Tasmanian Times

Economy

The Pulp Mill

By NICK CLARK
25feb05
TIMBER giant Gunns Ltd has stepped back from its pledge that its proposed pulp mill would be a totally chlorine-free kraft pulp mill.

Instead, managing director John Gay announced yesterday that the $1.3 billion pulp mill would be designed to meet environmental guidelines.

The Resource Planning and Development Commission released pulp-mill guidelines last year.

“We are not going for any specific type of pulp mill. We are building a pulp mill to meet the emissions which are in the guidelines,” Mr Gay said.

He said Gunns would use chlorine or a dioxin-resistant process.

etc, etc:
Pulp mill switch

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Jeff Watts

    March 15, 2005 at 6:04 am

    The Pulp Mill

    Responding to the article above:

    The production manager of the Finnish mill says “the pulp can be divided into three end uses: LWC, fine paper and board.”, also that “There are also economics to consider. BCTMP is much cheaper as a furnish than kraft pulp and yields are better.”

    Oh – and by the way – that process only uses 2 cubes of water for one tonne of pulp produced, and Gunns want 50 cubes of water! (see my previous article)

    The important point is that most things are technically possible – water treatment and reuse for example, and these come at a price to profitability.

    I want our Government to decide the balance between these competing demands, not Gunns shareholders.

  2. rat

    March 13, 2005 at 11:29 am

    Following the link Jeff Watt provides, I discover it refers to a completely different process to kraft pulping. It is a new bleached chemi-thermomechanical pulp mill adjacent to an existing kraft mill and is designed (by Jaakko Poyry – same consultant as for the proposed Bell Bay mill) to produce light-weight coated papers.

    This is not the much higher value fine writing paper product the Tasmanian mill will produce.

  3. Jeff Watts

    March 1, 2005 at 7:54 am

    Pulp mill water use best practice

    The proposal by Gunns Ltd asks for an allocation of 53 cubic metres of fresh water per air dried tonne of pulp produced. The proposal states that this water will be put into Bass Strait just along from the Tamar River mouth at a rate of one back yard swimming pool every second.

    A new pulp mill for northern Finland was started 5 years ago, and will be operating in August this year. This mill has been designed to use only 2 cubic metres of fresh water per air dried tonne of pulp. This is 25 times less water usage than the Gunns design. This is a link to the press release made by the mill’s Finnish owners – see the paragraph headed ‘A small footprint’.

    Gunns have indicated they are building a mill to meet the emission guidelines endorsed by the Government, and the Government is sure the guidelines reflect world’s best practice. Some homework is clearly in order here.

    By the time the Gunns mill is operating in 2010, the expected use of water will be zero. This is through the use of membrane filtration and biological treatment of the effluent so that it can be re-used. This technology is tried and tested and is being used today. It comes at a small cost to the profitability of a pulp mill, but it works for the near polar Finns!

    The consultants engaged by Gunns Ltd are doing a hard sell on the virtues of chlorine bleaching. It would not even be an issue if the Government insisted they closed the loop. If the effluent is clean enough to be drained into Bass Strait, it is clean enough to be recycled.

  4. Jeff Watts

    March 1, 2005 at 4:29 am

    Pulp Mill proposal

    From the Examiner Sat 26 Feb

    In May 2000, the Californian Energy Commission released a report into the efficiencies of a Totally Chlorine Free (TCF), Closed Loop pulp mill – the first in North America. Report It is ironic that it was an old mill retro fitted with modern technology.

    The Commission complimented the owners on eliminating the discharge of chlorine into the ocean. The plant uses only 22 cubic metres of water per air dried tonne of pulp. The report cites other TCF plants as being unable to supply the demand for chlorine free paper, as popular as it is with the consumer.

    The proposal by Gunns Ltd has reserved the option of using chlorine dioxide in their bleaching process and is asking for 52 cubic metres of fresh water per air dried tonne. Surely, 5 years later, Gunns Ltd can be more innovative than this.

    Emission guidelines approved by the Government specified that world’s best practice be adopted – how many of us trust that this will be the case?

  5. Jeff Watts

    March 1, 2005 at 4:06 am

    Water for the Pulp Mill

    From the Examiner Wed 23 Feb

    I agree with the need for a pulp mill, however, the proponents are requesting that 25 gigalitres of fresh water be made available to them every year. This will almost triple the 14 gigalitres that is currently supplied by Esk Water to the residents of Georgetown, West Tamar and Launceston municipalities. Water is a precious and increasingly scarce resource – imagine how this allocation will be viewed in 30 years’ time at the end of the designed life of the mill.

    Last week we read about farmers who are prepared to risk prosecution is a desperate bid to see their crops to fruition – how much water is each farmer in the catchment prepared to give up over 30 years? Trying to have the Hydro increase environmental flows is like trying to pull teeth, and yet we now have an obligation to use Basslink to provide the mainland with power which will further drain catchments – there is no spare capacity in that sector.

    The 25 gigalitres ends up in Bass Straight – one backyard swimming pool every second. Bass Strait is a trapped body of water that floods in from the east and ebbs out from the west, and only flows about 10 nautical miles each tidal cycle. This will cause any outfall from the mill to concentrate near our coast and flow back into the Tamar. If the mill water is clean enough to do this, why not reuse it?

    Gunn’s assert that closed loop technology is not economically proven. That is probably because no government places a realistic value on our water, which industries can then use and dispose of very cheaply, thus disadvantaging the economics of filtration and reuse.

    Tasmanians are World leaders in the use of water, and I think it is up to us to demand better.

  6. Jeff Watts

    March 1, 2005 at 4:01 am

    Pulp mill
    Say an influential company heavily into forestry in a small state wanted to maximise their share price. How could they do it most easily?

    1. They could continue the very lucrative export of woodchips. But then the government would look bad, so they could put a really dodgy, outdated proposal for downstream processing of the chips into pulp. This proposal would need to specify the use of chlorine and also huge amounts of fresh water because filtration is a bit expensive.

    The proposal could then be rejected on environmental grounds, and the production of woodchips would be justified. The government would look good and the company would get what they were after.

    2. A really bad proposal would allow the company to say later that “OK, we hear you – we will now drop the use of chlorine, and be much better about the water useage, we promise”. This would be great PR for both the company and the government basking in its reflected glory.

    3. Even if the proposal got up, the company would have a free hand to use the older, cheaper, dirtier technology, making the pulp as profitable as the chips.

    4. The pulp mill is built. Wait on, we don’t have enough woodchips to supply both the mill and the existing contracts. This will need more land to be converted from regrowth to plantation timber. Either that or some compensation. Either way, the resources available to the company would be increased and the share price will rise.

    I like the idea of a pulp mill, but not at any cost.

  7. Rosinante Quixote

    February 28, 2005 at 3:46 am

    Join The Dots

    * The Bacon Labor Government initiated the Tasmania Together Plan, a long term vision for Tasmania, based on widespread community consultation

    * That plan originally called for an end to logging in old growth forests by 2003

    * As that deadline approached, the Tasmanian Labor Government ignored the wishes of the community it represents, and quietly extended the deadline to 2010

    * The Labor Government and Gunns Limited are now championing the construction of a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. The proposal has been fast-tracked at alarming speed through the usual process of checks and balances

    * Neither the Labor Government, nor Gunns Limited, will rule out the use of timber harvested from old growth forests in this proposed pulp mill.

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