Japan’s major buyer for B.C. wood pellet fuel has increased its contract with Pinnacle Renewable Energy to 100,000 tonnes per year, a bright spot for B.C.’s troubled forest industry.
Pinnacle, with production facilities across the B.C. Interior, signed a new contract Thursday with Mitsui and Co., which uses the wood pellets to fire a new biomass energy project in Japan. The contract was signed at a ceremony in Vancouver, with representatives of the companies and Premier John Horgan.
“Contracts such as this will allow Pinnacle to expand operations, to hire more people and to build the type of British Columbia that we all want,” Horgan said.
“It means that we can take the wood waste that used to sit on the forest floor and lead to some of the wildest fires in recent memory, and we can take that fibre and put it to useful economic benefit.”
Pinnacle CEO Robert McCurdy described it as “an exciting day” for the company’s work in “bringing green energy to the world.” The agreement was signed by McCurdy and Fumiaki Miyamoto, CEO of the Canadian division of Mitsui and Co.
“In order to build trust we keep our word, and we always look for a win-win with our stakeholders,” Miyamoto said.
Pinnacle signed a deal with Mitsui in April to sell 70,000 tonnes per year, shipped through its export facility at Prince Rupert. Japan has worked to diversify its energy supplies since a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011 destroyed its nuclear plant at Fukushima and led to curtailment of nuclear power. It is also a major importer of liquefied natural gas.
Pinnacle began operations as Pinnacle Feed and Pellet in 1989, with its first plant manufacturing pellet fuel from sawmill waste in Quesnel. It began operations in Williams Lake in 2004, Houston in 2006 and Meadowbank (Hixon) near Prince George in 2008.
Burns Lake production began in 2011, and its Westview pellet export terminal at Prince Rupert began operation in late 2013. Its Lavington mill, partnering with Tolko in the North Okanagan, started in 2015.
The company went public in 2018, and soon after began a redevelopment of its Smithers pellet production facility in partnership with West Fraser Timber. That began production in late 2018.
Pinnacle added a facility in Entwistle, Alberta in 2018, and later that year entered the U.S. southeast region by buying a 70 per cent stake in a pellet plant in Aliceville, Alabama.
In September, the company advised shareholders it was feeling the effects of the forest industry downturn.
“Despite positive production gains at the Smithers and Aliceville facilities, the company’s same-facility production in the third quarter of 2019 was down over 14 per cent compared to the third quarter of 2018, primarily as a result of the sawmill curtailments,” the company said in a statement.