Surrounded almost entirely by the sea, Nova Scotia’s lush forestland serves as a mainstay of life on the province, and its proximity to Europe an advantage for trade of forest products like wood pellets. One source of the province’s pellet production resides in the heart of central Nova Scotia. A few years ago, Viridis Energy resurrected the former Enligna Canada Inc. pellet mill and renamed it Scotia Atlantic Biomass Co. The operation occupies a 157-acre property, inhabiting 20 operating buildings with an additional 22-acre wood lot. Since Viridis acquired the assets and property, the plant has been overcoming hiccups and pursuing opportunities, and this is expected to continue. “I think we’re a constant improvement facility,” says Julie Millington, general manager of Scotia Atlantic Biomass. “I don’t think we’re ever going to chase down every bottleneck, as soon as we fix one we look for the next one.”
Some bottlenecks that have already been addressed include the elimination of picket feeders to provide better flow of materials in the hammer mills, moving to a double-belt system versus single to reduce belt damage and replacement costs and maintenance, and lowering grease consumption by installing grease systems on each pelletizer and the charged distribution blocks. Other measures the company has taken include implementing new moisture testing and sampling procedures to better understand the mix and fiber-cost analysis, redefining positions to increase safety and capabilities, and installing steam heaters through the facility to decrease freeze-ups in the winter.
Although the ongoing battle against the plant’s bottlenecks hasn’t been easy, the mill has achieved visible progress, and in Q3 2015, it was able to breakeven and attain profitability on an earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization basis. “It was challenging to change the attitude of many of the staff who were discouraged with missing production targets and financial losses,” says Michele Rebiere, chief financial officer of Viridis Energy. “However, Julie is a great leader with an exceptional outlook and she kept the spirits up and encouraged top performance out of everyone.”A total of 25 employees work at Scotia.