Located in the Papineau Regional County Municipality in the Outaouais region of Western Quebec, about 35km from Gatineau, QC on the Ottawa River, the Thurso pulp mill is a staple in Thurso, Quebec.
The Thurso mill dates back to the 1950s and was a major force in the pulp and paper industry in the Quebec/Ottawa region. Today, it continues the tradition.
Employing nearly 300 people, the pulp mill currently manufactures high quality northern bleached hardwood kraft (NBHK) pulp, primarily used to manufacture freesheet paper – paper that is free of groundwood pulp and has a bit higher brightness than groundwood paper. On average, the mill produces close to 250,000 tonnes of NBHK pulp per year.
But the mill hasn’t been without its share of difficulties. Under the direction of previous owners, Fraser Papers Inc., the mill closed its doors twice – once in 2006 and again in 2009. On the verge of bankruptcy, Vancouver-based specialty and security paper manufacturer Fortress Paper Ltd. stepped in and purchased the mill with the plan to take it in a new direction.
By mid-2011, the mill will be converted to a specialized dissolving pulp producer. Dissolving pulp is a chemically refined pulp that contains a higher cellulose content – which is why it is also called specialty cellulose – and can be used to make rayon for products like tire cords and cellophane, though it is predominately used in the textile industry as an alternative to silk.
Fortress Paper will also be building a cogeneration facility on site which will not only produce energy for the mill, it will also produce energy that will be sold to the government of Quebec for use in the province’s power grid.
Until the conversion process is complete, the Thurso pulp mill continues its output of NBHK pulp, which is actually seeing a global market resurgence due to a number of supply and demand factors including an earthquake in Chile and a pulp strike in Sweden.