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Estivale breaks an attendance record at its last appearance


August 1, 2000
By Pulp & Paper Canada
Mario Grondines (right) and Steve Carpentier (centre) from Kruger Inc. in Trois-Rivires

Say goodbye to Estivale and welcome the Congrs Francophone du Papier. The newly-named conference will be held for the first time on May 30 to June 1, 2001 at Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Stphan…

Say goodbye to Estivale and welcome the Congrs Francophone du Papier. The newly-named conference will be held for the first time on May 30 to June 1, 2001 at Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. Stphane Rousseau, President of Estivale 2000, which turned 23 this year, took advantage of the annual Gala to unveil the new identity.

Discussions for a name change began during the September meeting of the organizing committee. Committee members felt that it was time for the conference name to reflect what it has become over the years, which is far from the social and recreational gathering of the 1970’s and 1980’s in Pointe-au-Pic, QC. Estivale now presents a complete program of three technical paper sessions, three roundtables, two training sessions and a closing forum, and all in only two and a half days.

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“From the comments that I heard, this change is well perceived by the delegates,” said Rousseau. “I think the name change will reflect the seriousness of the event and will attract more people who disregarded Estivale in the past. The move from Pointe-au-Pic to Quebec City was the first step, changing the name and logo is the second.” The Congrs Francophone du Papier will be the only French-speaking technical event for the pulp and paper industry in North America. The five Quebec regional divisions of PAPTAC and local suppliers to the industry organize the conference.

Ironically, this last edition of Estivale, held June 7 to 9, was also the best attended with 482 people. More than 250 people pre-registered in April and May.

Roundtables

As has been the case for the past four years, the roundtable format was very popular with the delegates. The first roundtable, held Thursday morning, discussed outsourcing. Pierre Riverin, from Pierre Riverin Inc., explained that it is a sensitive issue in Quebec because of the definition of the word “construction”, according to Quebec Law R-20. As soon as you erect a new structure, it is described as a “construction activity”. The law applies and the work is given to accredited construction workers. Everything else, such as repairs, machine maintenance or installation and building maintenance is not included in this definition. Wages and union costs alone will have the cost of any construction project go through the roof, whereas building maintenance projects, which do not fall under Quebec’s construction decree, will easily cost 30-40% less than one that does.

To better understand this reality, the organizers of the roundtable invited representatives of two pulp and paper companies who have different views on the matter. Guy Lupien, Kruger Trois-Rivires, QC, prefers doing all maintenance work in-house, while Denis Berthiaume, Fraser Papers, Thurso, QC, outsources almost all maintenance jobs.

Kruger Trois-Rivires has five production lines, nine paper machines and seven supercalenders. The annual maintenance budget is $30 million. A total of 176 employees are working at maintenance, 42 on electrical and instrumental jobs, the others on mechanical. The ratio supervisor/employee at the mill is 1 for 12. Kruger provides training of its maintenance people for every corner of the mill. Outsourcing is mostly for capital projects for which the company goes to tender. Outsourcing for smaller projects is a rarity. “We look at doing most of the maintenance jobs during shutdowns. That means construction workers come here for a job during a maximum of 40 hours, they come from afar and leave after their time is done, often not interested in the results of their work,” says Lupien. “We prefer working with students who are then mixed with regular employees. We tried that in the past with construction workers and the results were great because our people were leading them, showing them what to do. But construction workers don’t always like that.”

At Fraser Papers in Thurso, QC, most maintenance jobs are outsourced. According to Denis Berthiaume, manager of services at the mill, the extent of the maintenance jobs to be done would be too great for the small number of employees. “There are a lot of maintenance jobs, and we work with only one annual shutdown but two small shutdowns per month,” he explained. “Capital projects are mostly done by “decree” construction workers (those accredited under Law R-20). I would say that we presently go with 60% decree workers versus 40% non-decree. But we are looking at going more often with non-decree workers.” Why? “First and foremost because we want people who will work within the mill’s rules, which is hard with decree workers who are working under the conditions of their own contract…also for the autonomy it gives us, and for consistency. You acquire competence by working under the same environment over and over, by getting to know the equipment, and so on. Also we tend to go back to equipment suppliers for servicing.”

Jean-Pierre Landry, civil engineer and construction manager for the Magnola project in Northern Quebec spoke next. As big as this mining project was, the company decided to go ahead with decree construction workers and especially to go against the wave (Abitibi is a rather isolated region where non-decree work jobs rule.) The cost for a full maintenance team of “decree” construction workers, for a seven-day period, was $54 000 as compared to $44 000 for a “non-decree” team. “And that does not account for meals and reduced productivity from the union delegate,” Landry added. So, why “go decree”? “Because there were dangers to go “non-decree” for that type of project. It is often difficult to verify working conditions of non-decree workers at a given company. Non-decree people sometimes make the mill’s union nervous because of the salary differences. Some construction companies will send you inexperienced staff to apprentice. Medical insurance premiums and other advantages are not as good in a “non-decree” context. In other words, “decree” costs more but you also get more structure out of it.”

Landry added that whatever choice you make, choose your contractor carefully. Ask questions, see who gives good working conditions and who has good relationships with worker unions. And get to know your rights. “The construction legislation is there to protect that industry but it also protects you as a job provider. It is especially important in this day and age when qualified workers are aging and the quality of labor is going down.”

Thursday afternoon’s roundtable discussed coating: Is it the wave of the future? Should you coat? At the end of the panel discussion the answer was not that clear: coating is appropriate for certain paper grades, for certain markets, not for others. Each and every panelist had the same recommendation to make to delegates, however: You have to go with what your clients want or, more accurately, with what they can afford. Diane Legault, Imprimeries Transcontinental, described the ideal paper for its customers — a lightweight (to reduce postal fees on magazines), whiter paper, more opaque, glossy and… economical. “The number one item on the list is the cost. Customers will easily change size and paper grades if it means staying within budget,” she pointed out. Other criteria that will influence the choice of paper are the advertiser’s opinion, the magazine or circular content, if it is sold at newsstands or only by subscription. “You have to keep in mind that it is 110% more expensive to print on #5 coated paper than on newsprint. And printing on SC-A+ is roughly 52% more expensive than doing so on newsprint.” Then why print on coated paper? “Because printers like its quality of reproduction. And advertisers appreciate its richer look.”

For Ren Francoeur, President of the newly-opened CIC (International Coating Center) in Trois-Rivires, QC, focus is everything. “You’ve got to know your customers and your market. The demand for coating paper has been increasing over the past five years everywhere in the world: by 2.2% in North America, 4.8% in Europe and a big 8.3% in Asia.” The CIC, which is the first private centre of its kind in North America, hopes it can fill the gap and fulfill the industry
‘s needs. “Coating is a value-added addition to any sheet and in a context of budget restrictions, the CIC offers ideal conditions to test and develop new products.”

Gilles Dontigny, mill manager at Kruger, Trois-Rivires, QC, pointed out from the audience that even newsprint companies are considering coating their sheet. In Europe, Improved News and Super Improved News are already rolling in. Olivier Rglat, Coesi, confirmed that in the past few months, some companies have been asking Coesi to work on coating formulas for lightweight newsprint paper. But Francoeur added that we are not really talking about coating here, but more about surface treatment. “It has nothing to do with coated paper #5 or lightweight. You add clay, sizing and increase opacity on each side and… bingo!” Dontigny added that the mentality in newsprint has not evolved as rapidly here as in Europe and that customers are not yet ready to pay more just for a better looking newsprint sheet.

Another panelist was Ron Crotogino, from Paprican. He essentially said that coating is here to stay. Before 1990, Paprican did not invest in as many efforts in coating research as it does now. In conjunction with other institutes, they are looking at coating kitchens and coating formulas, but also at the behavior of coating on rolls, at the rheology of coating, at coating preparation, coating viscosity and transfer roll operation in coaters. Paprican is also examining drying coated paper.

Charles Neilson, Alliance Forest Products, explained how the company chose to modernize both paper machines in Dolbeau and Donnacona, QC, for SC-A paper production. “In terms of quality, our clients will choose SC-A+ over LWC because it costs less and it provides very good printing characteristics.” Nevertheless, Alliance played it safe and the configuration of both paper machines allows for the addition of a coater.

The last roundtable, on energy, was held on Friday morning with five panelists. For years, energy was a competitive advantage for Quebec pulp and paper mills but energy costs have skyrocketed in the past few years. Paul Bilodeau, energy manager at Daishowa Quebec, reminded the audience that a typical TMP mill uses 18 GJ/tonne of electricity, which represents roughly 27% of the manufacturing costs. Mills have lowered their energy consumption in the past (down 15% between 1992 and 1997) but they have reached a ceiling and he anticipates energy savings to stay below 4% between now and 2005.

The future does look a bit brighter for pulp and paper mills in Quebec since the provincial government is going to introduce new legislation in November 2000 to allow hydraulic energy production projects of 50 MW and less. Jacques Lebuis, Quebec’s deputy minister of energy, explained that the government wants to encourage private initiatives and, in the long-term, introduce competition so the market dictates energy prices. For now, Lebuis said that Hydro-Quebec rates are still very competitive, at 3.6 cents/KW, which compares with BC rates (3.6 cents), Manitoba’s (3.5 cents) and Idaho’s (3.9 cents).

At Domtar Windsor, the coming legislation prompted the company to go ahead with a cogeneration/biomass project. Senior engineer Andr Bland explained that the project should start in June or July 2001. The company opted for a turnkey project, tendered by invitation.

Since the new Quebec legislation opens the door to new and viable opportunities, Bland advised, “have your technical standards ready and well-defined before you hire anybody. Then you will be able to limit the number of propositions and to fully answer all possible questions.”

Richard Aubry, Hydro Quebec, acknowledged the importance of the pulp and paper industry as a customer. It represents $600 million/y in revenue and its consumption represents 11% of Hydro’s production capacity (17 TWh). He also acknowledged that the industry has worked hard at optimizing the energy efficiency of its equipment. Six hundred million dollars has been invested since 1990 for savings of about 10 cents per KWh. Hydro invested $103 million during the same period to help the industry attain these goals (subsidizing motor replacements programs, for example). In the future, Hydro will cut subsidies, and concentrate on increasing the efficiency of its own installations. Hydro is interested in partnerships for cogeneration projects where energy cost would be lower than three cents/KWh. Jacques Gauthier, Boralex, who was also a panelist on the roundtable, commented that at such a rate, it is difficult to apply an energy efficiency policy, especially with no subsidy. “With more stringent regulations on air emissions from wood residues combustion and a 15-year payback (in general), a 10-MW project (or less) has little chance for becoming profitable. One has to carefully look at production needs before engaging into such a venture,” he concluded.

Raimbault Demontigny

The technical program consisted of three sessions with 17 papers in total presented. The winners of the Raimbault Demontigny Award for the best presentation were Mario Grondines and Steve Carpentier from Kruger Trois-Rivires for their plan of action to optimize the paper machine’s opacity without adding any chemical products, such as clay and TIO2. “We wanted to know which factors were affecting the sheet’s opacity and the extent of their impact,” Grondines explained. “We chose six factors that we could control and change on the paper machine. The level of these factors was chosen with the restrictions imposed by production staff. We took the minimum and maximum for each factor taking into account the client’s reject limits. The first trial gave us the opportunity to select three factors that had the most impact on opacity. On the basis of these factors, we did a new trial to understand the possible interactions between these factors. The result gave us a mathematical model which can be used to predict opacity level and eventually control it.”

Other studies about papermaking, bleaching, pulping and environment were presented. Preprints (in French only) are available from PAPTAC.


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