Pulp and Paper Canada

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PaperWeek Canada offers plenty of ideas for transformation of industry


February 8, 2011
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Biorefining topics and the business sessions were the big draws as more than 400 industry participants gathered at PaperWeek Canada in Montreal in early February. The three-day event combined the Pulp and Paper Technical Association’s annual…

Biorefining topics and the business sessions were the big draws as more than 400 industry participants gathered at PaperWeek Canada in Montreal in early February. The three-day event combined the Pulp and Paper Technical Association’s annual meeting with an international symposium on biorefining.

A consistent theme throughout the event was transformation of the pulp and paper industry. Biorefining of chemicals and other non-traditional products is one approach, but several speakers in a session organized by Natural Resources Canada reminded participants that there are other routes to success. Levi Sampson spoke about the renewal at Harmac Pacific following its buyout by employees and private investors. A cooperative attitude among employee-owners has reduced costs and leaves the mill in a good competitive position.

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At Thurso, Que., the route to success leads to a dramatic change to the mill’s output. Now owned by Fortress Paper, the mill will be converted to produce dissolving pulp this year.

Speaking at the biorefinery symposium, Tom Browne of FPInnovations, presented a big picture approach. With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Brown summed up biorefining by quoting an industry joke: “You can make anything out of lignin, except money”. His presentation focused on the changing marketplace for the end products of biorefining, vis-a-vis products based on petroleum. Browne claimed that in a world where oil costs $20/barrel, the old joke is true, but things change when a barrel sells at $85.

Overall, Brown examined the economic potential of commodity chemicals and fuels for Canadian biorefineries, ultimately concluding that a biorefinery approach, where “wood is disassembled into its constituent parts, and maximum value is obtained from each component” is “more resilient and offers the potential for revenues at least as high as the kraft mill it extends and replaces.”

However, a few caveats are offered. Profitability depends on the proper sizing of the biorefineries, in light of the dispersed nature of feedstocks, and on the production of high-value chemical products, particularly niche market products, which preferably cannot be obtained easily from petroleum based sources.

There will be further coverage of PaperWeek Canada in the PaperWeek Reporter, included with the March/April issue of Pulp & Paper Canada. PaperWeek Canada 2012 will once again be held in Montreal in February.