Company fired up about wood chips.

AuthorRoss, Ian
PositionThunder Bay

A northwestern Ontario green energy company is making incremental steps toward promoting a regional biomass economy.

Over the years, Northerners have heard from industry, government and academics about the opportunities to harvest, transport and process the abundant supply of discarded forest slash into heat and energy for buildings and entire communities.

But little in the way of tangible progress has been made.

Biothermic Wood Energy Systems, a Thunder Bay biofuel heating company, established a processing and storage facility that they bill as the first of its kind in Ontario.

Led by co-owner Vince Rutter, Biothermic has been a leader in promoting modern, clean-burning wood heating solutions using a reliable and sustainable homegrown source of fuel that can outcompete propane, natural gas and imported oil.

To Rutter, Canada's forests are vast, the heat demand is large, and the price of fossil fuels is bound to go up with federal carbon pricing.

"The lowest cost alternative, without a doubt, is wood. We have to move in that direction."

On the company's Mooney Avenue acreage in Thunder Bay's inner city, a wood chip processing plant and a 5,000-square-foot dome-like storage shed has been erected.

Rutter has assembled an aggregate-style screening system with a hopper, agitator and conveyor belt leading to a three-deck screening plant to separate out the wood particles that are too big or too fine to produce a consistent size that's ideal for the boilers he sells.

He sources the raw material through his other company, Rutter Urban Forestry, a Thunder Bay tree care company. The twigs and clippings that arrive on his trucks are green wood with a high moisture content of greater than 50 per cent.

In order to be utilized as reliable boiler fuel that won't clump or freeze, the material is stored inside the open-end shed where air can pass through and decomposition can take place to reduce the moisture content to 30 per cent or lower.

As well as being a supplier of chips, Biothermic is a dealer for Froling, an Austrian company that makes clean-burning home and commercial-scale wood chip, pellet and firewood combustion boilers.

His local customers include Belluz Farms, outside Thunder Bay, which purchased and installed a new wood chip system to heat its greenhouses. Confederation College also bought a boiler from Biothermic for its campus.

In early November, one of the larger 2,500-kilogram boilers was in Rutter's shop being prepared for shipment to...

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