At our mill operations, we have conducted internal R&D projects and have worked closely with Alberta Innovates, FPInnovations, InnoTech Alberta, the Universities of Alberta and British Columbia and other institutions on a variety of research initiatives. The outcomes have included:
- Green energy generation: In our Bioenergy Effluent Project, we adopted innovative anaerobic hybrid digester technology to convert organics in pulp mill effluent into renewable energy, displacing fossil fuel-derived heat and power in mill processes. As part of this initiative, we partnered with Alberta Innovates to investigate chemical oxygen demand removal, hydrogen sulfide production, methane formation, micronutrient management, sulfur inhibition, resin acid toxicity and other topics associated with bioenergy generation and effluent treatment. Read more about the BEP here.
- Reduced energy consumption: We have partnered with universities, governments, other pulp producers and equipment suppliers to cut energy requirements in mechanical pulping processes. These efforts and our own work on waste-heat recovery and other process modifications in the pulp mill have resulted in significant reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Most recently, we’ve embarked on a project to further improve both energy efficiency and product quality through application of artificial intelligence technology. Read more about the A/I Integration project here.
- Improved pulp properties: Developing tools to allow enhanced in-line analysis and more precise, real-time measurement of brightness and other pulp characteristics, has helped us refine mill processes and improve the performance of our pulps in end products.
- Deriving value from solid waste: Our past research projects confirmed the safety and efficacy of applying pulp mill sludge (a byproduct of effluent treatment) as soil enhancer for the agriculture industry. Sludge spreading on farm lands has become the preferred method of disposal, allowing mills to reduce or eliminate incineration, and we continue to work with partners on the use of sludge for remediation of oil and gas leases, mine sites and logging roads. A current initiative is testing the use of additional pulp mill waste fibre in biodegradable vegetation growth mediums for use in soil stabilization and erosion control.
- Liquid effluent reuse – We are working with local partners to test the feasibility of using final, treated effluent to replace fresh water in some oil and gas operations.
- Nanocellulose fibrils (NCF) and alternative fibre utilization – U of A, Alberta Innovates and end users are working with us and other pulp makers to produce NCF for potential use in concrete and other applications; we are also supporting the investigation of potential applications for cellulose fibre in the manufacture of vehicle components and other end uses.