastics. This is a first-of-kind application that improves kraft pulp mill economics while creating a new forest product.

Name of proponent: Lauzon Planchers
Location: Papineauville, QC
Project description: Process innovation

In the production of unfinished flooring, a key bottleneck is sorting and classification of logs. The supported technology includes sensors that produce three-dimensional scans of the logs to identify knots, streaking, or decay, enabling an optimal board cut to maximize value. This enables Lauzon to decrease the waste wood residues from its logs from 60% (industry standard) to 30%, while simultaneously expanding their suite of products by offering flooring in a wider assortment of grades, and turning lower-value wood into high-value products.

Name of proponent: Structurlam Products
Location: Okanagan Falls, BC
Project description:  Ecostructure wall systems

Cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a structural wood product that is well-established in Europe but is yet to be broadly commercialized in North America. A combination of investments in a CLT press and glue applicator, fingerjoint line and control machine will enable Structurlam to assemble and market walls as a single structural component of an entire pre-fabricated wood building that will compete cost-effectively with steel and/or concrete structures. This system will reduce costs per panel while making use of underutilized species, such as beetle-killed lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine and balsam fir.

Name of proponent: Tolko Industries Meadow Lake
Location: Meadow Lake, SK
Project description: Strand screening

Oriented-strand board (OSB) is already a key product in North American home building, but a combination of innovative technologies will enable Tolko Meadow Lake OSB to both remove unusable wood dust, and sort input fibre. The sorted fibre can thereafter be used in different orientations, and different locations within the panel (such as surface or core) to produce panels with different properties, such as enhanced strength. This will allow Meadow Lake to produce a wider range of products while reducing production costs for commodities on the same production line. This results in enhanced quality for existing products and new capacity for higher-value products, all while decreasing costs and improving performance.

By helping selected forest sector firms to deploy new technologies, IFIT significantly decreases the risk faced by other firms seeking to replicate these projects. In so doing, the now “de-risked” investment will be able to attract financing from traditional, non-public sources. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this replication process is underway for some IFIT projects already, increasing the capital funds leveraged by the original public investment. As such, IFIT forms an important model for federal innovation programs in general, and in the forest sector in particular.