Pulp Producers Aim for Energy Savings

Forestry | BCBusiness

UBC research centre is awarded a grant to further research aimed at saving the equivalent of electricity used to power 100,000 homes a year

Recognizing the imperative to slash energy consumption by pulp mills, on September 19 the federal government and a consortium of pulp operations awarded UBC’s Pulp and Paper Centre a $2.7-million grant to further its research.
The funds will support nine projects at UBC and enable collaboration with two other Canadian universities, with the goal of reducing B.C. mechanical pulp and paper electricity consumption by 50 per cent before 2020. The Centre says the goal is to realize annual energy savings equivalent to the power needed to power roughly 100,000 homes.
B.C.’s mechanical pulp and paper industry is one of the biggest industrial consumers of power in the province, consuming an estimated eight per cent of BC Hydro’s electricity generation.
Similar initiatives are also moving forward in Alberta and Washington state, although the targets for electricity reduction vary by location.
The B.C. target, which is not legally binding, was agreed to by BC Hydro and the 16 companies participating in the initiative. Peter Rippon, vice-president of pulp and energy at West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd., a partner in the collaboration, says that reducing electricity consumption and being competitive go hand-in-hand. “We are committed to sustainably producing pulp products and investigating ways to improve our environmental performance while making our pulp and paper business more competitive,” he said in a prepared statement.
The initiative grew out of a proposal put together by BC Hydro and UBC Pulp and Paper Centre director James Olson. Both parties then built the consortium of 16 industry partners, with the initial commitment and target set by BC Hydro.
The UBC funding will be channelled to nine projects across three broad themes: process optimization, advanced sensors and control, and new product development. The funding will also supply the UBC research centre with specialized infrastructure and support graduate students and one engineer researcher for five years.
According to the centre, the money will not only supply the latest equipment, but will also help attract and retain the best and brightest graduate talent, who will work with professors and senior researchers on the projects.
“We are committed to improving the energy efficiency of this renewable and sustainable industry,” said Olson of the initiative. “The pulp sector is of strategic importance to the province and the economic prosperity of our rural communities.”