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Going big: BPA, Cowlitz PUD and NORPAC partner on largest ever energy efficiency project
8/28/2012 12:00 PM
New screening equipment used to refine wood chips is expected to save NORPAC 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, which is enough energy to serve 8,000 Northwest homes. Construction of the chip pretreatment structure, shown here, is scheduled to be completed in the next few months.
The popular expression “go big or go home” means to go all the way. And an energy efficiency project in Longview, Wash., went so big that it’s thought to be the largest of its kind in the United States, ever. It’s so big that the energy experts at ESource, who answer thousands of energy-related questions every year, couldn’t find a reported project that’s saved more energy.
“It’s a unique project that’s never been done before and is likely never to be duplicated,” said Craig Anneberg, vice president and mill manager, The North Pacific Paper Corporation.
NORPAC, owned by Weyerhaeuser Company and Nippon Paper, is the largest newsprint and specialty paper mill in North America. The 33 year-old mill produces 750,000 tons of paper a year and on daily basis makes enough paper to stretch a 30 foot wide sheet from their Northwest mill all the way to Miami, Fla.
NORPAC manufactures paper for some of the biggest newspapers and publishers in the world, including The New York Times, Seattle Times, Wall Street Journal and Penguin Books. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the paper-making business requires a number of energy intensive processes. In fact, NORPAC is the largest industrial consumer of electricity in the State of Washington, requiring about 200 average megawatts of power, which is about 1.75 million times more power than the average household uses in an entire month.
In the face of high manufacturing costs and a declining newsprint market, NOPRAC President Paul Whyatt says, “conserving and mitigating the costs of electricity is core to our survival.”
NORPAC buys its electricity from Cowlitz County Public Utility District, who buys wholesale power from the Bonneville Power Administration. BPA, Cowlitz PUD and other public utilities in the Northwest work with industrial companies to identify energy-savings opportunities.
“Energy efficiency is the first-choice, least-cost alternative for meeting the increasing demand for electricity in the Pacific Northwest,” says BPA Administrator Steve Wright. “This is a breakthrough project that sends a signal about the incredible opportunities out there.”
It takes a lot of energy, water and wood to make paper and the process begins with wood chips. Refining wood chips is a mechanical process that requires large amounts of energy. (Refining machines are driven by numerous electric motors that require thousands of connected horsepower.) BPA and Cowlitz PUD are funding the installation of new screening equipment between refiners that reduces the electricity and chemicals used to refine wood chips.
“It’s the first commercial installation of this technology in the world,” said Ray Harrison, fiber line manager, NORPAC.
The project, known as the Chip Pretreatment Interstage Screen Project, adds two new components to the NORPAC facility. Phase one, which was completed last summer, added new equipment that treats wood chips with steam and chemicals before they get refined into pulp. The second feature, the interstage screening, allows paper-ready wood fibers to bypass the second stage of refining. With less pulp in the secondary refiners NORPAC can cut its power requirements by about 12 percent.
The interstage screening phase of the project is expected to be completed in the next few months. Once complete, the project is expected to save NORPAC 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year (12 average megawatts), which is enough energy to power 8,000 Northwest homes.
BPA will fund about $21 million for three custom projects at NORPAC and Cowlitz PUD will contribute up to an additional $3.9 million. NORPAC is funding the remaining $35 million of the $60 million project.
The improved refining processes have also allowed NORPAC to expand its product line. The mill can now produce a brighter and whiter paper that’s made from less wood chips than a similar grade from their competitors. The result is NORPAC’s newest product, its Norbrite 92 high-grade office copy paper, which it began marketing in June.
“This remarkable energy efficiency project helps ensure the long-term economic viability of NORPAC and maintain the good, family-wage paying jobs offered at the facility, said Dan Fulton, president and chief executive officer for Weyerhaeuser.
NORPAC employs 415 full-time employees and about 30 contractors and the construction phase of the project created 64 full-time family-wage jobs.
Brian Skeahan, general manager, Cowlitz PUD, says even though this was a custom project the message to industry is clear.
“Energy efficiency investments are good for business and the community. And there’s a world of opportunity out there.”
Photos and video of the NORPAC paper mill and the chip pre-treatment structure are available on Flickr. Click here to learn more about how BPA and public utilities are advancing energy efficiency in the Pacific Northwest.
You can also find this article on the Department of Energy’s blog. See “Going Big: Building the Largest Ever Energy Efficiency Project.”
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