At first glance, the Sinclar Group Forest Products Ltd. may look like one-trick lumber mill company, but in closer examination of the company’s operations, it’s apparent Sinclar has much more to offer.
Through a philosophy that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit and leverages partnerships, Sinclar has continuously evolved, expanded and transitioned into new opportunities for the last 49 years.
“Our organization has leveraged partnerships throughout its history right down to the way we were founded between a partnership of my grandfather, Bob Stewart, and Ivan Andersen,” President Greg Stewart says. “All of our partnerships address the very specific needs of each individual. With each partnership, the people have to feel they are getting something out of it.”
Two of the company’s recent partnerships have it expanding beyond its usual realm of manufacturing products for the residential construction industry. With the downturn of the housing industry in Sinclar’s major markets of the United States and its Canadian home base, Stewart says it’s ever more important for the company to utilize all its resources to produce diverse revenue streams.
The company operates nine companies out of eight mills in British Columbia. Five are primary mills and the other three are secondary value-added mills. At its Lakeland Mills Ltd. in Prince George, British Columbia, the state-of-the-art sawmill and planer mill complex produces primarily premium grade, precision end-trimmed studs and board stock.
However, a growing focus at all of the mills is maximizing the value from the residual fibers. The Lakeland Mill is advantageously located to capitalize on opportunities with the Prince George Downtown District Energy System and the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).
“The Lakeland Mills has excess residual fibers with inherent heating capacity,” Stewart says. “Lakeland has been at the forefront of maximizing value from our fiber since 1985, when we installed an energy system for lumber drying. This process only required a few modifications in order for us to partner with the city to provide heat for the downtown core.”
In 2010, the city signed a 10-year contract with Sinclar that includes the installation of a bioenergy plant with emissions control measures. The city will own the installed equipment such as the electrostatic precipitator, while Sinclar will operate the plant and supply the wood fiber needed to power it. The plant will pump hot water to the city government buildings.
“We are looking forward to working with them for the next 10 years,” Stewart says. “If given the option in the future, we would gladly sign on for another 10 to 20 years.”
The mill also will supply wood fibers for UNBC’s biomass gasification system currently being constructed by Nexterra Systems Corp. The $15 million project is expected for completion in April 2011 and will provide heat to the core campus buildings to offset an estimated 85 percent of natural gas consumption.
“Our company has been based on being opportunistic,” Stewart says. “We of course evaluate the opportunities that come our way, but I can realistically see the opportunities in sustainability and bioenergy growing for us due to our community focus and our proximity to them. There’s a real cluster here in Prince George and Northern British Columbia that is focused around bioenergy, and we want to continue being an industry builder.”
While Sinclar helps outside entities with their sustainability goals, the company has taken its own measures to increase efficiency at all of its facilities. Through an extensive energy overhaul, Sinclar reduced its overall energy consumption by 25 percent. Program initiatives included identifying and eliminating air leaks, developing efficient mill-heating systems and encouraging employee awareness of individual energy use.
The company partnered with BC Hydro to identify ways of conserving power, Stewart says, thereby reducing Sinclar’s consumption while supporting the utility company’s conservation targets.
After two years of its energy overhaul, Sinclar was named the 2010 BC Hydro Power Smart Leader by BC Hydro, the third largest electric utility provider in Canada. Stewart says Sinclar is the first forestry
company to receive the award.
“Receiving this award was huge for a couple of reasons,” he stresses. “It not only makes sense financially, but from a social perspective, what we did here is just the right thing to do period.
“We reduced the amount of energy consumption without affecting production. Our company’s energy consumption was over and above what we needed to consume. We set our initial sights at reducing consumption by 15 percent and managed to reduce it by 25 percent. It was an audacious goal in the first place, and I’m proud we were able to achieve it.”