Taking Accountability through Woodroom Upgrades

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. At Mercer, we’re committed to being part of the solution. We believe technology and innovation can help get us there. For us, accountability means that we are accountable individually and have a responsibility to our partnerships. We contribute and take ownership beyond our job descriptions. This definition is broad and multifaceted, but like our other values, accountability is in everything we do.

We’re a producer of green energy, a partner in healthy forest practices, and innovators working to advance cleaner technology. We take these roles seriously. Every day, we strive to build a more sustainable, resilient future for us all.

In 2021, Mercer Celgar is embarking on a capital investment project to upgrade our existing woodroom. This project has a total cost of $31.4 million, of which $4.5 million is funded through Natural Resources Canada’s Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program. Completion of the woodroom upgrade project will improve the competitiveness of the pulp mill operation, reduce emissions, improve fibre utilization, and create local jobs during the construction phase. With expected project completion within the first half of 2022, this investment will, most importantly, provide further certainty for the employees who work at the mill, for our suppliers and partners, and for the whole West Kootenay region. 

Project Details

The biorefinery concept implemented at Mercer Celgar enables our mill to manufacture pulp, renewable energy, and biochemicals by utilizing two streams of fibre supply: residual sawmill chips, which are a byproduct of lumber production; and low-quality logs (known as pulp logs) that can’t be made into lumber and would otherwise be left in the forest by logging operations to be slash burned

For perspective, we estimate that 4 million tonnes of wood is being wasted and unnecessarily burned in British Columbia each year – contributing to a large percentage of BC’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is enough material to feed almost half of BC’s annual pulp production or the equivalent of approximately 3 pulp mills the size of Celgar. The utilization of this fibre would equate to the equivalent of almost 1.4 million tonnes of pulp and up to 2.24 million megawatts of power, a byproduct of the pulping process. That is enough eco-certified green energy to supply over 200,000 homes in British Columbia for 1 year.

For a pulp log to be made into pulp, it must first go through a process called debarking, where the bark is removed from the log. Once the bark has been removed, it can then be chipped into usable wood chips that can be fed into the pulping operation. The debarking and chipping processes are performed in our woodroom. 

Currently, our woodroom utilizes a ring debarker to remove the bark from pulp logs, one log at a time. Due to the size of pulp logs, this is a slow and inefficient process. With that in mind, our Mercer team partnered with Peterson, a leading debarker manufacturer, to develop a first-of-its-kind stationary flail debarker. This debarker functions by way of chains abrading the logs, thereby removing the bark. This updated process enables us to process multiple stems simultaneously and to debark even the smallest pulp logs in a more effective and efficient way. This new debarking process utilizes more of the waste fibre that would otherwise be left in slash piles and convert this material into a usable, sustainable product. This fits with our commitment to enhancing forest utilization through resource efficiency.

Alongside the installation of the new debarker, we will also be upgrading our refuse conveyors, installing equipment that recovers white wood that is lost during the debarking process and maximizes the usable fibre realized. We let nothing go to waste and we mean it – the bark that is removed from the debarking process is used to fuel our power boiler to create steam, which is then converted into our eco-certified green energy. 

Upgrading the Mercer Celgar woodroom with the stationary flail debarker will also enable us to process the pulp logs on our mill site powered by our eco-certified green energy, eliminating the use of diesel-powered mobile chippers that are currently outsourced and in use at remote yards.

Innovating for Better Sustainability

The future of forestry is dynamic and innovative. At Mercer Celgar, we work hard to be at the forefront of innovation in our sector. We believe that a brighter, cleaner future is within reach for our region and the people who live here. Our vision includes the possibility of cleaner air, reduced CO2 emissions, the potential for fewer and less intense forest fires, more jobs, and innovative new bio-based businesses. Our team will keep working collaboratively with industry, community, and government leaders to make that future a reality. Our woodroom upgrade project is just one of many steps we are taking to bring us closer to realizing this future.  

At Mercer, we are transforming how we do business by investing in the future now. We look forward to sharing our successes with our team members, stakeholders, and communities. Together, we will remain accountable – protecting jobs, contributing to the local economies, rising to meet and exceed the challenge of climate change, and continuing to manage our resources efficiently. At Mercer, we are Sustainable. By Design.