Brad DeMille displays a bag of wood pellets trucked in from Alberta at DeMille’s Farm Market on Wednesday, Oct. 16. (Cameron Thomson/Salmon Arm Observer)

Wood pellet supply a concern for Salmon Arm business

Prices increase after Pinnacle Renewable Energy steps away from bag sales

Brad DeMille is advising his customers with pellet stoves to stock up on wood pellets before winter sets in.

After Pinnacle Renewable Energy in Armstrong stopped selling the heating pellets in 40-lb. bags due to a mechanical breakdown and safety concerns, the DeMille’s Farm Market owner has been feeling the heat. While the store sells Pinnacle’s pellets by the ton, contained in plastic totes, Brad DeMille said they are a “pain in the butt” to deal with.

Read more: Armstrong plant stops bagging heater pellets, retailers search for alternatives

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The buyer of one of these totes must have a vehicle capable of lifting 2,200 pounds safely, and a dry place to store the pellets once home. These circumstances make this kind of bulk purchase inaccessible to many of his customers who live off the natural-gas grid said DeMille.

DeMille has found another source of pellets which poses its own set of challenges. While DeMille’s has some stock from Pinnacle leftover, the majority of pellets now come from La Crete Sawmill in Alberta. The cost of the transportation has pushed the price up but against his accountant’s wishes he wants to continue selling them at as narrow margins as possible as he considers it a community service.

Read more: Tolko and Pinnacle partner on pellet project

Read more: B.C. VIEWS: Sawmill struggles as NDP boosts northwest log exports

DeMille said the only other source of wood pellets he found was Clean Burn in Tacoma, Wash.

“At that point I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to sell American fibre in B.C., it is the wrong thing to do,’” he said. “Because our lumber industry is so challenged right now, we’re not having a lot of by-products around in regards to sawmills.”

While he doesn’t see a solution in the near future, he thinks one will be found eventually.

“People are pretty ingenious that way. I think they will find a solution, but I’m a little worried about this winter,” he said.

Read more: Forest Enhancement Society of BC works to protect and restore forests

Read more: Forest policies need to add up

DeMille’s was stocked with 70 pallets, each with 65 bags of pellets. DeMille’s said he usually sells four to five pallets each day and estimates he has 15 days worth of pellets left, with his next shipment coming from Alberta in 30 days.

There are various other places to buy the pellets in town though. Salmon Arm’s Rona location has more than 3,000 bags on hand with a steady supply from Eagle Valley Fuel Pellets coming from Princeton. The lack of supply from Pinnacle caused Rona’s individual pellet bag price to rise by 25-30 cents.

Home Hardware also sells pellets from Clean Burn in Tacoma, Wash. The change in supplier led to an increase of $60-$70 per tonne, but the hardware store also has more than 3,000 bags in stock. Canadian Tire’s Canwick pellets did not see an increase in price and has not experienced an issue with supply. Heading into the winter months the company expects to establish a service that can drop off large quantities of pellets to remote areas.


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

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