NORPAC, BPA partner on northwest energy-efficiency project

Executives from Weyerhaeuser, Nippon Paper Industries, Cowlitz County Public Utility District, and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) recently gathered at the North Pacific Paper Corp. (NORPAC) facility to celebrate the largest industrial energy efficiency project in BPA history and one of the largest energy efficiency projects in the United States to date. 

Upon completion, the project is expected to save 100,000,000 kilowatt-hours per year; this will save enough energy to serve about 8,000 Northwest homes. 

The first phase of the project was completed in June 2011, and the second  -- and final phase -- is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.

The project, referred to as a “Chip Pre-Treatment Interstage Screen Project,” adds two new components to the NORPAC facility. The first change is the addition of the chip pre-treatment equipment, which treats wood chips with steam and chemicals prior to refining the chips into pulp, resulting in reduced pulp bleaching and brightening costs. The second feature is the inter-stage screening. Previously, wood chips were ground through two stages of refining. These refining machines are driven by numerous electric motors that require thousands of connected horsepower. The inter-stage screening process allows paper-ready fibers (wood fibers that do not require additional refining) to bypass the second stage of refining, resulting in electrical energy savings. 

“Energy efficiency is the first-choice, least-cost alternative for meeting increasing demand for electricity in the Pacific Northwest,” said BPA administrator Steve Wright. “This project serves to meet our twin goals of promoting a healthy economy and a healthy environment in the Northwest.”

NORPAC purchases power for its industrial operation through Cowlitz County PUD. Working through Cowlitz, BPA will fund installation of screening equipment between refiners at the paper mill. The new processes will reduce electricity and chemicals used in the refining process.

BPA will fund about $21 million, and Cowlitz County PUD will contribute up to an additional $3.9 million. NORPAC is funding the remaining $35 million of the $60 million project.

“This project is a win-win,” said Dan Fulton, president and CEO for Weyerhaeuser. “NORPAC’s energy-efficiency project will allow this mill to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging global economic market by significantly reducing the mill’s energy costs and decreasing its environmental impact through reduction of energy consumption and chemical use onsite. We are thankful BPA and Cowlitz PUD have partnered successfully with us to make this remarkable energy-efficiency project a reality.”

In addition to the energy and chemical-use savings, the project created an unforseen benefit: It allows NORPAC to produce a 92 bright ground wood sheet, a new product. 

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