Innovative Use of Natural Waste Improves Pulp Production

Innovative approaches to improving production do not always come in the form of new equipment, sometimes, they come from new ways of looking at our available resources.

In addition to the effects on the appearance and quality of lumber, the mountain pine beetle infestation also affects pulp production. When our Cariboo Pulp & Paper mill started processing wood chips from trees killed by the beetle, it faced a unique challenge. Typically, the wood soap created during the pulping process floats. This light wood soap is captured by skimming it off the top of recovery tanks so it can be processed.

However, trees attacked by the mountain pine beetle create a compound called pitch as a defense against the infestation. Unlike healthy trees, wood chips from trees killed by pine beetles produce a heavy wood soap in the chemical pulping process. This heavy soap sinks in the recovery tanks and as a result, is more difficult to recover. Sinking wood soap also clogs equipment and requires significantly more energy to process properly.

Experimenting with sector research organization FPInnovations, Cariboo Pulp & Paper reached a novel, natural solution: canola oil by-products. Left over from the production of canola oil, adding canola plant waste to the recovery process enables pine beetle wood soap to be buoyant in the mill’s recovery tanks and be skimmed for further processing. The results of this experiment were so successful and cost effective, FPInnovations is exploring opportunities to expand the practice across the industry. It’s a small example of creative thinking that demonstrates the commitment we have to continuous improvement, getting the most out of our natural resources and being conscious about our energy use.