Building resilience in forest-dependent communities through sustainable forest bioeconomy development
This thesis seeks to determine the characteristics of a future forest bioeconomy that will contribute to the resilience of forestry communities across northeastern Ontario to inform bioeconomy development in the region. A regional approach is taken to evaluate pathways for forest bioeconomy development over the near and long-term. This approach is unique in that all potential energy and non-energy uses for available low quality forest biomass in northeastern Ontario are considered, as is the regional infrastructure and characteristics of the forest sector and available biomass. Some (commonly studied) pathways were ruled out early based on information in the literature and the characteristics of the existing regional forest sector. Other pathways were deemed promising and further analyzed within the regional context. The analysis assesses the regional performance of different conversion pathways and specific technologies within them. Assessment of technologies for deployment in the near-term was done at the community level, using a case study approach to evaluate several options for displacing natural gas used primarily as heating fuel. To assess pathways for advancing the forest bioeconomy over the long-term, a larger-scale regional method was applied to get a sense of what a coordinated approach to advanced biorefining might look like across eastern Canada. The results of this analysis shed light on the type of advanced processing facilities that might be feasible in Northeastern Ontario and informed the analysis of advanced processing pathways. As analysis of advanced conversion pathways progressed, it became clear that there was a lack of published information on advanced technologies that could be deployed in regions with a strong sawmilling sector but little pulp capacity, such as northeastern Ontario. Chapters 4 and 5 address gaps in knowledge that hinder further development while also providing insight into the economic feasibility and conversion characteristics and process improvements that could enhance feasibility. Chapter 6 draws on the analysis in the previous chapters, and the deep body of resilience literature, to identify characteristics of a future forest bioeconomy that would maximize the resilience of communities across northeastern Ontario, and the forest sector upon which the region was built, over the near and long-term.