ST. ANTHONY, N.L.
It’s been more than a year and a half since the Active Energy, a London, UK-based company, reached an agreement in principle with the provincial government for access to forest resources on the Great Northern Peninsula for a wood pellet operation.
AEG is seeking a 20-year forestry management agreement with the province.
Last week Richard Spinks, managing director of AEG’s subsidiary Timberlands visited the area to update local business and community leaders on the project.
The company aims to produce wood pellets — to be marketed as a CoalSwitch product — as a clean energy replacement for coal for European markets.
The raw material would come from wood in Forestry Management Districts 17 and 18 – totalling 1.2 million hectares of land on the peninsula.
At the meeting in St. Anthony on Oct. 30, Spinks elaborated for about a half hour on the company’s business model, its plans for the Great Northern Peninsula, and the type of product it intends to produce.
Pellet plant location unknown
During the meeting Spinks re-confirmed that both the towns of Roddickton-Bide Arm and St. Anthony are still in the company’s plans. He says the sawmill in Roddickton-Bide Arm will likely be used to cut lumber while the final product will be shipped from the port in St. Anthony.
However, a location is still to be confirmed for the CoalSwitch plant itself.
“We don’t know yet where we’re going to make the pellets,” he responded to questions from Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald. “The sawmill will be in Roddickton I’m sure, and the wood pellets will be delivered to a location here which we haven’t got yet.”
It is estimated there will be five or six shipments out of St. Anthony per year.
Spinks says a storage facility will not be needed as the product is waterproof.
By Spinks’ estimates, the business would lead to the creation of 120-130 long-term jobs, directly or indirectly.
Within the plant itself, the company would employ about 25 people; but most workers would be employed by businesses supplying goods and services to the company.
Spinks estimates there would be 6,000 or more truckloads of various materials annually, and forestry contractors would be cut 148,000 cubic metres of material per year.
The company’s proposal was also re-submitted to the province. Spinks says this was necessary as there were changes made that were out of both the company’s and the provincial government’s hands.
However, when asked for more details by The Northern Pen, Spinks said he could not elaborate.
During the meeting Spinks reiterated his optimism that a decision would be coming soon from the province.
Spinks says they’re trying to identify a start date, but he’s confident it is getting near.
“(The government has) been very honest and open with me, and I believe we’re close…really close,” he said.
The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources released a statement to The Northern Pen indicating it is continuing to work with Active Energy on a proposal “that will support and benefit the Northern Peninsula forest industry.”
Facts about Active Energy’s business plan and product
- Active Energy Group produces three different products: CoalSwitch, PeatSwitch and SuperFuel. Only its CoalSwitch product, a coal replacement, will be produced on the Great Northern Peninsula.
- Product is waterproof.
- Can use any cellulose-based fibre for product, including from sources such as tree blowdown (trees uprooted or broken by wind), damaged/diseased trees, wood from old furniture, sawdust, brush, etc.
- According to Richard Spinks, only Active Energy Group has the technology that can use the “worst” of these sources to turn it into CoalSwitch pellets.
- Cannot use cardboard to make the CoalSwitch product as it is too far processed beyond cellulose.
- Turns fibre into powder, blends the powder with coal powder and turns it back into coal. However, Spinks says it’s no longer “just coal” but coal that passes the European Union’s standards for carbon emissions.
- There are carbon emissions. However, Spinks distinguishes between long-term and short-term carbon emissions. He says the carbon the plant emits will be reabsorbed by the environment in a much shorter period of time than pure coal.
See earlier stories: Wood pellet plan gets 20-year Northern Peninsula forestry licence