A recent article in The Ottawa Citizen taking an in-depth look at the status of the logging, timber, lumber and pulp-and-paper mills along the Ottawa River valley laments the seeming demise of a once booming Canadian industry.
“Driven by the imperatives of globalized economics and digital technology, Ottawa’s pulp-and-paper heritage has been reduced to a remnant,” writes Robert Sibley.
One of the major reasons for this decline is the decrease in demand for global newsprint, according to Sibley.
“That industry thrived so long as demand for newsprint remained strong. Today, that demand is no longer there. Hence, once busy pulp and paper mills are shuttered and silent,” he says.
But just because newsprint is failing, doesn’t mean every pulp and paper mill is closing its doors for good.
The prime example in the Ottawa Valley is a pulp and paper mill located in Thurso, Quebec about 30 kilometers East of Gatineau.
The mill was set to go bankrupt under previous owners Fraser Papers, but instead was acquired earlier this year by Vancouver’s Fortress Paper Ltd. who had developed a unique plan to convert the mill into a highly specialized dissolving pulp producer.
Fortress’s desire to be innovative and their initiatives to be proactive are the characteristics that have not only turned the mill around but have also made the mill a lucrative investment according to an interview with equity analyst Daryl Swetlishoff on BNN last week.
“Fortress Paper…acquired an idle pulp mill for essentially nothing in Quebec,” Swetlishoff said. “There is a conversion happening over the next year to a new commodity, dissolving pulp…[it’s] a very accretive transaction and very good [timing] for Fortress Paper.”
Another article published in The Ottawa Citizen (part of an ongoing series being written about the pulp and paper industry this week) agrees that innovation can positively affect the lifespan of pulp mills in the Ottawa Valley, signaling the reinvention of not only the Thurso mill but also of a mill in Portage-du-Fort that is on the way to becoming a wood pellet production plant.
Not only has reinvention reinvigorated the Thurso mill, it’s re-opening of production came at a very opportune time says Tony Wanless, a writer for BC Business Magazine.
“The NBHK market, which was in a severe downturn, turned up,” he wrote earlier this month. “Suddenly, the plant that was closed because of low NBHK prices was turning a profit that will continue during the conversion [of the mill to a dissolving pulp producer].”
The conversion process from hardwood pulp producer to dissolving pulp producer should begin later this month once three massive digesters arrive from Finland and are installed on site.
The full conversion is expected to take place by 2011.