Manufacturing lumber for your new deck

Looking to build a new deck? You’ll probably want to use high quality 5/4 decking, likely made of southern yellow pine. Much of it comes from the Gulf coastal lowlands of Florida where slash pine (Pinus elliotii) grows in abundance. Whether from natural stands or plantations, slash pine grows straight and clear, making it ideal for this product.

On October 15, 2019, members of the Florida Society of American Foresters toured the Conifex Timber, Inc. sawmill in Cross City to see for themselves. Conifex, a British Columbia firm, purchased the Suwannee Lumber Company mill in 2018 and owns two other U.S. mills in Arkansas. Raw material and markets align to make decking the primary product for the Cross City mill although one-inch and dimensional lumber are also produced.

Here’s a basic outline of the process:

  • Timber dealers deliver loads of sawtimber to the mill’s yard where they are weighed, off-loaded, and stored.
  • Logs at sawmill yard
    Sawlogs ready for processing
  • When ready for processing, logs are debarked, analyzed for grade, and cut to optimal length.
  • Control panel for logs being cut to length
    Control panel for logs being cut to length
  • The log sections, or bolts, are sorted based primarily on diameter before being sawn.
  • Bolts of various lengths ready to be sawn into lumber
    Small diameter bolts of various lengths ready to be sawn into lumber
  • Each bolt is scanned and the saws are set to produce the highest value combination of boards possible.
  • Cants to be sawn into boards
    Cants to be sawn into boards
  • The rough lumber is sorted into bundles according to length, width, and thickness, then stacked for drying.
  • Bundles of rough lumber sorted by size
    Bundles of rough lumber sorted by size
  • Stacks of green lumber are sent through continuous-feed, sawdust-fired kilns to reduce the moisture content.
  • Lumber stacked for drying
    Lumber stacked for drying
  • The dried boards are planed and then bundled for shipping
  • A finished bundle of 5/4 decking ready for shipment
    A finished bundle of 5/4 decking ready for shipment

The optimization algorithms are adjusted roughly weekly based on changes in lumber prices. While maximizing the value of the mill’s output in real time is crucial, the specific needs of long-term customers must also be considered. The mill’s lumber finds its way into the products of many secondary manufacturers including mobile home builders and wood treatment facilities. Nothing goes to waste. Sawdust produces energy, bark becomes mulch, and shavings provide bedding for horses.

The operation provides a lot to think about as you’re lounging on that new deck.

New York forests – but not biofuels – factor in climate plans

By Tony Hall
New York foresters hoped their industry could help the state offset its carbon imprint, but an ambitious climate law does not prescribe biomass energy.

If New York State is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 85 percent by 2050, as required by this year’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, it will need its forests.
But it’s not for wood biofuel, lawmakers decided. By design, the legislation omits wood-fired biomass from the list of officially recognized, renewable energy systems.

Rather, New York is counting on its forests to inhale heat-trapping carbon dioxide; to sequester the carbon that cannot be captured by new technology or significantly reduced by clean energy.
“Some emissions, such as those associated with air travel and from some industrial sources, will be difficult to eliminate,” said Jared Snyder, the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Deputy Commissioner for Air Resources, Climate Change and Energy. “That’s why it’s essential that we identify and take advantage of the opportunities for sequestering carbon in a natural way, in our forests.”

Of course, some representatives of the forest products industry, many of whom attended a conference on the new law and its ramifications in Queensbury at SUNY Adirondack on Oct. 15, appear to have hoped for a more dynamic, lucrative role in New York’s Green New Deal.

“It’s hard not to conclude that this legislation takes a very dim view of the role of sustainably sourced wood as an energy source,” said Charlie Niebling, whose company manufactures wood pellets
.
There has been considerable debate about the potential for biofuels including wood pellets to help offset the climate impacts from fossil fuels, especially after the European Union embraced wood power as renewable energy. Although burning wood emits carbon dioxide, the industry argument goes, the trees that then grow in its place on responsibly managed forests recapture carbon over time. Canada exports most of its wood pellets to Europe, where they are more cost-competitive because power production is more expensive. Southeastern U.S. forestry companies are also supplying Europe, claiming environmental benefits for using waste wood. But some climate activists, including Vermont-based author Bill McKibben, argue that it doesn’t make sense to count on future trees to offset current emissions when the climate is in crisis now.

“Is there any opportunity for sustainably sourced wood from good forestry operations to play a role in meeting the energy needs of the state going forward?” Niebling asked.

According to DEC officials, the state’s new Climate Action Council and its stakeholder advisory panels will provide opportunities for groups such as the Empire State Forest Products Association to make recommendations that could increase the use of wood products in construction and transportation, among other areas.

The Climate Action Council will also play a role in the preservation and management of the state’s 15 million acres of private forest lands.

Source: New York forests – but not biofuels – factor in climate plans – Adirondack Explorer, 2019-10-21

Carlsberg creates ‘world’s first’ paper beer bottle

By Hannah Sparks
Drinking beer might not be the best for your health, but Carlsberg is out to prove it can be better for the environment. The Dutch beermaker says they’ve created the first paper beer bottle, made from sustainable wood fiber with a coated interior to prevent seepage.

Two prototypes are in the works for their Green Fiber Bottle: one with a thin layer of a recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic in the interior, and the other using instead a polyethylene furanoate (PEF) polymer film that is 100-percent biobased, meaning it’s made from natural, biodegradable sources.

Carlsberg hopes to create a bottle made from 100-percent organic materials without polymers — part of their overarching plan to achieve zero carbon emissions at its breweries by 2030.

“While we are not completely there yet, the two prototypes are an important step towards realizing our ultimate ambition of bringing this breakthrough to market,” said Myriam Shingleton, the company’s vice president of development. “Innovation takes time and we will continue to collaborate with leading experts in order to overcome remaining technical challenges, just as we did with our plastic reducing Snap Pack [plastic-free beer can packaging].”

She also added that paper was preferable to aluminum or glass because it’s sustainably sourced and has a “very low impact on production process.”

Source: Carlsberg creates ‘world’s first’ paper beer bottle – New York Post, 2019-10-11

Boulder’s battle against emerald ash borer tree loss fueling local woodworking economy

By Sam Lounsberry, Boulder Daily Camera
Even as Boulder County foresters press on in their fight against the invasive emerald ash borer harming the local tree population, officials acknowledge it is a losing battle.

But it is one lovers of ash trees don’t have to walk away from empty-handed, even as sickened trees are in line for removal or have already been sawed to stave off the infestation.

Woodworkers like Evan Kinsley, who started the Boulder-based business Sustainable Arbor Works several years ago, have turned to ash trees to supply their furniture and art crafting practices as a way to maintain the local benefit provided by the species slated for a countywide death at the hands of the insect. Emerald ash borer has already dramatically altered the composition of forests across the middle and eastern regions of the country.

“It’s a privilege to be able to work with a local hardwood like ash,” Kinsely said.

When he first learned of the 2013 detection of emerald ash borer in Boulder — it has since spread to Longmont, Lafayette, Lyons and Superior, but until last month, when it was first detected in Broomfield, Boulder County remained the only area in the Mountain West with a confirmed presence — Kinsley and his now-business partner Aaron Taddiken looked at each other and said, “We have to do something.”

The solution was to build a wood kiln to speed up the drying process for felled trees, and now Kinsely focuses on harvesting trees removed from the urban landscape, a large proportion of which are ash due to the pesky beetle’s invasion, and reusing them for wholesale lumber slabs and designing and building custom furniture.

“It used to be most of this time, that a lot of woodworkers got their wood from big wood suppliers. That would come from all over the country, all over the world,” Kinsley said. “It’s not a new thing to use local lumber. But it was a new idea for smaller woodworkers, smaller lumber mills to start working with tree (removal) companies.”

Supporting Kinsley’s living is not the life cycle he prefers for the trees, but he feels he is making the best out of a bad situation…

While the city and Boulder County continue treating public ash trees to keep them alive as long as possible using pesticide applications, tree adoption programs and biological weapons, enforcement against declining ash trees on private property continues to ramp up.

In 2018, Read said the city sent 182 letters to private property owners asking them to address declining ash trees posing safety hazard; in 2017 the number was 118, in 2016 it was 82. This year he expects to send a significantly larger number of such letters. The growing number of letters aligns with the advance of the beetle infestation. Tree owners who receive such a letter will have to show the city a good-faith effort is being made to remove trees considered dangerous.

But work to preserve ash trees still free of the emerald ash borer goes on, even as replanting species that won’t be affected by the invasive bug remains the focus of foresters for the future of Boulder’s canopy. The city’s Tree-Imagine campaign launched this spring is pushing city residents to collectively plant 25,000 new trees by 2025.

The county this summer introduced a swarm of a non-stinging, parasitic member of the wasp family on the Mayhoffer open space property in Superior, and also has enlisted 159 participants in its adopt-a-tree program for ashes slated for removal from public places. Program participants can choose to commit to pay for treatment to keep the trees alive.

“A lot of these ash trees are old and they’ve been with the community a long time,” Kinsley said. “Trying to protect them in every way is a valiant effort.”

Source: Boulder’s battle against emerald ash borer tree loss fueling local woodworking economy – Denver Post, 2019-09-08

‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona

By Ryan Heinsius
Jeff Halbrook, a research associate with ERI, takes me on a tour of what’s fondly known as the chip-and-ship pilot project at Camp Navajo near Bellemont.

“It’s all little stuff, down to like a three-inch knop or so,” he says.

A huge mechanical claw scoops up several ponderosa pine logs and feeds them into an industrial chipper. Thousands of wood chunks are blasted into a large shipping container.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three, up to seven small ones can just kind throw in that little jaws there,” he says.

The logs were recently cut from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the containers as tightly as possible with the shredded chips.

“So, they’re finished with that one and then they’ll back around here and start filling this first container, and then it’s kind of like a little dance out there,” Halbrook says.

“It goes anywhere from one to four to three, up to seven small ones can just kind throw in that little jaws there,” he says.

The logs were recently cut from the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff. A crew of six has been working for days to pack the containers as tightly as possible with the shredded chips.

“So, they’re finished with that one and then they’ll back around here and start filling this first container, and then it’s kind of like a little dance out there,” Halbrook says.

“As these markets develop and these techniques are refined, we’re able to do more acres, and we’re way behind the eight ball on our ability to manage acres,” says Rich Van Demark, a forester with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

“As soon as we can build to that capacity with all the pieces that it takes, that’ll get us to that level of management that we need to match up to our forest needs … But at least it’s going in the right direction,” he says.

4FRI managers eventually want to treat 50,000 acres a year, which would produce a million-and-a-half tons of biomass annually. The chip-and-ship program could export a third of that by sending hundreds of shipping containers to Asia for at least the next decade.

Source: ‘Chip and Ship’ Project Aims to Speed up Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona – KANU Arizona Public Radio, 2019-08-26

Our View: New forest products put Maine on right track

Three years ago, Madison Paper Industries locked the doors of its mill, putting more than 200 people out of work. It was the latest in a long string of mill closures that made Maine’s economic future look dark.

But next year the Madison mill building is scheduled to reopen — not to make paper but a new product that has never been manufactured in the United States.

This month GO Lab Inc., a Belfast-based company, finalized a deal that will allow it to manufacture insulation products out of wood fiber. GO Lab President Josh Henry projects that the company will be hiring about 125 people, giving new life to an old mill town.

The revival of manufacturing is not just good news for Madison or Somerset County. It’s a sign that the next generation of forest products is coming off the drawing board and into production. That’s good news for the whole Maine economy — and since the sustainable forest collects greenhouse gases and stores them, it’s good news for the global climate as well.

Not long before GO Lab acquired the mill building, another company, Advanced Infrastructure Technologies of Brewer, announced that it would be making wood-fiber composite bridge supports that will take the place of concrete in the construction of the new Grist Mill bridge in Hampden. This new construction material is just as strong as steel or concrete, but it’s much lighter and takes less time to install. That’s why they call it “The 72-Hour Bridge,” and the company says that reduced construction time will make wood-fiber composite the lowest-cost option in many projects.

Source: Our View: New forest products put Maine on right track – CentralMaine.com, 2019-08-22

Why Assumptions About Wood Biomass Could Be Going Up in Smoke

By Charolette Duck
Harvesting trees for energy and commercial use goes against most people’s idea of sustainability. Although lumber practices happening across Austria suggest that this isn’t always the case.

WHEN IT COMES to finding new ways to create energy, there’s an assumption that the solution must come from something new. In Austria, however, experts are showing that this is not necessarily the case. Particularly when it comes to something as elementary as burning wood – which is as old as the proverbial hills.

Wood has been used as a heat source for thousands of years, and a power source for more than a century, but the relationship between deforestation and global warming has caused it to be overlooked as a potential alternative source of energy. However, new forestry production and management techniques trialled in Austria suggest that trees might actually have a key role to play in helping to sustainably satisfy our demand for energy – the key is being smart about how we do it.

With forests covering almost half the country – 47 per cent in fact – you don’t have to go far to find a tree in Austria. So, it’s unsurprising that the nation would look to harness this natural resource for its energy needs. But, sustainable forestry is more complicated than just cutting down one tree and replacing it with another. Some clever thinking is required.

“A forest owner has to determine the total volume of growth in their forest per year, every ten years,” says Christian Rakos of the European Pellet Council. “If 1000 cubic metres of wood are added every year by growth of the trees, this is the volume you can cut each year.” Formulas such as this have helped shaped laws that govern the progressive forestry industry in Austria. The math might be a little tricky, but in Austria, any deviation from this formula is taken very seriously indeed– so much so that there are special authorities who ensure that forestry laws are respected. What’s more, these forest police must approve any cutting that’s larger than half a hectare, and check regularly to ensure that harvested areas are replanted immediately, or will naturally regenerate within five years.

Similarly, endangered species are also carefully monitored, and forestry near their habitats severely restricted. If the worst should happen and a forest is wiped out unexpectedly by natural disaster, say from a storm, disease or pests, then the number of harvestable trees the following year will be reduced accordingly.

They might be strict, but these tactics are certainly working. After all, forty percent of Austria’s annual forest growth remains untouched each year, with the net result being that forests are actually increasing in size.

Source: Why Assumptions About Wood Biomass Could Be Going Up in Smoke – National Geographic Partner Content, 2019-08-20

Report: EU demand for wood pellets continues to grow

By Erin Voegele
A recent report filed with the USDA FAS’s GAIN predicts the EU market for wood pellets will likely grow this year but cautions future expansions could be limited by sustainability requirements introduced by individual member states.

According to the report, nearly half of the EU’s renewable energy is currently generated from the combustion of solid biomass, not including municipal solid waste. This includes wood chips and pellets. The EU consumes approximately 75 percent of the world’s wood pellets and accounts for about 50 percent of global production. In 2017, 40 percent of EU pellet consumption went to residential heating, with 33 percent to commercial power, 14 percent to commercial heating and 12 percent to combined-heat-and-power (CHP).

The EU consumed an estimated 27.35 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, up from 24.15 million tons in 2017. Wood pellet consumption is expected to increase to 30 million metric tons this year.

The EU is expected to produce 18.1 million metric tons of wood pellets this year, up from 18.85 million metric tons in 2018 and 15.3 million metric tons in 2017. Imports are expected to increase to 12.2 million metric tons in 2019, up from 10.355 million metric tons in 2018 and 8.692 million metric tons in 2017. EU exports of wood pellets are expected to remain at the 2018 level of 170,000 tons this year, down from 195,000 metric tons in 2017.

According to the report, the EU had 656 pellet plants in place in 2017 with a combined capacity of 22.75 million metric tons. Capacity increased to an estimated 24 million metric tons last year, and is expected to reach 25 million metric tons in 2019. Capacity use is expected to reach 72 percent this year, up from 70 percent in 2018 and 67 percent in 2017.

In 2018, the U.K. was the top EU consumer of wood pellets, with 8 million metric tons, followed by Italy with 3.75 million metric tons, Denmark with 3.5 million metric tons, Germany with 2.19 million metric tons and Sweden with 1.785 million metric tons. France, Belgium, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were also among the top 11 EU consumers of wood pellets last year.

The U.K. imported 7.829 million metric tons of wood pellets last year, with 4.88 million tons of that volume imported form the U.S. Denmark imported 3.813 million tons of pellets last year, including 623 tons from the U.S. Italy imported 2.242 tons of wood pellets in 2018, including 88,000 tons from the U.S, while Belgium imported 1.137 tons, including 538,000 tons from the U.S.

Germany was the top EU producer of wood pellets in 2018, with 2.415 million metric tons, followed by Sweden with 1.845 million metric tons and Latvia with 1.575 million metric tons. France, Austria, Estonia, Poland, Spain and Portugal were also among the top nine EU pellet producers last year.

The U.S. was the top supplier of wood pellets to the EU last year, with 6.139 million tons, followed by Canada with 1.762 million tons and Russia with 1.365 million tons.

According to the report, a key factor in being able to capture the demand in the EU market and benefit from its growth potential is the sustainability of supply. “European traders and end-users of industrial wood pellets are calling for clear, consistent, harmonized and long-term government regulations,” said the authors in the report. “In the absence of EU-wide binding criteria for solid biomass, several EU member states, including Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, developed their own rules in response to the growing use of wood pellets.”

Source: Report: EU demand for wood pellets continues to grow – Biomassmagazine.com, 2019-08-05

Sidewalk Labs is building a smart city entirely of mass timber. What could go wrong?

By Kira Barrett
North America is on the cusp of a mass timber revolution, and the Waterfront Toronto project is leading the way. But the material faces major obstacles.

Abuilding made primarily of wood conjures public fear of fire, but for a growing number of developers, it evokes opportunity. From constructing towering wooden condominiums, to timber college dormitories, to an entire neighborhood built from trees, experts in “mass timber” are creating buildings of the future.

Sidewalk Labs’ master plan for a futuristic smart city on the waterfront in Toronto includes an entire neighborhood made of wood, called Quayside, with 10 mixed-use building up to 35 stories.

The plan is audacious, considering that in the U.S., there are only 221 mass timber buildings in the works or fully built, according to the American Wood Council​’s Kenneth Bland.

In most U.S. cities, mass timber buildings, and specifically tall mass timber buildings, are a rarity, if they exist at all.

But architects, city officials and timber advocates across North America are pushing conventional building codes and public perception because of the drastic impact these structures can have on reducing CO2 through carbon sequestration, compared to traditional concrete and steel.

“I think it’s a big opportunity for a lot of cities out there … The impact on reducing carbon emissions on earth could be dramatic,” Karim Khalifa, director of buildings innovation at Sidewalk Labs, told Smart Cities Dive. “And that gets me excited.”

What is mass timber?

One of the biggest obstacles for city officials is understanding the material. They are more than buildings made of wood — they’re defined by their structure. Steel or concrete buildings with wood accents don’t count, according to Andrew Tsay Jacobs from architecture firm Perkins and Will.

Mass timber buildings use solid wood panels to frame a building’s walls, floors and roofs, creating structures that can reach at least 18 stories, as is the case with the tallest mass timber building in the world in Norway. But these buildings aren’t just pure wood. Mass timber construction utilizes engineered wood, or panels glued together, and there are several types: cross-laminated (CLT), glue-laminated and dowel-laminated timber, with CLT being the most common.

While shorter wood buildings have existed for centuries, CLT panel technology is relatively new. It was developed in Europe in the 1990s, the material was only added to the international building code in 2015. Even then, all-wood buildings were capped at six stories, though that will change to allow taller structures in 2021.

Source: Sidewalk Labs is building a smart city entirely of mass timber. What could go wrong? – Construction Dive, 2019-08-05

New Group Promotes “Climate-Smart” Wood

By Scott Gibson
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and four environmental advocacy groups in the Pacific Northwest have launched a promotional campaign for forest practices and wood products that help lower carbon emissions.

The Climate-Smart Wood Group says it wants to help builders, architects, and other buyers understand the difference between wood products on the market and make it easier to locate lumber that meets sustainable forestry standards.

In a statement laying out its goals, the group said that growing interest in mass-timber construction underscores the need to choose wood products carefully. Promoters often cite timber as a less carbon-intensive building product than concrete and steel, the group notes, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“All wood is not the same,” the statement says. “Forest management affects carbon storage, human communities, water, and habitat. Climate-smart forestry—which relies on actions such as selective harvesting, longer rotation lengths, and tight restrictions on hazardous chemicals—can store more carbon than commonly practiced forestry.”

Although not without its critics, the FSC manages an international certification program for lumber. In order to qualify and win the right to mark wood with the FSC stamp, forestry companies have to meet certain FSC tests that are designed to minimize damage to the environment and communities where the wood is harvested.

Other groups involved in the Climate-Smart program are Ecotrust, Sustainable Northwest, the Northwest Natural Resource Group, and the Washington Environmental Council. These organizations all are in the Pacific Northwest.

The group notes that in the pulp and paper industry, large companies have influenced forest management and supply chains through their purchasing policies. But the construction sector is not as organized, with many smaller players working independently. The Climate-Smart Wood Group is a way to bring these players together, its opening statement said.

Source: New Group Promotes “Climate-Smart” Wood – GreenBuildingAdvisor, 2019-06-27