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Turning waste to energy

We are now commissioning a newly constructed bio-energy facility at our pulp mill in Whitecourt, Alberta.  The project involves integration of anaerobic hybrid digesters (AHDs) into the mill’s existing aerobic effluent treatment system.  The AHD units recover organic material from the effluent stream and convert it to a bio-gas.  After conditioning, the bio-gas is used to fuel reciprocating engines, which will generate 5.2 megawatts of renewable electricity for use in our pulp operations. And, captured waste heat from the power plant will offset natural gas usage in pulp drying. See Environment/Mills/Effluent Treatment for more information and an illustration of the process flow.

President and CEO Craig Armstrong says the project is delivering both economic and environmental benefits.  “Producing our own energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and other inputs associated with effluent treatment.  We also expect benefits in productivity, as we improve our effluent treatment capacity.  And, the project will significantly reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, cut our water consumption and improve water quality in the Athabasca River.”

2016 Overview
The Whitecourt bio-energy plant

Though used in other industries, anaerobic hybrid digester technology is new to the pulp and paper sector.

The bio-energy project is part of a larger trend in the forest industry, where waste materials are converted to high-value products.  “Our goal is to use the whole tree, with zero waste:  wood chips from our sawmill are used in manufacturing pulp at our adjacent mill;  shavings and fines are delivered to a panelboard mill; and fines and pins are provided to the oil and gas sector, for site remediation.  In addition to creating our own energy, we provide wood residuals to a regional green-power plant, while biomass from our pulp-mill effluent treatment system is used by the agricultural sector as a soil enhancer,” said Armstrong.