In June 2009, the federal government announced $1 billion in funding to improve the environmental performance of Canada’s pulp and paper mills and by doing so, help lay the groundwork for a more sustainable and prosperous future for the sector.
The Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program, using “green-focused” capital investments, offered the sector a unique opportunity to set to work enhancing environmental performance while at the same time renewing the industry’s position in the global marketplace and paving the way to long-term gains for mills and mill communities.
Ending on March 31, 2012, the program demonstrated success on all counts, helping to improve the environmental and economic sustainability of the country’s pulp and paper mills and leaving them poised to tackle the next phase of transformation.
How the program worked
Under the program, eligible Canadian pulp and paper companies could earn credits at a rate of $0.16 per litre of “black liquor” produced at their mills between January 1 and May 4, 2009. The companies could then invest those credits where doing so made the most environmental and economic sense for their Canadian pulp and paper mills.
This approach helped to direct funds to profitable and competitive mills, and to maximize the long-term benefits of the program’s investments.
Companies had until March 31, 2012, to draw on their allocated credits to finance approved capital projects. Projects had to be those that would achieve measurable environmental benefits through energy efficiency improvements, renewable energy production, emission reductions and similar means.
In total, 24 companies received credits, and 98 project proposals were approved in 38 communities across the country. Per-project funding ranged from about $80 000 to over $100 million (average value: $9.7 million).
Projects undertaken varied from boiler and turbine upgrades to the installation of energy-efficient motors and emission-control equipment, and enabled product diversification, job creation and strengthening of community consultation processes in resource management activities. The program helped to support more than 14 000 jobs.
Black liquor is a liquid by-product of chemical pulping. It is burned to generate renewable heat and power and recycle chemicals in certain processes at pulp and paper mills.
The program’s achievements
The environmental, economic and social outcomes of the funded projects suggest that the capital investments of the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program have been well targeted. In summary:
The projects completed under the program are expected to enable mills to:
- be more energy self-sufficient while also expanding their revenue streams (the amount of renewable electricity generated by the projects is enough to continuously power 140,000 homes)
- save more than 8.5 million GJ of energy a year from energy efficiency improvements (that is equivalent to the amount of energy needed to continuously heat all the houses in Quebec City)
- decrease their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), particulates and odour-causing gases (in fact, the GHG emissions of the entire Canadian pulp and paper industry will be cut by more than 10% from 2009 levels)
- decrease the impact of their operations overall on the environment (e.g., by reducing the amount of water use, effluent discharge and waste sent to landfills)
Ready for the next phase of transformation
All indications are that the investments made in the sector through the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program will continue driving environmental improvements in the industry while bolstering the sustainability of mills and mill communities across the country.
Better equipped and prepared in this way, Canada’s pulp and paper sector is ready to embark on the next phase of industry transformation.
Examples of projects making a difference
Energy efficiency improvements: A project at the RockTenn mill in La Tuque, QC, is expected to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 49% (38.6 million litres) per year.
Air quality improvements: The $11 million Odour Reduction project at Canfor’s pulp mill in Prince George, BC, is expected to reduce the intensity and frequency of odour events by 60%.
Greenhouse gas emission reductions: At the mill in Atholville, NB, innovative technologies have been installed to produce and capture biogas from the mill’s effluent streams. The biogas is being burned to generate power, thereby replacing use of fossil fuels. Both the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program and NRCan’s Transformative Technologies Program provided funding for this project.
New products: The Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program, along with the Transformative Technologies Pilot Scale Demonstration Program and the Government of Quebec, has funded the construction of a nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) demonstration plant in Windsor, Quebec. NCC, a substance that increases the strength and stiffness of materials it is added to, has huge commercial potential. The new company, CelluForce, will produce 1 tonne of dried NCC a day, making this facility the first of its scale in the world.
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