Prince Albert Pulp hopes to start construction in 2023

·7 min read

A representative for the Prince Albert Pulp Inc. (PAPI) says they’re waiting to receive final approval on construction plans, but the goal is to start construction no later than May 2023, with pulp operations starting by the end of 2024.

Project Operations Director Carlo Dal Monte gave an update about the restart of the project on Tuesday. The event was broadcast on Facebook Live as well as the website. Dal Monte later took questions on the project from the public.

As of right now the Prince Albert Pulp Inc. project still remains subject to permitting approvals and market conditions. Dal Monte said the project is looking good, and he’s confident about where it’s headed. However, he acknowledged that there was some uncertainty.

“I think a lot of people are holding their breath in markets, and not just pulp, all around the world,” Dal Monte said.

Dal Monte shared details about greenhouse gas emissions, the mill's effluent treatment plant, air emissions and other environmental components of the project along with physical details of the project and the mill itself.

The session followed up on the open house held in October 2021 at the EA Rawlinson Centre as part of the permit process with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment. Communications director Dale Richardson said at that time that they received a lot of positive feedback about the project and were very encouraged by that event.

Dal Monte began with an introduction to Paper Excellence Canada, which operates mills in British Columbia, with head office in Richmond, British Columbia and a distribution centre in Surrey, British Columbia and on the east coast. They operate the Prince Albert site and Meadow Lake in Saskatchewan.

The forest at Meadow Lake is co-managed with the Mystic Management and have done so since 2007. Dal Monte said those other sites and partnerships have helped them developed an appreciation for the potential impacts on the ecosystem, and the importance of proper management.

“In the case of this project, a real specific item is the discharge into the North Saskatchewan River and any potential impacts on our downstream neighbours: James Smith Cree Nation as well as the Cumberland House communities on the Delta,” Dal Monte said.

When the mill shut down in 2006, it was producing a product called Northern Bleach Softwood Kraft, which uses an equal blend of pine and spruce. Dal Monte said they plan to use the same manufacturing processes expect for one aspect—the colour—as a way to keep the initial opening simple.

“We are going to bypass the part of the process where we turn that pulp white,” he explained. “The product comes out of the mill will be tan in colour and will look the same colour as a brown paper box because most boxes are made exactly out of unbleached kraft pulp.”

Dal Monte added that they’re seeing a growth in demand for that type of pulp.

The group does eventually plan on going to a full bleaching sequence, according to their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Basic engineering is already underway, with a large team of consultants expected at the site next week.

“We want to make sure we design the effluent treatment plant and everything that (involves) us going to a bleaching sequence in the future. However, we will start off unbleached,” Dal Monte said.

PAPI plans to gather more feedback from its Indigenous partners before submitting their EIS at the end of September.

Dal Monte said wood and lumber are being used as low carbon construction solutions across the world in place of higher carbon footprint products like concrete and steel.

“So what a pulp mill does is takes that wood that is really a byproduct of the lumber industry and convert it into a product that can then be used to displace other forms of packaging and other forms of single use plastics,”

The company will access three sources of wood supply of relatively equal volume. The first sources are saw mill chips that are being generated in existing saw mills like Big River and Carrot River. Those chips are presently leaving the province, so the plan would be to repatriate that wood. The benefit for the sawmills is a shorter transportation to get chips to a customer. The other two sources include wood from the Prince Albert forest management area that isn’t suitable for saw milling, and wood sustainably harvested in other forest management areas across Saskatchewan.

The majority of new the new on-site construction involves the effluent treatment plant. The company plan to keep the existing depressions and civil works from the old system.

The old effluent operation complied with existing regulations. The new design will comply with the new proposed, more stringent, Federal regulations for the industry.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever we designed met those more stringent standards,” Dal Monte said.

The new design will bypass the Aerated Stabilization Basin on Highway 55. The biological process operates at 30 or 40 degrees Celsius and potential impact on existing fog in the area is a consideration.

When the mill closed in 2006 it did have a defuser, but the pipe that lead to it is gone, and the company believes the actual defuser itself may now be under Willow Island in the North Saskatchewan River.

Defusers take treated effluent and ensure that it is well mixed into the river, regardless of how low the river flow is. This ensures that it doesn't interfere with river traffic.”

The design calls for a series of pipes that are buried under the river bed. The effluent then flows down through an aggregate and into the river so it is well dispersed and carried away.

The company went with a new design early in the process to ensure they would meet the proposed more stringent regulations

The mill completed Environmental Effects Monitoring during its operation before 2006. This demonstrated water quality downstream was not affected by the operation.

They have already completed a Downstream User Impact Study. The sampling was conducted in June, 2022 and James Smith provided an environmental monitor for the work.

They are also updating the Groundwater Transport Model and confirm that there will be no impacts on groundwater during construction.

Dal Monte added that they expect to see a “significant reduction in air emissions” from the old mill. They plan to collect vents that contain pollutants of concern and treat them.

Their air dispersion modelling has shown that they will meet the new ambient air standards and there will be a significant reduction in emissions compared to when the mill was previously operated. They also have reduced Green House Gas emissions by 66 per cent.

The rebuilt mill will materially change the site's total GHG footprint compared to the old operation. This is primarily do to efficient steam generation and streamlined process technology.

“All of this is equivalent of taking just under 20,000 cars off the road,” Dal Monte said.

Benefits to the province included 1,292 full time jobs including direct, indirect and induced employment in Prince Albert and the wood supplying areas primarily near Prince Albert.

They also mentioned support for the existing sawmill industry by providing a downstream customer and supporting that supply chain. There will also be a diversion of bark from existing open burners to produce green power for the system.

That includes 500 plus new jobs in Indigenous and rural communities.

They also forecast $450 million in economic development for the province and $1.3 million in property taxes paid to the city of Prince Albert.

Next steps include completing the Environmental Impact Statement and submitting it in September.

“Then based on feedback that we receive today and any feedback during the public review period, we will respond to those questions,” Dal Monte said.

After that, they must obtain the required permits to construct and operate in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and Canada. They will also build the forestry supply chain and continue to add staff at the mill.

“We have got a small team that is working diligently. Once we get operational that team is going to expand quite a bit,” Dal Monte said.

The power point will be available on the website for anyone interested in viewing the slides.

michael.oleksyn@paherald.sk.ca

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald