The series of conferences and events that make up PaperWeek Canada really do provide a one-stop opportunity to hear about all that is happening across the Canadian pulp and paper industry, from R&D to operational solutions, to financing innovative technology, to global market trends.
This year, PaperWeek Canada was held in Montreal from Feb. 4 to 7. More than 850 people attended the four-day event organized by PAPTAC.
Broadening its coverage to more than the traditional pulp and paper industry, PaperWeek once again played host to the International Forest Biorefinery Symposium. As well, cutting-edge research was highlighted, as leaders of the eight research networks that make up FIBRE presented an update on their activities.
Monday, Feb. 4, was also a day of peer-to-peer interaction for mill operations personnel, with meetings specifically to mill managers, paper machine superintendants and maintenance personnel.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the trade show opened, with more exhibitors than last year, and with the notable addition of a half-dozen paper companies recruiting through the job fair organized by PAPTAC and FPAC.
Top executives from three Canadian pulp and paper companies anchored the business sessions, complemented by global industry analysis from specialized research firms.
Overall growth tempered by regional differences
The next two to three years should be quite positive economically, compared to where we’ve been, said Kurt Schaefer, vice-president world fibre of RISI. He anticipates overall global growth rates for paper production of 3.2% and 3.8% for 2013 and 2014, respectively (this include graphic grades, packaging and specialty papers, and tissue). A slight slowing is expected in 2015, to 2.8%, and then a steep decline in 2016 to only 0.2% growth.
Schaefer cautioned that there is a broad divergence in growth rates across grades and regions, which mutes the overall growth numbers.
“For newsprint, the downward trend is pretty much in evidence around the world,” he informed PaperWeek attendees.
Containerboard is facing a “recovered paper crunch.” Less paper is available as the production of graphics grades declines. Boxboard is sensitive to price, so as recovered paper pricing goes up, boxboard growth will slow, he predicted.
There will be some benefit to North America because some of our producers use virgin fibre, but around the world, 85% of containerboard production is based on recovered paper.
Tissue markets “continue to grow, buoyed by the rising tide of living standards around the world,” said Schaefer. This growth is fairly consistent, and from a pulp producer’s point of view, the demand growth results in gains of 1.5 million tonnes of pulp each year.
Schaefer predicts that gradually there will be a shift in the furnish mix for tissue, moving back to more softwood and hardwood virgin fibre, again because of the recovered paper crunch. He notes that, globally, demand for recovered paper is going up faster than supply.
Partnerships key to new directions
Frédéric Bouchard, managing director, PwC, suggested that the upcoming years in the Canadian pulp and paper industry would see further consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, as well as increased business transformation, but that much of this will take place on a small scale, with fewer big deals taking place.
Pierre Lapointe of FPInnovations talked about the research organization’s partnership with Genome Canada, Genome BC and Genome Quebec. The groups will investigate the economic potential of selecting superior trees and using genomics to boost production volume across the industry. Lapointe says there is a potential volume gain of 20 m3/hectare.
FPInnovations is also working toward an air-based inventory of the forest, using drone aircraft to provide precise information and possibly even species identification.
Two panels sponsored by Natural Resources Canada to highlight their IFIT (Investments in Forest Industry Transformation) program focused on both the business and technical sides of implementing innovative concepts. Representing Resolute Forest Products, Alain Bourdages and Martin Fairbank addressed the early stages of implementation, and how to “sell” innovation within your own company. A key message was the importance of knowing your company, ensuring that the suggested innovation fit the current company goals and corporate culture. Fairbank added that awareness of process feasibility and raw material supply are key considerations.
A more concrete presentation from Ron Reis, senior vice-president, pulp, with Millar Western Forest Products, detailed his company’s experience implementing a bioenergy effluent project. Still under construction, the $42-million project will add anaerobic hybrid digesters to the Whitecourt pulp mill’s existing effluent treatment system. In addition to cleaner discharge, this project aims to produce methane, which will generate 5.2 MW of green electricity for use in the mill, as well as replacing natural gas in the package boiler, and producing steam via a heat exchanger. The project will to reduce water intake, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve long term viability of the mill by reducing power purchases, natural gas requirements, and sludge handling costs.
The project is financed by $17 million from an Alberta ecoTrust grant, $6.75 million from NRCan’s IFIT program, and $17.75 million from Millar Western itself. As challenges, Reis noted the often long wait for government funding approval, an increase in required reporting, and the competition for construction and other personnel.
Presenting for Albert-Pacific Forest Products, Daryl Nichol, vice-president pulp, and Trevor Ip, project manager biomethanol project, discussed their company’s biomethanol project. Funded in part by NRCan’s IFIT ($5 million), the $10-million upgrade is currently producing methanol for internal use and for sale in the provincial methanol market.
Bio-economy forges ahead
At the third annual International Forest Biorefinery Symposium (a specialized conference within PaperWeek Canada), École Polytechnique’s Michel Perrier delivered the keynote address, covering the role of the green integrated forest biorefinery (GIFBR). His presentation examined a new efficiency analysis process that moves beyond pinch and energy path analysis towards a more comprehensive methodology that includes water usage. Perrier’s talk also covered three potential types of GIFBRs, highlighting their quick payback period (less than three years), but noting their high capital investments, some in excess of $60 million. He acknowledged that such capital investments might be hard to secure in today’s economic climate.
Zishan Shah of the University of Northern British Columbia presented a few criteria for selecting a partnership, noting that 50-60% of partnerships fail, and 80% of those failures result from bad partner selection. Shah stressed that partners help spread risk (capital, technological and commercial) and can help create markets. Sari Hämäläinen (University of Jyväskylä) presented her doctoral research on partnerships of small and medium enterprises in biorefinery networks, in the Finnish context. Hämäläinen concludes SMEs need to be active in seeking partnerships, and should collaborate with other SMEs to increase resources and expertise before approaching key players.
Opportunities for the forest products industry in the automotive sector were discussed by Craig Crawford, president and CEO of the Ontario BioAuto Council. Crawford outlined several prospects, such as recycled honeycomb cardboard (already used in the automotive industry as a layer in composite materials), micro-fibers (as a glass-fiber replacement, or an additive to commodity plastics; commercialization by next year), lignin based carbon fibers (commercialization by next year) and nano-materials such as nanocrystalline cellulose. Crawford noted the necessity of meeting consumer demands for cost control, product predictability, product availability, product performance, as well as social and environmental responsibility.
Describing the research of the Bioconversion Network, Jack Saddler of UBC noted that this group is investigating pre-treatment methods, enzymatic hydrolysis, fermentation, and economics of biorefining.
Saddler feels that this field is facing some scientific and technological barriers, as well as the economic pressure of an upcoming decade of cheap fossil fuels, which makes the competitive arena tougher for bio-based fuels and chemicals.
Lignoforce™, a proprietary method of extracting lignin in a kraft mill in order to offset caloric load at the recovery boiler and produce a co-product with market value, was discussed by Lamfedaal Kouisni of FPInnovations. The Lignoforce process solves many of the problems associated with other methods of extracting lignin, offering higher filtration rates, better purity, lower drying costs and lower chemical costs, according to Kouisni. Lignoforce is currently at the demo plant stage (operating at the Resolute Forest Products mill in Thunder Bay, Ont.), but Kouisni suggested commercial scale operations will be forthcoming within the year. Kouisni could not comment on potential capital cost related to a commercial application of the Lignoforce system.
On the subject of nanomaterials, Ron Crotogino of ArboraNano says Canada is advancing rapidly with regard to manufacturing nanocellulose. BioVision Technology, for example, is developing a process to produce carboxylated cellulose nanocrystal (CNC) called Nanocel™. ArboraNano is a business-led centre of excellence that has invested close to $16 million in 25 projects. Its mandate ended in March 2013.
Other technical presentations at the biorefinery symposium included Louis Patrick Dansereau (Polytechnique de Montréal) on the importance of value chain planning in forest biorefineries, Fanny Monteil-Rivera (National Research Council of Canada) on the use of microwave heating in the extraction of lignin, and Adriann Van Heiningen (University of Maine) on the production of biobutanol.
Water: the next hot spot
In a technical panel on water consumption, Manuele Margni (Polytechnique de Montréal) and Caroline Gaudreault (National Council for Air and Stream Improvement) spoke of the future of water foot-printing and its potential effects on the forest products industry. The two noted that water foot-printing methodology is currently in development, with no international or national standards in place. More complicated than carbon foot-printing, water foot-printing includes inventory and impact assessment (that is, it considers both quantity and quality), and is regionalized.
Reporting on water impact is expected to become standard policy, and Gaudreault stressed that poor implementation of reporting metrics could have a negative impact on the forest products industry, something NCASI is hoping to address in its research.
Roger Paradis (Ovivo) also presented on integrated water treatment options for pulp and paper mills. In this scenario, water treatment is decentralized, focusing on simpler process effluent instead of mixed effluent. Paradis noted that integrated water treatment involves proven technologies, saves energy, reduces consumption, is low risk and often has a payback period of less than two years.
A panel on the demographic challenges related to the forest industry’s workforce addressed some of the concerns expressed by other conference participants. These concerns included an aging workforce, industry image, and competition from comparable industries (such as oil and gas or mining).
Robert Beauregard of the Université de Laval noted that university enrollment is shifting from traditional forestry programs to programs with a focus on environmental concerns, and that the forest products industry, in order to attract these young graduates, would need to bolster its image as a green industry.
Millar Western’s Brian McConkey discussed his company’s problems and solutions to the labour challenges, focusing on recruitment and retention, skills development and knowledge transfer, as well as the perception of the industry. Important steps to take include industry rebranding (McConkey mentioned the Greenest Workforce campaign launched by FPAC), partnerships with industry associations and not-for-profits focused on employment, as well as First Nations groups. McConkey also suggested the need for internal programs, including mentorship and succession plans.
Presenting last, Bob Matters of the United Steelworkers Wood Council reiterated the demographic challenges, and stressed the need for each company to have a concrete plan to deal with them, such as that at Millar Western.
A number of tangible measures to address the industry’s demographics challenge were in evidence at PaperWeek Canada. FPAC launched Thegreenestworkforce.ca and the Green Dream internship contest. As well, FPAC and PAPTAC organized a job fair to coincide with PaperWeek Canada. Approximately 200 students visited the half-dozen employers on site.
New faces, new ideas and a resurgence of optimism marked the 2013 version of PaperWeek Canada.
PAPTAC recognizes industry leaders at PaperWeek
A series of awards were presented to individuals and companies that have contributed to the advancement of the pulp and paper industry by PAPTAC during PaperWeek Canada.
The John S. Bates Memorial Gold Medal recognized the contribution of Dr. Pierre Lepoutre to the science and technology of the pulp and paper industry. Lepoutre is the founder of the Paper Surface Science Program at the University of Maine, and was a researcher with Paprican for many years.
An Honorary Life Membership was bestowed upon André Bernier, general manager of the Resolute Forest Products mill in Fort Frances, Ont. Bernier is the past chair of PAPTAC (2009-2010) and has shown long-term dedication to the association.
Mariya Marinova of L’ École Polytechnique de Montréal received a Certificate of Appreciation for her exceptional leadership as the chair of PaperWeek Canada’s International Forest Biorefinery Symposium.
The Douglas Atack Award for the best mechanical pulping paper was presented to Youfeng Lin and Robert Lanouette of l’Université du Québec à Trois Rivières for their work on jack pine refining.
Wayne Bichard of FPInnovations was been selected to receive the F.G. Robinson Award for his exceptional service as Chair of PAPTAC’s Standard Methods Committee.
Veronique Morin of Cascades’ mill in East Angus, Que., accepted the annual Energy Conservation Opportunity Award, sponsored by Pulp & Paper Canada. Ms. Morin and mill staff won the award based on their work involving optimization of medium consistency loops.
Allan Elliott and Talat Mahmood from FPInnovations and Denis Bélanger from Kruger shared the Douglas Jones Environmental Award for their paper entitled Reducing Biotreatment Nutrient Addition Costs.
The Howard Rapson Memorial Award was presented to Luc Lapierre, Jean Bouchard and Richard Berry. The three researchers from FPInnovations garnered the award for the best technical paper concerning chemical pulp bleaching, with a paper entitled Assessment of Pulp Machine White Water Quality of Market Kraft Pulp Mills.
Jim Blight, general manager of Domtar’s Dryden, Ont., mill was named Mill Manager of the Year. “I need to share this professional honour with my colleagues here at the mill,” said Blight. “We’ve had to make some difficult but necessary changes over the recent years to reposition ourselves for the changing global markets. We’re now a safer, m ore competitive operation thanks to many people making a sustained, collective effort over a long period of time.”
Canfor Pulp’s Prince George Pulp & Paper mill in Prince George, B.C., received the Environmental Strategy of the Year Award. Glenda Waddell, Canfor, is shown with PAPTAC executive director Greg Hay (left) and Tom Rosser, NRCan.
PAPTAC’s Safety Leadership Award was presented to Domtar’s Windsor, Que., mill. Eric Ashby (left) accepted the award from Yvon Pelletier.