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6,000 kilometres for a bag of wood pellets

Export-driven Nova Scotian shortage leads to British Columbian imported pellets

by Miles Howe

Okanagan Brand wood pellets, from West Kelowna, are now available at selected Canadian Tire stores in Halifax. This, after tens of thousands of tons of locally-produced wood pellets were exported to Belgium and beyond. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Okanagan Brand wood pellets, from West Kelowna, are now available at selected Canadian Tire stores in Halifax. This, after tens of thousands of tons of locally-produced wood pellets were exported to Belgium and beyond. [Photo: Miles Howe]

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) - Earlier, we wrote in some greater detail about the journalistic immaturity in blaming the “sudden cold snap” for the chronic lack of wood pellets this winter in Nova Scotia. With tens of thousands of tons of Nova Scotia-sourced wood pellets having departed from the Port of Halifax in 2014 towards European shores – pellets that could have heated the homes of about 17,000 wood pellet stove users for the full winter season – attributing the local shortage to any type of natural causes is an insult to the local intelligence level.

There is the argument, of course, that industrial grade wood pellets bound for the highly-subsidized biomass plants of Europe are a totally different thing than the wood pellets meant for home heating; as though the two really shouldn't be compared. For the most part, this is false.

Producers that offer both “industrial” and “commercial” wood pellets note that the main difference in product specification is about a percentage point more “ash content” in the “industrial” product. This percentage point difference appears to be over-exaggerated, so that the average Nova Scotian consumer, stranded in line-ups, competing with other wood pellet stove users for scant supplies, will simply assume that the “industrial” product isn't intended for them. As though it is made of a different type of “dirtier” wood. The biggest difference, it would appear, is whether or not one can afford to lock a producer into an industrial-sized, year-round contract; which home users most certainly cannot.

The merry-go-round of the free-market, which abhors unrequited demand - in wood pellets or otherwise - appears to have hit a new low this past weekend in Halifax. Locally-sourced Nova Scotia “consumer grade” wood pellets, the majority of which are produced by Shaw Resources under the 'Eastern Embers' brand, appear to be not at all available in the city. Phone calls to 'Home Depot' outlets in Halifax and Dartmouth suggest that they have not been able to stock wood pellets from anywhere “for weeks”, according to a representative from the sales department. "Industrial grade" pellets, largely produced by Viridis' Scotia Atlantic, have already set sail for Belgium.

The Quinpool Road Canadian Tire, however, has gotten its hands on shipments of wood pellets, from two non-local sources. The first shipment is of CANAWICK brand wood pellets, which are produced in Saint-Quentin, New Brunswick. Saint-Quentin is over six hundred kilometres from Halifax, about a seven hour drive. This not only adds a significant carbon footprint to the “green-branding” of heating one's home with wood pellets, but is also something of a rub in the faces of wood pellet users who have faced similar product shortages throughout the winter in New Brunswick.

The second variety of wood pellets currently on sale at the Quinpool Road Canadian Tire in Halifax are Okanagan Brand. These pellets are manufactured nearly 6,000 kilometres away in West Kelowna, British Columbia, about a sixty hour drive away.

To recap:

  • In 2014, approximately 90,000 tons of Nova Scotia-produced wood pellets were shipped from the Port of Halifax to Ghent, Belgium (about a 5,000 kilometre trip and from there who knows where).

  • Locally-produced wood pellets for Nova Scotia domestic consumption have been scarce for much of the winter.

  • As cool temperatures drag on, some imported wood pellets have arrived in Halifax. These include shipments from northern New Brunswick, where shortages have also been felt throughout the winter, and from West Kelowna, British Columbia, about 6,000 kilometres away.


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Comments

thanks for the update! that's

thanks for the update!

that's a long way to go for a product that was intended to be a local forest waste reuse solution

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