A change of plans is afoot for Paper Excellence’s pulp mill in Prince Albert, Sask. The company’s vice-president of operations told a local newspaper that the company has abandoned plans to produce dissolving pulp and has set its sights on fluff pulp instead.
When China announced countervailing duties on dissolving pulp products, plans to convert the shuttered mill to dissolving pulp production were axed. “That totally destroys the work that we’ve been doing,” Dale Paterson told the Prince Albert Daily Herald (Dec. 16). “There is no 50 per cent margin in making pulp.”
Paper Excellence has turned its focus for the Prince Albert site to fluff pulp, which may also face some challenges from competitors. Fluff pulp is most frequently used in incontinence products, and is produced in North America by Domtar, with whom Paper Excellence signed a non-compete agreement when it purchased the mill in 2011.
The non-compete agreement will be reviewed very carefully, Paterson told the newspaper. He also said the local trees are suitable for making fluff pulp. “The first thing you do is make sure the wood you have will make the product that you want to make -- and we’re good,” he said. “We took the wood and we cooked it in our research centre to ensure that the quality of the fibre is good.”
Patterson said it will take approximately 18 months to restart the mill and outfit it to produce fluff pulp. Project costs are expected to be similar to the dissolving pulp conversion, which is $75 to $90 million.
The Prince Albert mill currently operates a green energy facility, using waste wood to produce electricity for the Saskatchewan power grid. Paterson also has hopes to add another turbine at the mill and increase its electricity production.