April 6, 2022 By P&PC Staff
West Fraser is reducing capacity at its Hinton Pulp mill in Alberta permanently by the end of this year. The mill currently has two production lines, one of which will be shut down. The remaining line will produce Unbleached Kraft Pulp (UKP) instead of Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft Pulp (NBSK).
“Hinton Pulp has been in operation since 1956 and these changes are necessary to simplify our operation, reduce capital requirements and greenhouse gas emissions, and better align with consumer expectations,” said Ray Ferris, president and CEO of West Fraser.
With the reduction in capacity, staffing levels will go down to 270 from the current 345 positions. West Fraser expects natural attrition and retirements to mitigate the impact. Additionally, it plans on offering employment opportunities at its other operations.
“Our Hinton Pulp team has been engaged in a comprehensive review process and I want to thank them for their creativity and commitment to the mill, our customers and the environment. We remain strongly committed to the community of Hinton, the future of the plant, and to our neighbouring lumber operation, Hinton Wood Products,” said Ferris.
West Fraser has considered the several environmental benefits of moving to a single UKP production line. As per the company, these include an estimated 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; an estimated 25 percent reduction in water use, air emissions and waste generation; and elimination of chlorine dioxide emissions.
The company stated in a release that UKP is now used increasingly in a wide variety of everyday items including cardboard packaging, grocery bags, fibre-cement board and specialty products.
Hinton Pulp has conducted several product trials since late 2021 and received positive initial customer feedback regarding the quality and strength of the pulp produced. Employees of the mill are currently working on transitioning to UKP production after satisfying all its existing customer commitments for NBSK.
West Fraser anticipates an impairment charge of approximately US$13 million to be recorded in its first-quarter 2022 results associated with the write-down of equipment that will be decommissioned permanently as part of the transition to UKP.
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