EASTPORT, Maine — A proposal to export low-grade wood chips to Europe received support from representatives of logging companies, pulp mills and sawmills at a meeting Tuesday.
Phyto-Charter Inc. has developed a patented system for treating wood to rid it of pathogens and pests so it can be exported and meet the standards of the European Union, according to Stephean Chute, managing director of the firm. The United States has not exported wood to Europe since 2000, when the current regulations were enacted.
Countries in the European Union have developed what Chute called an “aggressive” strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and have 20 percent of their energy needs met by renewable sources by 2020. Phyto-Charter is “part of the solution” in Europe, he said.
Chute said the opportunity to export low-grade fiber — wood logs and chips for which there is no U.S. market — will create a new market and benefit everyone in the industry here.
Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority, expressed his support.
“It’s a brand new market that has not existed,” he said.
The port of Eastport was chosen because of its depth — the water is 64 feet deep at low tide — and its location. Shipments from Easport can reach Europe as much as two days sooner than shipments from other ports. The port also is located close to wood fiber in Maine, said Chute’s partner, Larry Carrier of E.J. Carrier Inc. logging of Jackman.
Carrier, Chute and Gardner called the meeting to bring together top officials in the wood industry and educate them about Phyto-Charter’s plans.
Comments made about the proposal were favorable.
“Any market will be greatly appreciated,” said Jerry Poullin of Wagner Forest Management, one of about 50 people to attend the meeting.
“We need low-grade markets, we are struggling statewide,” said Dana Doran of Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.
“All of the mills shutting down recently has had a traumatic impact,” said Jeff Lewis of Dean Young Forestry. “Having an opportunity like this … could breathe some life back into the industry.”
But when several meeting participants pressed for a timetable or even a “best guess” about when they could expect the first load to ship, Phyto-Charter officials declined to be specific.
“Rest assured, it’s coming soon,” said Carrier. “I’ll just leave it at that.”
The Eastport Port Authority began working with Phyto-Charter in 2009, said Gardner. It took the port four years to install the approximately $10 million conveyor and ship loading systems that will move wood chips from the trucks down to the pier and onto the ships.
Gardner said complicated plans such as these take time.
“If it was that simple, somebody else would have [already] done it,” he said.
Gardner had said previously that he believes the project will be launched in 2016.
He told those attending Tuesday’s gathering that the fact Phyto-Charter called the meeting was an indication of how close they are to getting the project off the ground.