February 2, 2023 By By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
West Fraser’s Hinton Pulp mill has successfully transitioned according to plan, moving from a two-line Northern bleached softwood kraft pulp mill to a single-line unbleached kraft pulp mill.
“Thanks to the commitment and ingenuity of employees, the safe and timely transition was completed by mid-October,” read a prepared statement from Joyce Wagenaar, director of communications at West Fraser, the company that owns the mill.
The move was announced in April 2022.
At the time, company president and CEO Ray Ferris released a statement saying that the changes were necessary to simplify its operation, reduce capital requirements and greenhouse gas emissions and better align with consumer expectations.
Since then, staffing levels were managed through “retirements, natural attrition and placements at other West Fraser facilities, including Hinton Wood Products,” the statement continued.
“This strategy enabled West Fraser to reduce staffing levels at Hinton Pulp from 345 positions to 270 without laying off a single employee.”
The mill is still in the initial few months of its new operations, Wagenaar stated, noting that it is still too early to quantify the environmental benefits of the change in processes.
West Fraser was unable to respond before press time when asked which chemicals are still in use. Wagenaar did say that the conversion to unbleached Kraft pulp eliminates all bleaching chemicals.
Other environmental benefits of the transition are expected to include an estimated 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (the approximate equivalent to taking nearly 20,000 cars off the road per year), the elimination of chlorine dioxide emissions, and an estimated 25 percent reduction each in water use, air emissions and waste generation.
The company’s website states that all of its Canadian woodlands operations that are directly managed by West Fraser are independently certified to the internationally-recognized Sustainable Forestry Initiative fibre sourcing and forest management standards.
No details were available on the product line produced by the mill’s unbleached kraft pulp mill. The prepared statement indicated that it would be used by its customers to manufacture a wide variety of increasingly used items including cardboard packaging, grocery bags, fibre-cement board and specialty products.
Scott Hayes is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for the Jasper Fitzhugh.
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