The Williams Lake economy has been keen to hear words like “improvement” and “ramping up” so the timing was perfect for Pinnacle Renewable Energy to provide some hope. Global circumstances have dealt the local economy a number of slowdowns and shutdowns in the first half of 2020. Pinnacle has come through all those challenges, and the Williams Lake operation has been an especially optimistic part of it. The pellet facility is now operating again following months of capital upgrades. It was a program of investment that builds on Pinnacle’s 15 years of working in the Cariboo-Chilcotin on the company’s goals of global energy sustainability and environmental stewardship using the utmost of the forest’s resource basket.
Between these upgrades in Williams Lake plus the work done in Quesnel on Pinnacle’s Meadowbank facility, the company has invested close to $30-million in this region in the past year.
“We are thrilled that the hopes we had to upgrade our Williams Lake facility and position it for a strong future have all come to pass,” said Pinnacle CEO Robert McCurdy. “We have built new levels of resilience and safety into our Williams Lake pellet facility.”
One of the main features of the upgrade was equipment that can process wetter fiber. Instead of primarily relying on the shavings and sawdust of sawmills, the Williams Lake facility can also process up to 80,000 additional tonnes of the woody debris that is usually left behind after logging. This material is typically burned in brush piles, but this upgrade turns the Williams Lake pellet facility into even more of a recycling centre for green energy.
Additionally, the facility can now utilize marginal, damaged and dead wood, and a very exciting component of that is the ability to process wood impacted by fire. This maximizes the forest’s materials, cuts down on wildfire fuel, and promotes overall forest health.
The facility’s dryer system also got a major overhaul during the renovation project. The upgraded equipment will mean lower emission concentrations and a reduced risk of haze, plus it cuts down on over-drying.
Air filtration and fugitive dust were also addressed by the project, adding a lot of new pavement and making the worksite cleaner and safer for the workers.
Overall, the renovations contributed more than 90,000 hours of labour for the Williams Lake construction economy and the upgrades will allow for better employment numbers going forward, both at the plant and in the local forest industry.
The celebration felt within the Pinnacle family over the renewed Williams Lake pellet facility are not naïve to certain facts. Wildfires, commodity prices, shipping conditions, sawmilling realities all have their ebbs and flows. These upgrades make the Williams Lake facility more adaptable to those ever changing outside forces.
“The project was completed safely with no injuries,” said McCurdy, underscoring the company’s constant priority of safety.
“We haven’t lowered our production volume at our facilities and we remain focused on working safely inside the facility and any work associated with our operations,” said McCurdy. “I would like to give all the employees at Pinnacle a lot of credit. We work very hard to make sure everybody’s safe and also keep the plant safe and isolated, since we were deemed an essential service. Company-wide we actually set a weekly production record in the midst of the pandemic, so having the safety protocols in place and using additional personal protective equipment has become a challenge that our employees have embraced. Our newly upgraded Williams Lake facility is one more reason to smile in these unusual times.”