• Ontario’s forestry sector employs nearly 67,000 people.
• The province has an emerging bio-economy.
• Ontario has several biomass-to-power producers serving the national grid.
• Ontario Power Generation has placed an order for 90,000 tons of wood pellets.

Forestry is a core activity in Ontario: the province has managed Crown timber resources since the early 1800s. Fast-forward to this decade and the forestry sector employs 66,800 people at various locations, including 328 sawmills and wood preservation facilities; 138 veneer, plywood and engineered wood product facilities; and 67 pulp, paper and paperboard mills.

Value-added wood products are big business – in fact 60% of Ontario’s C$18bn forest products industries are value-added. There are more than 2,000 manufacturers producing everything from pallets to high-grade furniture components.

Ontario is an internationally recognised leader in sustainable forest management, providing high-quality wood from a reliable source of renewable and diverse forests. Eighty per cent of the total licensed land base has been independently certified to either the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the American Forest and Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The province has a skilled workforce and boasts 44 universities and colleges where thousands of students are learning the skills needed to give its industries a competitive edge. Ontario has an extensive and focused network of apprenticeship and co-op programmes with a key focus in high demand areas, including value-added wood products.

Ontario is also home to the Centre for Research and Innovation in the Bio-economy (CRIBE). CRIBE’s role is to aid the transformation of the forest products industry by acting as a conduit for companies interested in investigating opportunities in the emerging bio-economy. CRIBE is able to partner financially with relevant industry organisations and private sector partners to bring emerging technologies to fruition. It has sponsored several projects, including a lignin extraction demonstration plant in Thunder Bay. Lignin is a potentially high value product in the creation of bio-based plastics and even carbon fibres.

Using wood to create bioenergy, biofuels and chemicals is an emerging opportunity and several new businesses in Ontario are beginning to take shape to serve both the domestic and international markets through the production of biomass wood pellets. In addition, renewable fuels and chemical production facilities are beginning to have a presence in the Ontario landscape. The province also has several biomass-to-power producers currently servicing the domestic grid.

It is also converting some of its existing coal power stations to use biomass. The first power plant to go biomass is the 211MW Atikokan generating station, near Thunder Bay, which has achieved full load on 100% wood pellets. The fuel contract for Atikokan will be put in place during 2012, and Ontario Power Generation has recently placed an initial order for 90,000 tons of wood pellets.