Pulp and Paper Canada

Nurturing innovation

June 1, 2006  By Pulp & Paper Canada

Anya Orzechowska

The focus of this special issue of Pulp & Paper Canada was many months in the planning and the decision to devote an entire issue to this subject shows the seriousness with which many in the indus…

The focus of this special issue of Pulp & Paper Canada was many months in the planning and the decision to devote an entire issue to this subject shows the seriousness with which many in the industry are viewing this particular area of research. There is no need to list all the negative factors that have contributed to the difficulties the industry is facing now but they are all good reason to examine and, perhaps, adapt any possibility of economic salvation.

In a recent correspondence with Bob Eamer, the well-known industry pundit pointed out how ironic it is that a diversified product mix (not only within pulp and paper but well beyond) used to be one of the main strengths of mills and companies. At one time the mills could, in his opinion, make anything, sell anything, and make profits along the way because they constantly looked for new opportunities using the technological expertise and materials at their disposal. They were also capable of serving many markets that did not all have the same business cycles.


Unfortunately, the trend moved towards narrowing the focus, placing all eggs in the same basket. This created situations that were exacerbated by the current economic woes.

So, the importance of diversifying the scope of technology is being hammered home to all of us in the industry through recent developments across Canada. There are positive signs that biorefining is becoming not only a viable direction for pulp and paper mills but also a potentially profitable one.

What a sweet (although, unfortunately, rare) word!

At the recent Canadian Forest Innovation Council Transformative Technologies Forum [see Transformative Technologies for the forest products sector, page 17], I saw specialists from across the country and across many disciplines come together to discuss the potentials for contributing to a strong and profitable sector in the future. As well as clarifying and confirming the transformative technologies identified by the four ‘White Papers’, the experts gathered to learn from the experience of other nations. Then they prioritized products and technologies before identifying and ranking the barriers to realizing the benefits.

Perhaps in all of this, as Dick Kerekes (Director of PAPIER) and Andy Garner (principal of Andrew Garner & Associates) say in their report, we will find the ‘seeds of a brighter future.’

We’ve had articles before from and about Paul Stuart, professor, chemical engineering department, at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, as well as being the NSERC Design Engineering Chairholder — Process Integration in the Pulp and Paper Industry. His articles reveal his passion for the industry and an intense interest in what can be done to support it. Paul points out that the strategies of combined mergers and belt-tightening has not proved to be effective while the soaring energy costs might be providing a tremendous impetus to take advantage of the opportunity to develop biorefining strategy [see The forest biorefinery: Survival strategy for Canada’s pulp and paper sector, page 15]. Follow the guideline he provides in “How to implement the forest biorefinery at your mill” and see how the design criteria would fit your situation.

Reflecting the multi-national aspect of these developments, a Canadian company, Tembec, partnered with a French company, the National Research Program for Bioenergy, to cooperate in research done by Genencor International, based in the U.S. (see Project looks at ethanol from paper pulp, page 10). In the interview with Jack Huttner (vice president of Genencor International), he stated that the emphasis was on the positive deployment of waste. With the biomass produced by pulp and paper mills, this would be a natural fit.

More on an interesting sidebar to the subject, Volkswagen, Shell and Iogen Corporation announced last month that they will conduct a joint study to assess the economic feasibility of producing cellulose ethanol in Germany. Iogen Corporation states that all automotive manufacturers warrant the use of 10% ethanol blends and that ethanol blends are already sold at some retail outlets across Canada, the United States and Europe.

There are now approximately 4 million flex fuel vehicles on the road in North America.

We hope that by providing these expert opinions, we can, at the very least, stimulate some discussion and provide connections for our readers to encourage mills in developing positive strategies.

Let’s all watch to see how this unfolds.

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