Specialty and security paper maker Fortress Paper announced Friday that they would be expanding their operations to include two entirely new sectors – specialty cellulose and bio-energy.
Purchasing a soon-to-be bankrupt pulp mill in Thurso, Quebec, Fortress intends to execute a major overhaul of the mothballed plant, spending nearly $153 million to convert it into a dissolving pulp manufacturer focused on producing specialty cellulose.
Derived from dissolving wood pulp to its organic core, specialty cellulose is a most often used in the textile industry for the production of rayon – a fiber known for its soft texture and its ability to “breathe.”
Often an alternative to silk, rayon is used to produce clothing items such as evening gowns and other flowing garments. The demand for rayon is growing worldwide largely due to the environmental concerns associated with its competitor – cotton. Since cotton requires large landmasses, chemical fertilizers and various pesticides to be produced and harvested, many consumers are looking for alternative fibers and fabrics.
Fortress Paper anticipates they will be able to produce more than 200,000 tonnes of specialty cellulose annually to sell to the textile markets once the conversions are complete at the Thurso mill.
The Vancouver-based paper maker will also turn the plant into a 25-megawatt co-generation plant that will convert mill waste into electricity for the Quebec power grid for at least the next 15 years.
The reconfiguration of the Thurso mill also means a return to work for many Thurso residents. The pulp mill – originally owned by Fraser Papers Inc. – closed its doors in June 2009, filing for bankruptcy protection and leaving 300 people out of work. As a result of their acquisition, Fortress Paper has agreed to enter into renewed contracts with three unions representing these plant workers to get them back to possibly as early as May 2010.
“We’re very, very focused on ensuring we have a good an motivated workforce in place,” said Fortress Paper President and CEO Chad Wasilenkoff in an interview with The Ottawa Citizen this weekend.
Thurso’s mayor, Maurice Boivin, called Fortress’s announcement welcome news for the small community of about 2,500 people.
The company hopes to restart production at the plant in May and to complete the transition to pure cellulose production by mid-2011. The co-generation power plant is expected to be online by late 2012.
The Ottawa Citizen: “BC Company Steps In To Re-Generate Thurso Pulp Mill”
New Brunswick Business Journal: “Fortress Paper buys Quebec mill from Fraser Papers”
Fortress Paper: “Specialty Cellulose Inc.”
“Fortress Paper Announces An Acquisition to Enter The Specialty Cellulose and Bio Energy Sectors”