Recently local residents and skiers taking part in the Masters Nordic Event were given the chance to take a tour of the Louisiana-Pacific (LP) plant in Golden, arranged by the Kicking Horse Country Chamber of Commerce. An introduction to the plant was given by plant manager Bryce Piggot.
The facility has been a part of the history of Golden for many decades according to Piggot who explained it started out as a sawmill before moving onto selling veneer. In the early 1970s the facility added a plywood plant which became a much greater commodity in the late 1980s and 1990s.
“They decided to look at the engineered wood side of things. As trees which were available to harvest in North America got smaller you could get fewer 2x10s and 2x12s out of them. The industry said ‘how do you make them again?’ They decided to look at engineered wood,” Piggot said. One of the main products produced at the plant these days is laminated veneer lumber (LVL). LVL is a structural product manufactured from thin peeled veneers of wood which is then glued with a durable adhesive. Panels of LVL are usually cut into structural members which have high strength and stiffness.
The plant was purchased in 1999 by LP which is based out of Nashville. Over the years the owners of the plant have been working hard to make it a more efficient and environmentally friendly business.
“This plant is fairly self contained. We generate our own electricity as well as we provide the majority of our own energy. We have a biomass boiler so we take all the bark, sawdust and limbs and we burn it in our furnace,” Piggot said. The steam created from this process of collecting the left over and waste parts of the trees is used to provide heat for the dryers used at the plant. The dryers are used on the veneer wood to dry the product.
The plant also has some energy left over which it uses.
“We superheat that steam up to about 700 degrees and we put that through our turbine to generate electricity. We are a net seller of electricity when we are not running. On the weekends we export electricity to the grid for BC Hydro.”
Piggot explained this makes the plant a much more environmentally friendly facility.
He also explained about the different sources of emissions which come from the plant.
“One is our cooling pond, and that is where the biggest plume of the white you see going up. We take the hot water that we use to create the steam, and we run it through sprinklers outside. That is when you see, in the winter, the white plume going up. It is our heated water evaporating as we try to cool it enough to re -ondense steam back into water,” Piggot said.
He then spoke about the two precipitators which are scrubbers used to clean the smoke coming off of the process in making the veneer. “What you see coming up is a white plume and, when you see this it is moisture…that is what the people will see when you are up at the ski hill. We used to be at about 40 per cent to remove the smoke now we are at about 98 per cent with the scrubbers,” he added.
Piggot said in a valley like this it is very important not to be sending out large amounts of smoke because at times it would be very difficult to get it out of the area.
On the tour people are given the chance to see the whole process from start to finish. They see logs being loaded into the peeler right to one of the final stages where the veneer is pressed together.
People are given the chance to not only see how things work at the facility but also ask questions to tour guides who have a vast knowledge about what you get to see.
“We are proud of this operation and many of the people who work here are long term employees,” Piggot said.