Needed: the next “pulp and paper” industry

Instead of going straight to the comments, thought i’d post my response to Jay’s comment regarding my last post in a fresh new post.

Yes, pulp and paper – as in “pulp+paper” is a dying industry because the market is no longer growing partly due to our tech habits which not necessarily a bad thing…
pulp & paper

Those who own the logging rights will still be there… the trees aren’t going anywhere (or let’s hope not – and let’s use this renewable wisely) – but the end product has to change. The capital investment is already there – a sunk cost for most.

Half of the log is energythe other half is proving to work well with the nano industry making nanocrystalline cellulose which could be our “new plastic” and a biodegradable new building block material. All I mean, is that there are options with the end product.  It’s in the vested interest of all of the players along the chain to keep these mills open – not just as “pulp+paper” mills.

This can be done with much of the same capital investments – their recovery boilers have been making bio energy for over 50 years… the technology is around 70% efficient (natural gas at 80%) – the technology is there.

And if some investments are written off in this case, just remember that the worse case is that they are ALL written off.  Also, by changing their end product focus they would also keep much of the same producer/supplier network  – giving some hope to these dying communities.  Making this shift will take time, energy.. and money of course. Black liquor is a tricky substance, NCC isn’t ready yet etc. But remember…

Canada will always have trees and those green things will come in handy again once, ah, our tar sands wear out. But once these mills shut down, they’re gone – along with the network and skill that supports it.

We’ll be hitting ourselves if we lose this sector.

Here’s hoping.

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4 thoughts on “Needed: the next “pulp and paper” industry

  1. Jonathan says:

    I like your thoughts. Keep them coming.

  2. Peter Lee says:

    Northern Ontario and its pulp and paper industrial infrastructure is one location and one sector where the opportunity exists to become world leader in sustainable new technologies, that is, combining biofuel production from black liquor with nanocrytalline cellulose production for new bio-based materials.

    Why here? The people of northern Ontario have a multi-generational history of working on the forest industry; the pulp and paper industry here has a huge infrastructure (albeit in dire financial straights); the resource of trees is mind-bogglingly immense; the provincial government is looking for green solutions; the regional, national and international environmental community and a growing public is looking for green solutions.

    The opportunity is massive on a global scale. What will it take to realize? A public private partnership, creative leadership and intelligent risk-taking. The window of opportunity is probably short – 5-10 years.

  3. janeporter says:

    Peter,
    great to hear from you!

    You’ll be interested in reading this report.

    http://www.jyu.fi/econ/tutkimus/julkaisut/reportssbe/sbe_39_2009

    Researchers from my faculty studying the business opportunity – supposedly, there isn’t much research done on this side (always on the sci/tech side) .

    I’m aiming for some tbay/jyväskylä biorefinery research connection. If you’d like to contact them, by all means please do or ask me!

    Cheers,
    jane

  4. Joe says:

    Great to hear from your affirmative thoughts.
    Looking forward to your upcoming posts.

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