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Turning waste to energy

Millar Western’s bio-energy facility at our pulp mill in Whitecourt, Alberta, started production in 2017.  It involves integration of anaerobic hybrid digesters (AHDs) into the mill’s existing aerobic effluent treatment system.  The AHD units recover organic material from the mill’s effluent stream and convert it to a bio-gas.  After conditioning, the bio-gas is used to fuel reciprocating engines, to generate 5.2 megawatts of renewable electricity for use in our pulp operations. Captured waste heat from the power plant is used to 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 reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and other inputs associated with effluent treatment.  The project also delivers productivity improvement due to enhanced effluent treatment capacity and significantly reduces our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, cuts water consumption and improves 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  forest industry trend to convert waste materials to high-value products.  Millar Western’s 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; fines and pins are provided to the oil and gas sector, for site remediation; and biomass from our pulp-mill effluent treatment system is used by the agricultural sector as a soil enhancer.  In addition to creating our own energy, we provide wood residuals to a regional power plant, which uses the waste materials as fuel for power generation.