Western Forest Products transitioning to higher value products for dry kiln

Western Forest Products is taking steps to offer more value-added products to its customers, according to its first-quarter earnings report.

In February the company completed the installation of a $12 million continuous dry kiln at its Saltair sawmill in Ladysmith, British Columbia, to support increased production of higher valued products. The new kiln increases the mill’s annual capacity for continuous drying of lumber approximately 70 million board feet while also reducing energy consumption, one of Western Forest Products’ environmental goals.

The company also announced advanced permitting for two other continuous dry kilns, one at its Duke Point sawmill in Nanaimo, British Columbia, and one at its Value-Added Division in Chemainus, British Columbia. Each kiln will have a capacity of approximately 70 million board feet; installation is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

During the first quarter of this year, Western Forest Products increased its specialty lumber mix from 61% versus 40% in Q1 2023. As a result, even thought lumber shipments decreased from 170 million board feet in Q1 2023 vs. 131 million board feet in Q1 2024, the company’s net loss decreased from $17.7 million a year ago to $8.0 million.

Western Forest Products’ Q1 2024 earnings report noted new indigenous relationships. The company completed the sale of a 34% ownership interest in the newly formed La-kwa sa muqw Forestry Limited Partnership for gross proceeds of $35.9 million to the Tlowitsis, We Wai Kai, Wei Wai Kum and K’ómoks First Nations. The company also released the draft of a forest landscape plan, a new collaboration with the Namgis First Nation, for public comment.

The company also noted the indefinite curtailment of its Alberni Pacific Division (APD) facility. In January 2023, Western Forest Products announced it would not restart APD in its current configuration and established a multi-party working group to explore viable industrial manufacturing solutions for the site. Those efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful due to what the company termed “more challenging macroeconomic conditions and financing markets.”

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