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Island firm BioFlame producing alternative heating source for the masses

Chemainus company on the cutting edge of industry innovation

Marcus Woernle is a young innovator in an ever-evolving forest industry.

Woernle, 38, has utilized his experience from the time he previously worked at the Crofton pulp mill as a power engineer to meet growing demands for the residential and commercial heat market while being environmentally conscious at the same time.

That led him to establish BioFlame Briquettes, with a production plant located in the Chemainus Industrial Park. He’s the sole owner of the company, with a couple of additional employees and the chance for rapid expansion of the workforce in the future.

“We make sawdust briquettes, they’re compressed sawdust bricks,” Woernle pointed out.

“What we’ve recently got into which I think is going to be the future is we make a smaller briquette.”

With limited natural gas available in many parts of the region, it seemed a natural to him for the development of the product for wood stoves.

“There are so many benefits, especially for older people,” said Woernle. “You don’t have to stack it. You don’t have to split it.”

The briquettes can be used in any wood stove. “You can mix it, too, which is great, especially for people who don’t have seasoned wood,” he indicated.

Woernle became aware of the concept of a biomass briquetting system while at a trade show in Europe and immediately realized the potential. Purchasing a system still came with limitations and risks.

“It’s been the chicken and egg kind of thing,” Woernle chuckled. “On the Island, no one really wanted to do it.

“I just saw there was a demand and I kind of went for it.”

He managed to transform the remnants of a former Western Forest Products site for his plant, taking waste sawdust and using heat and pressure to mold it into bricks.

The bricks are held together from high pressure and natural resins in the sawdust.

In simplistic terms, Woernle receives sawdust delivery and it’s stored in large tents to keep the material dry. A front loader moves the material to be fed into a dryer before it’s conveyed to a large silo, ready for the briquetting process.

The material is compressed to form the rectangular briquettes and then pushed into an automated packaging machine. Each package contains 12 briquettes.

A hammermill that crushes or shreds aggregate material into smaller pieces is seen as a game-changer in the manufacturing process for Woernle and that’s where recent funding from the B.C. Manufacturing Jobs Fund has provided a big boost.

BioFlame Briquettes received up to $117,320 to buy and commission a hammermill and briquette press that will increase fibre diversity and production at its facility. That will allow the company to take logging waste directly from the forest to reduce wildfire risk and decrease risk of fibre supply uncertainty while creating new jobs.

“Thanks to the B.C. Manufacturing Fund, BioFlame is able to acquire the necessary equipment to transform low-value wood waste into densified biomass,” Woernle noted. “This waste includes construction and logging residue, allowing BioFlame to increase production and meet demand.”

“Seeing a homegrown company like BioFlame expanding its operations and creating new opportunities for local workers means the investments from the B.C. Manufacturing Jobs Fund are helping grow strong, sustainable economies,” stated Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan.

“We’re working together with innovative manufacturing companies as they look to grow and bring long-term, sustainable jobs to communities throughout B.C.,” added Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation Brenda Bailey. “By investing in companies as they upgrade and modernize, we’re also investing in strengthening local economies.”

People have probably started noticing BioFlame briquettes available for purchase at Country Grocer, Quality Foods, hardware stores and other retail locations.

“The briquettes on the residential side, it’s been growing,” said Woernle.

But there’s also huge opportunities on the industrial side. Landing a contract with Saanich Commonwealth Place to upgrade its boilers to use biomass was significant for Woernle and his company.

The new system utilizes BioFlame’s biomass pucks, so named because they’re like wooden hockey pucks, since briquettes are too large for industrial use.

It’s a continual work in progress for Woernle and long hours are necessary at this stage.

“Running your own business can be very trying,” he conceded. “But I don’t regret it at all.”

More information on the company and its operation is available at