More value from each tree

Catalyst Paper and Domtar are investing in generating power and developing new materials from their manufacturing processes.

April 19, 2011   by PLANT STAFF

Catalyst Paper will be applying $13.3 million in federal funding to a new green-energy project at its Powell River mill in BC that will produce low-carbon electricity through waste wood co-generation. The Richmond, BC-based manufacturer of specialty printing papers, newsprint and pulp is funding the whole project with $18 million worth of Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program (PPGTP) credits, earned through the production of black liquor at its Crofton pulp operation in 2009. And the electricity will be certified under the federal EcoLogo program.

Ditto for an upgrade at Catalyst’s Port Alberni mill, which is getting $4.7 million in funding for upgrading the main power boiler (PB4), a new secondary air system, a larger economizer or heat-exchange system, and a new gas monitoring system.

Both these projects are tangible examples of big changes in Canada’s forestry industry as it combines bio-initiatives with its regular operations, an evolution that is described in part two of a “biopathways” study released by the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC).

“A number of companies are integrating bio-energy applications to their industrial operations,” says Andrew Goodison, project manager of financial components for the study, the second part titled, The New Face of the Canadian Forest Industry: the Emerging Bio-Revolution.

The first phase of the study released a year ago highlighted how investment in new bio-technologies will add value to Canada’s already high-valued lumber and pulp and paper industries. The second phase shows there are markets for these add-on products, and how to incorporate them.

Catalyst is doing its bit by installing new waste-wood handling equipment, a sand recycling system, it’s upgrading an existing power boiler and putting a steam condenser on the generator. Work is to be completed within 12 months.

“One of the great strengths at the Powell River operation is our clean-burning power boiler. Emissions and air-quality monitoring demonstrate that,” says Bob Lindstrom, Catalyst’s vice-president of supply chain, energy and information technology.  “Factor in our marine access to waste-wood supplies, and our Powell River mill becomes one of the most logical and low-impact places in Canada to generate green energy from biomass.”

The waste wood – or biomass – is mostly tree bark and will be burned in a PB19 power boiler to create steam for both paper making and electricity generation. The new steam condenser will allow the PB19, under used since 2001, to operate at capacity, and the G12 electricity generation increase from between 14 and 18 megawatts to between 32 and 36 megawatts.

Electricity from this project will displace natural gas generated power for a net annual reduction of 96,500 tonnes of carbon emissions. The company expects air emissions to be within applicable permit levels while the mill’s carbon footprint will remain at approximately 88 kilograms of CO2 equivalent air-dried tonnes (e/adt) of production. The same amount of fossil fuel-generated electricity would typically create nearly 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, equivalent to the operation of 25,000 cars.

Installation of a recycling system will improve the use of sand fed into the boiler bed to ensure combustion efficiency. Rather than being trucked away, the sand will be screened and recycled on-site, reducing the total volume needed.

The paper company also received PPGTP funding of $4.7 million for a capital upgrade at its Port Alberni mill to improve the efficiency and reliability of its biomass-based energy generation. Upgrades involve the main power boiler (PB4), a new secondary air system, a larger economizer or heat-exchange system, and a new gas monitoring system.

Installation of larger and better-designed air nozzles will deliver more efficient boiler combustion and reduce fuel requirements while improving the operational reliability of the existing equipment, reducing the need for a back-up natural gas boiler.

Advanced materials
Domtar, a Montreal-based paper maker, is producing nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) extracted from pulp fibres that is used to strengthens plastic, thus reducing the amount needed by half.

FPInnovations, a not-for-profit R&D outfit based in Pointe Claire, Que. that helps develop bio-friendly forest products for global markets, has teamed up with Domtar to invest $32.4 million in a pilot plant at at the company’s Windsor, Que. pulp and paper mill to produce almost a tonne of NCC a day from hardwood chips. This nanomaterial improves strength and density of plastic while reducing damage from wear, humidity and UV rays, and it has virtually no damaging environmental effects.

Once extraction processes are fine-tuned and NCC is more widely available, it will be used in more commercial applications. For example, optical films enhanced with NCC could be used in specialty packaging, biosensors and security devices that prevent counterfeiting. And it could be used as filler in magnetic paper or electronic memory cards and readers.

Catalyst and Domtar are plugging into a burgeoning global bio-market worth $200 billion where extracting additional economic value from each tree harvested is good environmental stewardship, but also really good for business and the future of the industry.

Matt Powell, an online writer for, provided files for this article.

Print this page

Related Stories