Innovation and continuous improvement are core values in Mercer. In fact, innovation is one of Mercer’s three core competencies. When we speak about innovation, we don’t exclusively mean product innovation; more often, we’re referring to process innovation and creative strategies to better our performance and further set ourselves as an industry leader.
Efficient wood utilization is the cornerstone of our sustainability objectives. This starts in the forest and continues in our mills.
In the forest, our Mercer Holz group in Europe is dedicated to procuring and buying a range of wood products, from sawlogs to pulpwood, from sustainably managed forests. We merchandise this material to ensure it is utilized and gains the greatest value.
In Canada, we have designed and built custom machinery that can enter forest sites that have been harvested by others and recover the material that was left behind that was otherwise destined for burning. We pay for waste material that others produce in the region, which results in greater utilization and eliminates a source of particulate when the material would otherwise be burned in slash piles.
Another example of utilization is our $70 million upgrades to our Friesau sawmill, an element of which is the upgrade to primary breakdown equipment to increase the percentage of each log that is recovered to make lumber by 2 – 3%.
In our pulp mills, we are investing in state-of-the-art chip screen facilities and chip handling equipment help to reduce damage to wood chips and ultimately recover more wood to make value-added products. These are small but important improvements as we strive for the full utilization of a scarce resource.
With a few isolated exceptions, our manufacturing facilities are fully electric. The pieces of equipment that remain driven by fossil fuels are targets for electrification. In fact, we have introduced electric locomotives, shunting robots, cranes, and log loading equipment to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. We constantly focus on electricity and steam conservation to optimize the amount of steam that is available for electricity generation.
Perhaps nowhere have we been bolder than in wood logistics. In Europe, we designed and built dedicated rail trains to transport round wood from suppliers to our facilities. The trains are principally electrically driven and replace trucks and classic railcars that held 40% less volume for the same length of train; a savings of energy and ultimately cost for us.
We also have a dedicated port in northern Germany on the Baltic sea. The port accommodates breakbulk pulp log deliveries from Russia, Latvia, and Estonia, and is connected by a large rail line to our Stendal, Rosenthal, and Friesau locations. The port is part of a unique logistics chain that allows us to receive raw materials from the Baltics and ship directly to our mills on our high-capacity trains; on the return trips, those same trains transport finished lumber back to the coast for further shipment to North America.
Moving wood in Canada is also a focus area. In Alberta, we utilize purpose-built large capacity trucks for moving wood on a dedicated winter road network. In British Columbia, we have designed large capacity chip trucks to lower the cost of incoming wood chips from our chipping plants and sawmill partners. We have also designed and constructed multi-use trailers that carry pulp to coastal ports and return carrying wood chips.
A cornerstone of our operating philosophy has been to own and operate only modern pulp mills capable of producing significant amounts of electricity as a byproduct of our kraft processes. This strategy, typically described as a combined heat-power process, results in the efficient utilization of all energy potential contained in our raw material. It also facilitates the recycling of our cooking chemicals for reuse.
Mercer is a leading producer of bioenergy which supports our environmental, social, and economic sustainability.