AROWRN Conference 2012

May 2, 2012

See the presentations from the AROWRN 2012 Conference in Edmonton April 30 – May 1, 2012.

Click the link to download a PDF of each presentation.

Dr. John Gilliland OBE

Founder and Chair of Rural Generations
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Areas in Europe are being divided into sustainable rural catchment areas or watersheds with geographic boundaries.  By 2015, water discharge in these catchment areas must be potable.  Any solutions to this problem must take into account three factors:  1) profitable businesses are needed to drive the economy in the regions; 2) climate change limits what options can be applied to problems; 3) food and energy security are becoming increasingly important.  Any solution to the problem of making discharge water potable must balance all three of these factors.  Solutions that only deal with one facet of a complicated problem can create problems in other areas.  For example, cleaning up the discharge in one city in Ireland increased electricity use and therefore carbon emissions and costs.

The basis behind Rural Generations is that wastewater can be used to fertilise wood, which is harvested and used as fuel in boilers.  Willow trees are used because they are an indigenous, quick growing, high yielding, woody non-food crop that requires a large volume of water for growth.

One of the largest problems with innovative solutions such as this is fear of change.  Farmers, policy makers, and regulators don’t like being put out of their comfort zones.  Banks don’t take risks with new technologies.  The education system is behind the curve due to the speed of change.  Policy development, regulation, and public procurement makes lateral thinking and delivering innovation difficult.

Richard Krygier

Intensive Fibre Management Specialist
Natural Resources Canada
Canadian Wood Fibre Centre
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AROWRN currently consists of five sites across Alberta and combines municipal and federal governments, regulators, industry, and academic partners.  The crops grown are willows and poplars for biomass, and poplars for forest products.  These trees are easy to propagate and establish, re-sprout vigorously after harvest (important for biomass production), have high potential for genetic improvement, a large number of varieties, and an extensive root system.   Both controlled surface flood and subsurface drip irrigation are used thus providing options for concerns such as human contact with the wastewater and decreasing the chance of odours.  Environmental factors that must be considered in site selection are the electrical conductivity, sodium absorption ratio, biochemical and chemical oxygen demand, pH, total coliform bacteria, and faecal coliform bacteria in the soils and/or water .

John Kitchen

Vice President Business Development
Pacific Regeneration Technologies Inc.
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The three most important considerations for planting willows are proper seed bed preparation, cuttings, and weed control.  The cuttings should be well hydrated and have hard and tight buds, along with a diameter of at least 8mm. Cuttings should be straight, well nourished, and stored after harvest in a freezer at    -2°C.  The best weed control can be achieved by tilling the year before planting, followed by a cover crop if needed to control erosion.  Willows should achieve a height of at least 80 cm by August of the first year in order to provide sufficient crop cover.  Biosolids have been shown to increase willow growth by increasing soil organic matter, moisture retention and available nutrients. Application of municipal wastewater has also increased crop yield.  For energy applications, the biomass produced is a reliable source of feedstock. Competitive biomass cost can be achieved by combining the system with these other environmental service values.

Miles Dyck

Assistant Professor
University of Alberta
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Growing willows/poplars involves trying to manage the soil water balance between precipitation and irrigation (input of water) and transpiration, evaporation, and deep drainage (output of water).  Soil saturation point and permanent wilting point are unique to all soils and easy to measure.  Soil water is water that is available to the plant.  Maximum plant transpiration is achieved by keeping water levels between field capacity and the permanent wilting point.  Salt build up can occur if there is inadequate drainage and the fields may require flushing with excess water.

Allan Yee

Senior Engineer
Organics Processing
City of Edmonton
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Biosolids are the residual of wastewater treatment.  In Edmonton, biosolids (or sludge) generation began in 1916, when it was initially landfilled.  Currently, the City semi-stabilizes its sludge through anaerobic digestion.  Digested sludge is 1-3% solids and will gravity thicken to 8-10% solids through lagooning.  Biosolids can be applied to agricultural land; however, the land must be suitable and there are tillage and crop restrictions.  In addition, there is a restriction on lifetime accumulation of trace elements in the soils.  Biosolids can also be transformed into a value added product through composting it with wood chips.  The City is endeavouring to actively expand the range of beneficial land application uses of its biosolids in various reclamation and biomass projects.

Martin Blank

Wood and Fibre Bioremediation Technician
Natural Resources Canada
Canadian Wood Fibre Centre
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The willows are typically planted in a two-row-bed design, which is the most commonly used pattern worldwide.  There are two scales of harvesters: 1) large: using modified agricultural equipment – forage harvester and a modified round baler; 2) small: using modified corn/sugarcane harvester.  Both the forage and corn/sugarcane harvesters require willow to be planted in rows.  The forage harvester is designed for a two row system while the other harvests a single row at a time.  Both harvesters produce wood chips while harvesting.  The round baler can be used to harvest in both row planted and open grown systems.  Depending on the end use, bales may need to be chipped prior to utilization.  Regardless of harvesting method, chips and bales should be dried to 20% water content before use to maximize efficiency.

Eric Phillips

Senior Research
Silviculture Operations
FP Innovations
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The first step in commercialization of plantations is the development of a business plan which looks all phases from establishment to final product and addresses the economics and the customer requirements of the final product. A variety of products are possible but bark and moisture content are universal themes and may have critical thresholds for many products such as pulp chips and heating pellets. Usually longer rotations are required to obtain suitable diameters for de-barking if this is a desirable customer attribute. Some higher value solid wood products may also be available from longer rotation plantations. Typically, transport of biomass is one of the most significant portions of the harvest cost. It can be reduced by choosing a suitable vehicle configuration, by decreasing the moisture content or increasing the density of the product. A variety of technologies exist for creating secondary products from processes such as torrefaction, pyrolysis and gasification but many of these are still developing technologies and not yet fully commercialized. Burning biomass is at the commercial stage and can utilize small diameter willow and popular to produce heat energy.

Evan Davies

Assistant Professor
University of Alberta
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A system is a series of interconnected components working together to perform a particular task.  There is a need to consider the larger context when working with problems.  Systems modeling can be applicable in many fields.  The first stage is to build a causal loop diagram, which shows how change in one part affects other parts of the system.  The second stage is to build a model using data.  At both stages, the system can be refined as more information becomes available.

George Neurohr

Municipal Engineer
Alberta Environment
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The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act defines which activities require approval or regulation.  If a municipality is setting up a short rotation woody crop  plantation, it could also be governed by the Waste Control Regulations, Wastewater and

Storm Drainage Regulations, the Substance Release Regulations, Subdivision and Development Regulations, and, if it involves cogeneration, the Alberta Utilities Commission.  As a case study near Slave Lake Alberta demonstrates, the legislation does not take into account projects such as this that involve lateral thinking.  It is extremely important to involve the environmental regulator as projects such as this are being developed.