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Alberta awards over $6M to pulp and paper projects in ERA challenge

April 21, 2021  By P&PC Staff

Several pulp and paper projects are among the 17 winners of a project challenge awarding a total of $33 million in funding from the Alberta government.

The province, through Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA), has selected projects with a combined value of $107 million in public and private investment in the forestry, agriculture and food sectors.

Funding comes from the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) fund and supports innovation in the agriculture, agri-food, and forestry sectors. If successful, these technology innovations will lead to cumulative greenhouse gas reductions of up to 2.7 million tonnes of CO2e by 2030.


A total of 150 applications were received, requesting a total of $383 million for projects worth $1.5 billion. From the 17 approved projects, four are categorized as natural solutions, seven are in the bioindustry and bioenergy sector, and six are in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

These technologies are at the pilot, demonstration, or first-of-kind commercial deployment stage of development.

The winning pulp and paper projects are:

ATCO Gas: RNG from pulp mill waste
Project value: $18.67 million | ERA commitment: $5 million

This project will produce renewable natural gas from the Millar Western Whitecourt pulp mill’s wastewater treatment anaerobic digester. If successful, the project could allow Millar Western to convert approximately 99 per cent of the methane in the biogas to RNG, which meets pipeline quality standards and can be delivered within the existing natural gas infrastructure.

The project would lead to emissions reductions by displacing natural gas from the Alberta natural gas network and through a reduction in the amount of electricity used to treat effluent in the aerobic wastewater treatment system. Immediate GHG reduction of 10,000+-plus tCO2e/year are estimated for this project.

FPInnovations: Bio-sourced asphalt from the Canadian forest industry
Project value: $1.25 million | ERA commitment: $350,000

The research firm will develop a bitumen-lignin hot mix asphalt formulation to be used in the paving industry. The process would reduce GHG emissions by replacing some of the non-renewable, fossil-based bitumen with renewable, bio-sourced lignin in asphalt production.

Millar Western Forest Products Ltd.: Application of artificial intelligence at pulp refiners to optimize energy usage and product quality
Project value: $1.46 million | ERA commitment: $730,000

The Whitecourt mill will use a Pulp Expert System (PES) powered by artificial intelligence (AI) at the refining stage of the pulping process to reduce energy consumption and improve product quality. Once fully implemented, the project is expected to reduce GHG emissions by over 23,000 tCO2e annually through reduced consumption of grid electricity.

“ERA funding is essential in promoting ongoing innovation in the forest industry,” says David Anderson, president and CEO, Millar Western, in a statement.

“By enabling investment in novel technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence, ERA will help us to make higher-value products that better meet the needs of international customers, and to keep pushing the boundaries of technological advancement in Alberta. Most important, it will help us optimize use of critical inputs like energy, fibre, and chemicals, and further reduce our carbon footprint.”

Projects were selected through ERA’s competitive review process. A team of experts in science, engineering, business development, commercialization, financing, and greenhouse gas quantification conducted an independent and transparent review overseen by a Fairness Monitor.

All funding recipients are required to produce a final outcomes report that will be shared publicly.

For a full list of projects, visit the ERA website.

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