Alberta is a place of infinite variety. Perhaps the two images that come to mind first when thinking about Alberta are soaring mountain peaks and waving fields of grain. But in fact more than 60 per cent of Alberta’s land mass, more than 381,000 square kilometres, is covered in boreal forest. The boreal is a rich and diverse blend of spruce, pine, tamarack and fir trees. It is home to countless species of wildlife, birds and ecosystems. It is rich in minerals, oil and gas.
It is also home to a thriving forestry sector. Buyers from around the world recognize the value of Alberta’s forest products, which include lumber, pulp, newsprint and engineered wood products like oriented strand board. It means the sector contributed and facilitated approximately $13.6 billion CAD in economic output, $2.7 billion in labour income, and more than 31,500 jobs in Alberta in 2020.
Alberta is committed to sustainable forest management and third-party certification. In addition to sustainable practices, the sector has engaged in a variety of initiatives to combat climate change, minimize waste, create renewable energy sources and reduce its overall environmental impact. With planning that stretches out for centuries, not decades, Alberta will remain a sustainable producer of forest products for a long time.
Number of Albertans employed directly in the forestry sector and in supporting occupations
Annual industry revenue from harvesting operations and the sale of lumber, pulp, newsprint, wood panels, engineered wood products, bioenergy and ecosystem services
Export revenue from Alberta’s forest products to international markets such as the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Europe
Increase in the value of exports of Alberta’s wood products between 2020 and 2021
Source: Government of Alberta
Remember when we used to hear the term “paperless society”? Remember when people predicted that the rise of mobile phones and laptops would kill the need for us to use paper? Yeah, we were all really wrong about that. In fact, the world’s using more paper than ever before. The rise of e-commerce and the need for online shipping means we need a lot more cardboard than ever before. The rise of fast food chains and the fact that consumers are turning away from plastic bags means a rise in paper bags, straws and accessories.
The global paper market was worth an estimated $215 USD billion in 2020, but is expected to hit $300 billion by 2030. As a major producer of the highest quality softwood kraft pulp you can find anywhere in the world, Alberta is ready to capitalize on this market boom.
The Athabasca-Grande Prairie-Peace River region is the hub of the Alberta forestry industry. More than half of the province’s industry can be found in an area that stretches from north central Alberta to the northwest of the province. In fact, the Alberta Forest Products Association says 57 per cent of the province’s forest-related economic strength is located here.
From 2020-2028, it is expected that this region’s forestry-related activity will add $4.3 billion CAD worth of GDP to the province. More than 6,500 people are employed in forestry jobs in the region.
World’s First Bio-methanol Refinery
Located in that North Central Alberta hub, about 150 kilometres north of the capital city of Edmonton, you’ll find the millsite for Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries (Al-Pac). It is the largest single-line producer of kraft pulp in North America, producing about 620,000 metric tonnes of the vital ingredient in the paper-making process each year. It produces a mix of hard-wood and softwood pulp.
Natural Resources Canada has tracked the pulp market, and softwood pulp is the most valuable, selling for almost $1,800 CAD per metric tonne as of October, 2022.
And there is value added, as Al-Pac is the site of the world’s first operational bio-methanol refinery. It produces 2,000 tonnes of bio-methanol a year from hardwood trees. Bio-methanol is an alternative energy source and can be used to manufacture solvents, plastics and polyester.