The letter, written by WPAC's executive director, Gordon Murray, focuses on how Canada's wood pellet sector is "fulfilling its responsibilities" as part of Canada's Critical Infrastructure, as defined in Public Safety Canada's National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure.
Murray said: "The wood pellet sector is unique in that we are actually a subsector of several other critical industries including manufacturing, forest products, energy and utilities. The majority of Canadian wood pellets are exported to Europe and Asia to generate clean, renewable low-carbon electricity in power plants.
"Our utility customers all operate with just-in-time supply chains that are reliant on continuous Canadian wood pellet supply. Any supply chain interruption would result in electrical power plants having to close, disrupting electricity generation in the countries we export to, which would obviously be devastating to their Covid-19 response.
"In the UK, wood pellets account for 6-8% of the country's electricity and Canada is one of the UK's main suppliers. In Japan, Canada accounts for 50-70% of all that country's wood pellet supply.
"Wood pellets are also used for home heating in rural Canada, especially in areas not served by the natural gas grid. Wood pellets are often the lowest cost, or even the only fuel option in many parts of rural Canada."
Murray goes on to highlight that the wood pellet sector has many benefits, including contributing against global warming by replacing coal in power plants, and delivering revenue for the primary forest sector by purchasing raw materials. He also added that the sector is keeping Canada's national rail network and ports busy "in these times of reduced economic activity".
He added: "We would like to point out that Canada's wood pellet plants are among the world's most modern and highly automated. The health and safety of our employees is our top priority. We are closely following the recommendations of the World Health Organisation and the Government of Canada regarding Covid-19 precautions."
The recommendations highlighted by Murray include:
- The adoption of working from home measures where possible
- Avoiding group gatherings
- Implementing systems to support employees facing Covid-19 and those in self-quarantine
- Changing shift schedules to reduce employee contact between shifts
- Implementing social distancing across operations
- Managing break, lunch and dinner times to ensure the two-metre distance between staff
- Suspending international travel and restricting domestic travel
- Restricting visitors and thorough screening of on-site contractors and deliveries
- "Ramped-up" sanitation and hygiene measures
- Sharing best practices amongst membership during regular, industry-wide safety webinars.
Murray ended the letter by saying: "We wish to assure you that during these challenging days, and for the days ahead, we will continue to fulfil our responsibilities as part of Canada's Critical Infrastructure. I would be pleased to discuss these issues with you or your staff at your convenience."