While the end result may not become a reality for two or three years, a proposal for a new hog fuel boiler for Abitibi-Consolidated’s mill here will be ready by the end of March, mill manager John Harrison noted last week.
“We’re in very preliminary stages. We’re trying to put together a project proposal we can take forward to the company,” he said. “We’re probably two or three months away from being in a position where we’ll even have the project assembled.
“So an awful lot of what’s going on right now is background work to making sure things are in order if we did manage to put a successful project forward,” he added.
“We’re quite a ways a way from having an approved project, but it’s good people are excited about it,” Harrison added. “People are getting aligned on the issue and feel that it’s a thing we need.
“And we’re getting our homework done ahead of time to make sure the infrastructure changes in the town are done.”
Harrison stressed the proposed hog fuel boiler would not replace the current co-gen plant, but supplement its power generation.
“It allows us to use renewable cost-effective fuel to generate steam to supply the mill, and also generate electricity,” he explained. “It doesn’t do away with the gas turbine we have in place.
“Typically, in the past, the co-gen facility was making more electricity than the mill consumed. So, in fact, the flow of electricity was going out of the plant when the co-gen’s running,” Harrison noted.
“If we were only running the new hog fuel boiler, running the steam turbine, we’d probably be slight net importers of power into the mill.
“If you also managed to get gas prices that allowed you to run the gas turbine cost-effectively, we’d be back into a position of pushing power out of the mill into the grid.
“It will supply most, but it will not supply 100 percent of the power we need for the mill.”
Harrison stressed this project is very important for the local mill. “It’s a huge cost-savings potential for us. We haven’t finalized the numbers, but it looks very good,” he remarked.
“I can’t quote you numbers because we haven’t got the project analysis done,” he added. “But it’s definitely going to turn the steam costs and electricity costs for the mill to a much more favourable position than we’re in today.”
Harrison also noted utilizing wood waste in this way is far more efficient than putting it in a landfill or burning slash piles.
He said the hog fuel boiler is a major project, not only in cost (it could run between $50 million-$60 million) but as far as site planning for the facility.
“In rough terms, [the hog fuel boiler] will probably end up being the same size as the co-gen facility,” Harrison said. “The boiler itself is not so much a large facility as is the mechanism to feed it the bark.
“That’s what’s going to take up a large area—the laydown area for refuse and the conveyor system to deliver refuse to the boiler, and the pile we need for feeding it.”
Harrison noted while Abitibi’s mill in Kenora had a hog fuel boiler, it could not be used here.
“It’s not one that would suitable for use here,” he remarked, adding the one in Kenora is “a much smaller version” of one that could be operational here in the future.
As reported in last week’s Times, Abitibi applied to the Town of Fort Frances to re-zone some of its property, amend the official plan, and stop up portions of two streets (Portage Avenue from Nelson Street to Sinclair Street, and Sinclair Street from Portage Avenue to the west side of Victoria Avenue) in preparation for the possible hog fuel boiler here.