By Tom Peters
Scotia Atlantic Biomass Company Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Viridis Energy Inc. of B.C., has sent its first shipment of wood pellets to Europe and is already talking expansion of its Nova Scotia plant and possibly a second plant within the province.
The MV Irma loaded 25,000 MT of pellets at the Halifax Grain Elevator Feb. 3-4 destined for an unnamed customer in Ghent, Belgium.
Christopher Robertson, Director and CEO, Viridis Energy, who watched the ship being loaded at the Port, said a second shipload of about 28,000 MT, which has already sold to the same customer, will be loaded near the end of June with a third vessel to sail by the end of the year.
In July 2013 Viridis signed an agreement with Ekman & Company AB of Gothenburg, Sweden, one the world’s oldest trading houses and wholesalers of forest products, to serve as its worldwide agent to market the entire Scotia Atlantic Biomass production. Robertson said he expects the Middle Musquodoboit plant to produce 90,000 MT to 100,000 MT this year. Viridis purchased the plant in January 2012 for $2.4 million after former owner Enligna Canada went into receivership. He said the plant’s production capacity is approximately 120,000 to 130,000 MT annually with annual revenues expected to be $20 million.
Viridis has invested over $4 million into the plant since it took ownership. Robertson said the company had meetings scheduled with the Nova Scotia department of natural resources to discuss access to more raw material. “We would like to expand the plant we are in now, and would like to find out where there is timber. We also want to talk to the provincial government about getting fibre in another part of the province and maybe invest in another plant,” he said.
The Musquodoboit facility employs 26 people and produces pellets for industrial use. Mr. Robertson said the plant is looking at also producing a premium pellet for home heating. The Viridis spokesman said there is an unlimited market in Europe for the wood pellets but he eventually “would like to keep this product here if we could. I think in two or three years that may be possible.” Approximately 14 million tonnes of pellets are produced worldwide each year and the demand by 2020 is expected to hit 80 million tonnes per year.
Jeff Brownlie, Halifax Grain Elevator’s Manager of Finance and Administration, said the elevator has handled wood pellets in the past and is glad to see production of wood pellets resumed. The elevator has a total storage capacity of 144,000 tonnes and has some special equipment to handle the wood pellets. It has temperature monitoring on the inbound receiving conveyor belt and also temperature monitoring cables in all the storage bins. “We have organized ourselves so we can receive 24/7 without having staff on hand to do it. Security personnel hits a button and the receiving system will start up. The truck driver can unload and the product can be put into storage,” Brownlie said.