What about the Prince Albert Pulp Mill?

September 14, 2015

By: Prince Alber Daily Herald

Coun. Don Cody suggests that more can be done to reignite the mill.

It’s been almost two years since Paper Excellence provided the last public update about the Prince Albert Pulp Mill’s future.

At the time, they estimated that the mill would be developing fluff pulp by the summer of 2014 — a target that still hasn’t been reached.

It’s been about a year since Paper Excellence shut down the mill’s co-generation project, which they opened in 2012 and which employed about 40 people.

On Friday, Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Larry Fladagar noted that he hasn’t heard “a thing” about the mill’s future.

Mayor Greg Dionne shared a similar sentiment on Friday, noting that he doesn’t have any updates to provide.

Paper Excellence did not return a call for comment by press time on Friday.

As silent as Paper Excellence remains, there is still a dull ember of hope that something will happen with the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, which shut down in 2006, leaving about 700 people without jobs.

During this week’s city council meeting, Coun. Don Cody expressed an interest in the city investigating what possibilities exist at the mill site — particularly with the relatively new cogeneration plant, which is only a few years old.

“That’s one of the portions of that pulp mill left that’s in pretty good shape,” Cody reflected on Friday, noting the balance of the building is a questionable given its age and long-term vacancy.

What sparked Cody’s interest in the cogeneration plant was this summer’s record-breaking forest fire season.

“Now here’s all that wood out there that’s not being used for anything,” he said. “That’s a lot of wood that’ll go to waste if we’re not using it for anything.”

With a lack of news and action taking place at the Prince Albert Pulp Mill, Cody said that it might come down to city council to take action, although he’s uncertain as to what for this action might look like.

“Someone’s got to start the ball rolling, and if no one else is, we will.”

 Prince Albert Pulp Mill timeline

1968 – The Prince Albert Pulp Mill opens.

2006 — Weyerhaeuser closes the mill. About 700 people lose their jobs.

2007 — Domtar Corp. purchases the mill from Weyerhaeuser.

Early 2011 — Paper Excellence buys the mill from Domtar Corp. Paper Excellence pledges $200 million to convert the mill to produce a dissolved pulp product. The anticipated opening date for full operation is late 2012.

Late 2011 — Still committed to producing a dissolved pulp product, the opening date for full operations is pushed into the summer of 2013.

2012 — The mill’s energy generation plant opens, converting waste wood product into electricity for the SaskPower grid.

Early 2013 — The new opening date for full operation pushes back to within 12 and 18 months. The equipment upgrade process has proven more difficult than anticipated.

Late 2013 — The new opening date is pushed back another 18 months, bringing it to the summer of 2014. China introduced countervailing duties on dissolved pulp products of 50 per cent, effectively killing the mill’s financial viability. The mill will now focus on a different product — fluff pulp, which is most notably used in incontinence products.

Mid 2014 – Wood-burning energy generation efforts at the mill property end. At the time, the site employed about 40 people.

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