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Modular construction planned for wood-pellet plant in Burns Lake, British Columbia

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The largest producer of wood pellets in the world is using a unique construction process to build a new plant near Burns Lake, B.C., which will utilize mountain pine beetle killed wood.

VANCOUVER

The largest producer of wood pellets in the world is using a unique construction process to build a new plant near Burns Lake, B.C., which will utilize mountain pine beetle killed wood.

“We have been in this business for 20 years now and we are continuing to build capacity in the same way we have in the past,” said Leroy Reitsma, chief operating officer with Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group.

“The installation in Burns Lake follows the same production processes as the other capacity.”

Construction of Pinnacle’s new $30 million plant began in the middle of September and is expected to be completed by December. At peak construction, there will be about 110 people working on the plant.

When completed, this will be Pinnacle’s sixth wood pellet plant in the province. The company already has plants operating in Armstrong, Williams Lake, Quesnel, Strathnaver and Houston.

“We are well advanced in the civil end of the project and the mechanical installation has also commenced,” said Reitsma.

“We tend to build these plants very quickly, by lining up a lot of resources and components, then building them on a condensed construction schedule.”

Pinnacle is unique in the wood pellet industry because the company fabricates the components that go into the construction and expansion of its plants.

“The design of our facilities is very modular,” explained Reitsma.

“The building blocks between plants are very similar. We fabricate these modules at our own production facility, which is how we can achieve this condensed schedule.”

Reitsma said this internal fabrication capacity is kept busy with new construction and upgrades at existing facilities.

Using this construction process, Pinnacle has expanded rapidly to a capacity of about 1.1 million tons in 2010 from 60,000 tons in 2004. The large increase in production capacity includes the new plant.

“Through a series of strategic relationships with major and independent companies, we have leveraged the technical strength of our people to accomplish growth,” said Reitsma. “We have an opportunity to assist the primary forest industry, by providing an economical outlet for the non-merchantable component. This has been elevated as a result of the mountain pine beetle.”

Pinnacle is located in central B.C. and has access to an abundant source of raw materials.

The new plant will produce 400,000 tons of wood pellets a year from mountain pine beetle killed wood.

The wood pellets are used for coal replacement in power generation plants and will be exported through Vancouver and Prince Rupert to European and Asian markets.

The Pinnacle Renewable Energy Group is a private company founded by the Swaan family of Quesnel. It has been in operation for more than twenty years and is the longest established pellet producer in Western Canada.

by Richard Gilbert

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