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Kruger Wayagamack gets a “fresh start” with Relance 2002

So commented Daniel Archambault, who was named general manager of the Kruger Wayagamack plant this past September. Mr. Archambault, who previously headed the Kruger Bromptonville plant for a number of...


December 1, 2002
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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So commented Daniel Archambault, who was named general manager of the Kruger Wayagamack plant this past September. Mr. Archambault, who previously headed the Kruger Bromptonville plant for a number of years, is experiencing what is probably the most hectic autumn of his career in the pulp and paper industry. He has suddenly found himself at the very heart of one of the biggest papermaking projects currently underway in North America (the other, of course, being Papiers Gaspsia in Chandler).

You have to go to the site and see with your own eyes the veritable beehive of activity that the Kruger Wayagamack plant has become, at least for awhile. With the way the plant is set up, visitors arrive right next to where the construction work is going on. Their attention is immediately captured by the pulsating energy that is running through the site, the incessant noise of the

trucks circulating and the cranes raising tanks or moving brave workers from point to point hundreds of meters in the air. The building that will house the new machine was filled with workers during our visit last Nov. 7 and work had already started on closing the walls. The bustling activity also included trucks making a mandatory stop to be weighed immediately beside the work site and construction of the new security post, which will be ready when you are reading these lines.

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If you’re still having trouble grasping the project’s gigantic scale, try to visualize the following statistics: a building 225 m. (738 ft.) long, 55 m. (180 ft.) wide and 25 m. (82 ft.) high, giving a total volume of 309,000 cu. m., 3500 cement trucks, 1500 equipment deliveries, 17,500 metric tons of steel and, within the plant, 350 km of electrical cables, 54 km of pipes, 2500 faucets and various instruments, 800 motors . . . It’s enough to make your head spin!

More than a new machine

Project Relance 2002 is much more than a new ultra-light coated-paper machine that will go into operation some 10 months from now. It in fact comprises a series of modernization initiatives aimed at raising the Wayagamack plant to a technical level similar to that of Kruger’s other plants. Since its acquisition in May 2001 from Abitibi-Consolidated (this takeover could indeed be described as a rescue operation), Kruger Inc. has made its intentions plain and did not double its presence in Trois-Rivires on a mere whim. While Kruger Trois-Rivires is a model plant because of the variety of paper grades produced there, Kruger Wayagamack Inc. will become a world-class producer of ultra-light coated paper. (A clause in the sales contract stipulates that Kruger will not use the facility for the manufacture of newsprint, a favourite Abitibi-Consolidated market.)

The project has an overall budget of $416 million and includes not only an entirely new coated-paper Metso machine (described further on) having a capacity of 200,000 tonnes/year, but also a host of modernization projects involving various plant installations.

“The project’s ultimate goal,” said Daniel Archambault, who took time out from his busy schedule to speak with us, “is to augment plant productivity in terms of both product quality and operating costs and also adapt the existing infrastructures to the new machine.”

The project got underway a few months ago with an investment in the kraft pulp facility. (The plant also comprises a groundwood pulp facility.) Overall capacity was increased from 250 to 300 tonnes/day by maximizing the capacity and environmental performance of the Combustion Engineering recovery boiler. A new distributed-control system (DCS) was also installed, as were analyzers for the pulp alkalinity and the Kappa number.

“The primary objective was to improve the quality of the kraft pulp produced, even though this already met our quality standards for the project involving the new machine,” Mr. Archambault added. The excess kraft pulp is directed onto a wet lap for shipment to Kruger’s Trois-Rivires plant.

It should be pointed out that Kruger Wayagamack is already operating two paper machines: PM 2, which produces specialty papers, including supercalendered paper using a soft nip calender, and PM 3, a Black Clawson model that turns out directory paper. As Mr. Archambault noted, the plant is one of the few in Quebec to have undergone two new-machine installations (PM 3, called La Trifluvienne, dates back to 1982). PM 2 has also received its share of attention over the years: retrofitting of the wet end in 1986, along with installation of a Black Clawson Top Flyte and replacement of the press section. Two years later, two hard nips were installed in the intermediate smooth position.

In fact, neither Stone-Consolidated nor Abitibi-Consolidated ever hesitated in investing in the Wayagamack plant. Unfortunately, though, certain such investments proved unprofitable, like the money spent on the PM 6, which went from mechanical-grade production in 1991 to high-content recycled fiber bag paper grades in 1994. This machine was finally shelved in 1996. Kruger turned its attention from kraft pulp to de-inked paper and last summer completed installation of equipment, at a cost of $7.5 million, to receive and treat de-inked pulp used in the manufacture of directory paper.

“This enables us to produce directory paper with a de-inked content percentage ranging up to 40%, depending upon the customer’s specifications,” Mr. Archambault explained.

The installations include two reception lines, an unloading dock with conveyor, as well as two pulpers, the tanks and the vats for mixing the pulp that will feed machine PM 3.

Each of the two machines has been overhauled, with quality, productivity and reduced operating costs being the objectives of these investments.

“In both cases we increased their speed by 10%,” Mr. Archambault noted.

In July 2002, work was completed on paper machine no. 3. This work included addition of a new steam chest in the press section by supplier Metso Papier and anti-blowing chests in the drier. Also, the steam condensate system was modified and the Honeywell company supplied the distributed-control system (DCS), along with a Da Vinci sheet quality-control system (QCS). The machine was shut down for a week to allow the work to be done and at the time of our visit, it was still in an optimization stage, with the paper produced already meeting the firm’s objectives.

“With the new controls, we can produce a more uniform sheet that is of better overall quality,” Mr. Archambault commented.

The modernization work on paper machine PM 2 ended in September. First, a press section was replaced by GL&V equipment. Also carried out were additions to the steam condensate system and the installation of stationary syphons with a view to increasing the machine’s drying capacity. In addition, work was done on the reel and the winder (involving the unwinder).

But the heart of the modernization on PM 2 is unquestionably the new Honeywell Da Vinci quality control system and a Calcotl induction system to control the cross-section profiles during the calendering operations, as well as the sheet’s thickness and sheen.

“It’s truly what has enabled us to increase machine speed by 10% and obtain better sheet uniformity,” said Mr. Archambault. “And the overall quality of the rolls is also improved.”

It’s now the mechanical pulp section’s turn to undergo a facelift, thanks notably to the new MUST screening system by Metso Paper. The new screens will allow for improvement of the waste-refining system, along with the department’s overall capacity. Also to be installed is a sodium hydrosulfite bleaching system, with existing tanks to be used in the process.

“Currently, we are using a small-sized bleaching system on each paper machine,” Mr. Archambault explained. “But this comprehensive, more complete system will service all the machines.” In this regard, mention should also be made of a new Honeywell DCS system.

“These investments will considerably reduce our operating costs and enable us to manufacture mechanical pulp of the quality required to produce no. 5 ultra-light coated paper,” he said. W
ork on the mechnical pulp facility will be finished during the late summer or early fall of 2003 and will be carried out in two phases: the screens by February and bleaching by next fall.

Along with all the modifications described, a series of projects involving the plant’s general infrastructures have also been undertaken. Thus, in secondary treatment, two RBS cells will be added to the four existing cells in order to handle the increased waste volume from the new machine. The brown-water filtration system’s capacity will be increased tenfold, as will that of one of the three plant boilers, no. 3, which will be 25% more efficient after a few adjustments.

Recently the chip-unloading area was relocated to make room for the new paper-machine building. Other relocations are scheduled between now and January for the truck weigh scale and the security station. A few changes are also planned for the finishing/shipping sector, in particular, improvements to the packing line with regard to the handling of rolls. The addition of conveyors and the optimization of truck loading will enhance work teams’ productivity.

New LWC #5 paper machine

Now we arrive at the pice de resistance – the new Metso paper machine, which will measure 165 m (541 ft) long by 8 m (26 ft) wide. It will be able to reach a speed of 1500/m per minute for average daily production of 550 metric tonnes (at 80% efficiency). The parent roll will have a diameter of 3.3 m (130 in) and will weigh 70 metric tonnes.

“”It is a new cutting-edge machine that will make use of in-line film coating to produce ultra-light LWC paper whose grammage varies from 41 to 60 g/sq. m,” Mr. Archambault said. Why ultra-light LWC? “Because this is a continuing growing market,” he replied. “Increasingly, editors want to produce magazines and catalogues using ultra-light paper and thereby save on mailing costs. We believe there is room for expansion and, furthermore, we enjoy a clear advantage with our black spruce filter. The film coating technology, which is highly efficient for light grammages, will enable us to be a very efficient, low-cost LWC paper producer.”

The machine is composed of an OptiFormer forming section with dry-weight control by dilution. The three-nip no-draw Sympress B press section is equipped with a shoe press in third section. It is followed by a SYMRUN drier (single-tier), a pre-calender to condition the sheet prior to coating and a single OptiSizer film coating station to treat both sides of the sheet simultaneously. After infrared drying, the sheet runs by the OptiHard SlimLine calender (still on-line) equipped with eight nips, the OptiReel reel and, lastly, onto the WinBelt continuous winding system. The parent roll handling system is entirely automated and the rolls produced will be packaged on the existing line.

Metso Paper is supplying the coating kitchen plus the machine’s distribution-control system, known as DNA. The quality controls and scanners are provided by Honeywell and its Da Vinci system. The state-of-the-art A/C digital-command drive system will be installed by ABB.

It should be noted that Kruger Inc. is in complete charge of the project. The engineering work begun in December 2001 will be completed in March or April 2003. Once the building has been closed, mechanical installation (plates for the machine, vats and other devices) can begin. Besides the major supply contracts, some 40 construction contracts will have been awarded by the project ends.

Quality and training

Product quality and work force training are two important poles on which Project Relance 2002 is based.

“The quality of the paper produced by Kruger Wayagamack will be equal to or better than what is available on the market presently,” Daniel Archambault stated unhesitatingly. This level of quality is guaranteed by, among other things, an intensive one-year pilot test program with the project’s different suppliers, including the international coating centre in Trois-Rivires.

“Our aim with such a program is to verify and confirm the parameters that affect the quality of our product,” explained Mr. Archambault. “We can thereby foresee potential problems and solve them before moving on to commercial production on the machine.”

Mr. Archambault is discreet on the subject of partnerships with different suppliers, including manufacturers and chemical-products firms, but assured us that the verification process constitutes a crucial stage in ensuring smooth-running operations.

Meanwhile, training with respect to a project of this type is also a key consideration. Start-up of the machine and wrap-up of Project Relance 2002 will generate some 110 new jobs. For this reason Kruger Inc. is investing $8 million over an 18-month period in intensive training programs with the greatly appreciated financial support of Emploi-Qubec.

“The program is already underway and will move into higher gear in 2003 in order to train the hundred or so employees concerned, as well as those whom the project affects in their day-to-day work,” Mr. Archambault said. “Practically everyone will end up going through the program.”

In December, 10 months will remain prior to start-up of PM 4. It’s both a little and a lot for the project’s general manager, who points out that continuing to serve his clientele properly while directing such a huge project represents a daily challenge.

“It’s even more demanding than starting off completely from scratch because the arrival of a new process and a new product is a shake-up for everybody involved,” he explained. “Consequently, we must re-engineer all the processes dealing with information management, statistics, human resources, manual quality… no element isn’t affected. Everything must be integrated in one go and everything must be completely updated. Fortunately, we have a tremendous team and one-of-a-kind team spirit,” Mr. Archambault concluded.

Only once everything has been finished will it be possible to fully assess and appreciate the challenge taken on by the management and employees of Kruger Wayagamack, as well as the importance of team spirit in the success of this awesome adventure.