Sustainability in Innovation – Mercer Peace River’s Evolving Fibre Procurement Process

Now more than ever, industries are seeking new innovative ways to operate, creating a more sustainable, balanced business model with improved environmental outcomes. Although we are seeing more industries shift their focus, the forestry sector has held sustainability at the forefront of its business objectives for numerous years. 

Innovations such as Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) and traditional land use studies are just some of the leading programs that have contributed to Mercer Peace River’s (MPR) success and to our ability to sustainably manage the forests. 

To remain on the path of sustainability, it is imperative that we continue to invest in innovation. Now, MPR can add to its list of innovative technologies with its new Fibre Procurement Project. This project, planned for completion in mid-2022, will transform our current hardwood procurement process into one that is more efficient with increased long-term environmental benefits. 

Currently, MPR’s hardwood fibre procurement process utilizes portable chippers to debark and chip aspen trees in the forest or remote satellite yards, which are then delivered to the facility to be processed. In the early 2000s, portable chipping was introduced as a novel innovation to improve efficiency through full-tree utilization. 

As an organization focused on better sustainability, we understand that innovation is iterative and we need to constantly evaluate our processes. With this in mind and with the introduction of new modern technologies, we decided to move to an enhanced on-site centralized chipping model. Logs will now be cut to length and transported to the mill on larger, more efficient 10-axle trucks where they will be processed in a redeveloped state-of-the-art woodroom, containing one of the most advanced chippers on the market.

The desire to make this change is multifaceted, with one main driver being the significant environmental benefits. With this change to our process, MPR will significantly lower its carbon footprint through the reduction of fossil fuel emissions and retention of more forest carbon stocks. It is projected that through this investment, by 2050, MPR will have reduced fossil fuel emissions by over 900,000 tonnes of CO2e and sequester 2.6 million tonnes of CO2e through forest conservation. 

Additionally, the new state-of-the-art woodroom will be equipped with technologies that allow for greater utilization of the hardwood trees and optimization of the pulping process, resulting in the need for fewer fibre resources. With this development, MPR anticipates a reduction of approximately 500,000 trees annually in order to meet our pulp production goals.

“Watching this project unfold has been an exhilarating experience. It is not often you get to witness such transformation,” shared Shawn Elliott, MPR Mill Manager. “Despite the supply chain complexities added from the pandemic, our team has managed to stay on track for our mid-2022 start-up. We look forward to the improvements this project will create and sharing this success with our local communities.”

Our aim with the Fibre Procurement Project is to create a more efficient and economical process, continuing to better the sustainability of the environment and our operations. This investment will significantly contribute to our advancement in the forestry sector and set the foundation for a more secure future. We look forward to unveiling the complete project later this year and how the changes make us Sustainable. By Design.