Pinnacle Pellet will cut their losses in Burns Lake and jettison an emissions control technology that has consistently failed to meet their expectations.
The wet scrubber emissions system installed at the Burns Lake pellet plant has not been able to provide the consistent air quality control, as measured by quarterly tests, Pinnacle hoped for.
The scrubber works to clean emissions produced through the fibre drying process. The initial system, according to Pinnacle Pellet President and Chief Operating Officer, Leroy Reitsma, was a $4.5 million investment.
The company has since spent close to another $2 million in Burns Lake to overcome technical and operational difficulties with the wet scrubber emissions cleaning system.
The Burns Lake pellet plant has consistently failed to meet quarterly ministry of environment (MOE) stack emissions tests. The MOE has reported Pinnacle to be cooperative in implementing upgrades to bring stack emissions to within provincially mandated targets, but repeated quarterly results have shown those attempts to be consistently frustrated.
On Sept. 9, 2013, Leroy Reitsma and new Senior Vice President of Operations, Scott Bax, attended the regularly scheduled meeting of Village of Burns Lake (VBL) council to announce that Pinnacle would be replacing the existing scrubber technology with a proven technology used in their Meadowbrook facility, approximately 70 kms south of Prince George.
The $5 million scrubber replacement project will begin this year and the new emissions control system is anticipated to be operational before the end of the second quarter of 2014.
“It’s part of our commitment to this community… to make the additional investment to make sure that we’ll meet all the targets we need to meet,” Reitsma said.
The Meadowbrook facility, which became operational in 2008 has used a wet electrostatic precipitator (WESP) since 2011 for its emissions control. It operates by introducing a magnetic charge to emission particles which then adhere to pipe walls within the large scrubber unit.
Those pipe walls are washed with fluids which carry the particles down and out into a waste collection bin.
The system in place now in Burns Lake is a wet scrubber which creates a mist intended to trap emission particles in water droplets, before they are released into the atmosphere.
The wet scrubber system in Burns Lake has not lived up to expectations. The WESP system installed in Meadowbrook has allowed Pinnacle to meet its provincially mandated emissions targets.
According to Reitsma, the Meadowbrook facility has been subject to the same testing as the Burns Lake plant, and has – after an initial learning curve – been able to consistently pass environmental tests.
The pellet plant in Burns Lake is the largest producer of Pinnacle’s six plant locations in B.C., capable of producing 400,000 metric tonnes of product annually (mt/a). Other Pinnacle pellet plants nearest to capacity to Burns Lake are Meadowbrook, Houston and Williams Lake, which all operate in the 220,000 mt/a range.
Critical to the economic viability of the plant are related economies of scale in transportation and shipping. Pinnacle Pellet has been building an new shipping facility in Prince Rupert and it should be ready to start operation at the end of the month.
“The Westview Terminal project in Prince Rupert has been a big focus for our company over the last three or four years,” Reitsma said. “Gaining port access through the northern corridor was key to making sure that the economic viability of Burns Lake could be sustained over the long haul.”
Four storage silos, each with the capacity to hold approximately 125 rail cars of product, will allow Pinnacle to store up to 50,000 tonnes of pellets at a time.
“That creates the avenue for us to be able to ship larger vessels to Europe which further offsets our carbon equation,” Reitsma explained. “The larger vessels burn less fuel per tonne that they carry, and that’s an important aspect of the long-term sustainability of our business.”
Despite difficulties Pinnacle has faced with the introduction of the wet scrubber technology in Burns Lake, overall Pinnacle operations have meant the closure of 12 beehive burners in B.C., Bax told village council.
“Pinnacle has been passionate about its commitment to the environment,” Bax said. “Instead of burning fibre and releasing the emissions into the environment, we’re now using the fibre to offset the use of coal in industrial settings.”
“About 40 per cent of wood consumed in Burns Lake comes from sources previously burned in the forest, the other 60 per cent comes from sawmill residuals,” Bax added. “It’s phenomenal to take something that was considered for decades and generations to be waste, and now make it something that creates value in our communities.”