Biocoal facility in works

Port Alberni’s offerings to overseas markets can soon expand if a proposal to the Port Alberni Port Authority is deemed viable.

Called the Charcoal Project, a proposal is being offered to PAPA by a British Columbian company to use facilities and part of the docks to create biocoal from biomass.

Biomass is a plant-based material, which can be considered wood and wood debris. The plan is to utilize wood debris not being used from sites to create biocoal, a carbon-based fuel that is an alternative to oil.

This biocoal will be made in a local warehouse, stored in containers provided by the Port Authority and shipped to China, according to Zoran Knezevic, CEO of the Port Authority.

“[Port Authority is] contemplating on potentially lending some of the facilities… a couple sheds and some area of the port.”

Knezevic said the process starts with taking leftover wood, or the leftover fibers in the wood from the forest, which is brought to an oven stored in the warehouse.

By applying heat to the wood without oxygen, a component is taken from the wood and biocoal is created.

These byproducts will be transported to China and used as fuel to facilitate silicon production.

The final product, a form of charcoal and activated carbon, can also be used in things like water filters in Brita, according to Knezevic.

The company is considering using a local company’s biomass to fuel the oven.

Brad Berry was approached by the company as his company, B. Berry Enterprises, makes postharvest logging debris.

“We hope to have it wrapped up before the end of the year,”

Knezevic said. “We are working as quickly as we can… we’re doing our job here to facilitate the economic opportunity,” said Dave McCormick, director of public relations and business development.

“There were a number of different locations throughout British Columbia that were considered and Port Alberni has thus far risen to the top as the preferred location for a number of factors in the community.”

If the proposal does go through, around 20 jobs will become available. There is also “potential for growth for that business,” McCormick said.

When addressed about potential environmental concerns, Knezevic said “as far as we can see there is no environmental concerns. The component has talked to the Ministry of Environment and they will do all the proper steps required so that all the environmental issues will be addressed if any.

“We will be removing the leftover fiber from the forest and using it instead of burning it,” Knezevic noted.

Biocoal is considered more ecofriendly than regular biomass as a fuel because it doesn’t release carbon dioxide into the atmospher, he said.

Thus far, “the company is reviewing a draft agreement as well as other factors that they need to confirm before they go ahead with the final decision,” McCormick said. “We are doing our best to ensure that we are acting on the best interest of the community and of the port authority in order to come to an agreement that will provide a number of different benefits for the region.” McCormick noted it is just a proposal at this point, and nothing has been finalized.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said.