Six projects receive federal support

Federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced $6.45 million in funding for six resource projects on Wednesday during the B.C. Natural Resources Forum at the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre.

Funding for the two industrial and four First Nations projects comes from the Investments in Canada's Forest Industry Transformation program and the Indigenous Forestry Initiative.

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"Our government believes in the forest industry," Carr said. "Today we see what happens when the resources of the country are matched with the resourcefulness of the people."

The largest grant, $3.19 million, went to local wood pellet producer Pacific BioEnergy Prince George Limited Partnership.

Pacific BioEnergy vice president Paul Kalil said the company has developed a system to clean rocks, dirt and other debris from forest residues left behind by conventional logging operations so that it can be used to create wood pellets.

"Pacific BioEnergy has struggled for years to secure a fibre (supply)," Kalil said. "This project will allow us... to use a supply of fibre which has traditionally been burned. This is a first for Canada and, we believe, a first for North America."

Using what is currently considered a waste product will provide the plant with a low-cost supply of feedstock, he said. The technology, which is expected to be operational soon, will create up to 14 new jobs in the Prince George area and provide added security for the company's future.

"For us, this is a tremendous asset," Kalil said. "It has allowed us to set the foundation for future growth."

The second-largest grant, worth $1.93 million, went to Abbotsford-based StructureCraft Builders Inc. to develop and automate production of dowel-laminated timber.

Dowel-laminated timber is a type of structural, prefabricated wood panel which uses hardwood dowels to hold laminations of softwood together without glue or metal nails, according to StructureCraft's website. The result is a 100 per cent wood building material which can be used to replace concrete slabs or steel decking.

StructureCraft is the first company in North America to automate the process of construction, which is expected to produce a higher-quality product while using 10 to 15 per cent less material.

The Gitxsan Development Corp. received the third-largest grant, worth $1.16 million, for a series of projects aimed at allowing Gitxsan members to participate and benefit from major resource projects in their region.

In part, the project helped fund the creation of Gitxsan Safety Services - which employees 120 people, generated $7.9 million in sales in 2017 and has won industry awards, Gitxsan Development Corp. senior vice president Jako Krushnisky said.

The Gitxsan are also working on a proposed bioheat demonstration project at at hospital in Haida Gwaii and "exploring a torrefaction process to create energy-dense wood pellets," Krushnisky said.

The Kwadacha First Nation received $143,000 for a pair of bioenergy projects to reduce the Fort Ware-area First Nation's dependence on fossil fuels, Kwadacha Chief Donny Van Somer said.

The community had been dependent on B.C. Hydro diesel generators for electricity, Van Somer said, but the First Nation has offset some of its energy needs creating a District Energy System which burns local wood waste to generate power and heat a school and homes.

Van Somer said few government agencies were willing to take a risk on the project at first, and the First Nation had to "front-end a lot of this on our own."

"Self-sustainability is our vision," he said. "(The system) heats greenhouses so we can grow vegetables for the community."

The Tsay Keh Dene First Nation also received $25,000 for a feasibility study on a similar bioenergy plant in its community.

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