Environment & Sustainability
Operations & Management
Prince Albert Pulp team shares update on mill restart project
August 17, 2022 By P&PC Staff
The Prince Albert Pulp project is ready to restart, as per the latest update shared by a representative. The project is waiting for final approval on construction plans. The goal is to start construction no later than May 2023, with pulp operations starting by the end of 2024.
Project operations director Carlo Dal Monte recently gave an update about the restart of the project through Facebook Live. Dal Monte said the project is looking good, and he’s confident about where it’s headed. However, he acknowledged that there was some uncertainty.
“I think a lot of people are holding their breath in markets, and not just pulp, all around the world,” Dal Monte said.
Dal Monte shared details about greenhouse gas emissions, the mill’s effluent treatment plant, air emissions and other environmental components of the project along with physical details of the project and the mill itself.
The session followed up on the open house held in October 2021 at the EA Rawlinson Centre as part of the permit process with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. Communications director Dale Richardson said at that time that the team received a lot of positive feedback about the project.
“In the case of this project, a real specific item is the discharge into the North Saskatchewan River and any potential impacts on our downstream neighbours: James Smith Cree Nation as well as the Cumberland House communities on the Delta,” Dal Monte said.
The mill was producing Northern Bleach Softwood Kraft when it shut down in 2006. Dal Monte said the plan is to use the same manufacturing processes except for one aspect – the colour – as a way to keep the initial opening simple.
“We are going to bypass the part of the process where we turn that pulp white,” he explained. “The product that comes out of the mill will be tan in colour and will look the same colour as a brown paper box because most boxes are made exactly out of unbleached kraft pulp.”
The group does eventually plan on going to a full bleaching sequence, according to their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Basic engineering is already underway, with a large team of consultants expected at the site next week.
“We want to make sure we design the effluent treatment plant and everything that (involves) us going to a bleaching sequence in the future. However, we will start off with unbleached,” Dal Monte said.
PAPI plans to gather more feedback from its Indigenous partners before submitting their EIS at the end of September.
Dal Monte said wood and lumber are being used as low carbon construction solutions across the world instead of higher carbon footprint products like concrete and steel.
“So what a pulp mill does is takes that wood that is really a byproduct of the lumber industry and convert it into a product that can then be used to displace other forms of packaging and other forms of single-use plastics,” he said.
The company will access three sources of wood supply of relatively equal volume. The first sources are sawmill chips that are being generated in existing sawmills like Big River and Carrot River. Those chips are presently leaving the province, so the plan would be to repatriate that wood. The benefit for the sawmills is shorter transportation to get chips to a customer. The other two sources include wood from the Prince Albert forest management area that isn’t suitable for sawmilling, and wood sustainably harvested in other forest management areas across Saskatchewan.
A new effluent treatment plant
The majority of the new on-site construction involves the effluent treatment plant. The company plans to keep the existing depressions and civil works from the old system. The old effluent operation complied with existing regulations. The new design will comply with the new proposed, more stringent, Federal regulations for the industry.
“We wanted to make sure that whatever we designed met those more stringent standards,” Dal Monte said.
The new design will bypass the Aerated Stabilization Basin on Highway 55. The biological process operates at 30 or 40 degrees Celsius and the potential impact on existing fog in the area is a consideration.
When the mill closed in 2006 it did have a defuser, but the pipe that led to it is gone. The company believes the actual defuser itself may now be under Willow Island in the North Saskatchewan River. Defusers take treated effluent and ensure that it is well mixed into the river, regardless of how low the river flow is. This ensures that it doesn’t interfere with river traffic.”
The design calls for a series of pipes that are buried under the river bed. The effluent then flows down through an aggregate and into the river so it is well dispersed and carried away. The company went with a new design early in the process to ensure that PAPI meets the proposed more stringent regulations
The mill completed Environmental Effects Monitoring during its operation before 2006. This demonstrated water quality downstream was not affected by the operation. It has already completed a Downstream User Impact study. The sampling was conducted in June 2022 and James Smith provided an environmental monitor for the work.
Reduction in environmental impacts
PAPI is also updating the Groundwater Transport Model and confirms that there will be no impacts on groundwater during construction. Dal Monte added that the team expects to see a “significant reduction in air emissions” from the old mill. They plan to collect vents that contain pollutants of concern and treat them.
The mill’s air dispersion modelling has shown that it will meet the new ambient air standards. There will be a significant reduction in emissions compared to previous mill operations.
GreenHouse Gas emissions will also go down by 66 percent. The rebuilt mill will materially change the site’s total GHG footprint compared to the old operation. This is primarily due to efficient steam generation and streamlined process technology.
“All of this is equivalent to taking just under 20,000 cars off the road,” Dal Monte said.
Benefits to the community
The mill will provide 1,292 full-time jobs in the province. This includes direct, indirect and induced employment in Prince Albert and the wood-supplying areas primarily near Prince Albert.
PAPI will support the existing sawmill industry by providing a downstream customer and supporting that supply chain. There are plans to divert bark from existing open burners to produce green power for the system. This will add 500 plus new jobs in Indigenous and rural communities.
PAPI forecasts $450 million in economic development for the province and $1.3 million in property taxes paid to the city of Prince Albert.
The next steps in PAPI’s journey is completing the Environmental Impact Statement and submitting it in September.
“Then based on feedback that we receive today and any feedback during the public review period, we will respond to those questions,” Dal Monte said.
Post the EIS submission, PAPI must obtain the required permits to construct and operate in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and Canada.
PAPI plans to build the forestry supply chain and continue to add staff at the mill.
“We have got a small team that is working diligently. Once we get operational that team is going to expand quite a bit,” Dal Monte said.
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