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Canfor Taylor employees empowered, engaged by mill improvements

Image of Canfor Taylor pulp mill
Canfor Taylor has embarked on a strategy that takes a mill-wide approach to reduce energy use at its Taylor, B.C. pulp mill.

Canfor Taylor embarks on energy reduction strategy

For Canfor Taylor, the little things count as much as — maybe more than — the big things when it comes to energy savings.

Working with BC Hydro Power Smart, the lumber products company has embarked on a strategy to reduce energy use at its Taylor, B.C., pulp mill.

Pulp mill saves energy by switching to single-stage refining process

Part of this strategy involved switching to a single-stage refining process. Now the mill uses one 19,000-hp refining motor per line rather than two.

"In the grand scheme of things, those motors account for probably 65 or 70 per cent of our overall power usage," says Craig Thomson, Energy and Environmental Supervisor for the company, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year.

But Canfor Taylor didn't stop there.

"Instead of just focusing on those refiners, we looked at a mill-wide approach," Thomson says.

And so the energy supervisor and his team are in the process of converting all of the old 1,000-watt halide lights in its mill to 480w LED lights.

Employees make a difference by putting forth energy-related improvements

Thanks to its efforts, Canfor has experienced a high degree of engagement among its 110 mill workers. Employees bring energy-related ideas to the table and take responsibility for projects.

Compared to the change to the refining process, the switch to LED lighting in the mill is "a drop in the bucket" when it comes to energy savings, Thomson notes.

"People notice those little things. If a refiner's not running, employees can't see that. But, you can sure notice a difference with the LED lighting. And when our employees see the little things, they know we're looking at the bigger things too. They want to become more involved. So I think that's a really important message."

Energy efficiency helps save about 24,000,000 kWh annually

Before Canfor Taylor partnered with BC Hydro Power Smart for what Thomson calls "the big push" towards energy efficiency, the company regarded its energy bills as simply "the cost of doing business. It was not something we thought we had a lot of control over."

Of course, the company has realized it does have some control over how much energy it uses, and has gone to great lengths to change.

"BC Hydro is our largest utility cost, and because there's been so much advancement in technology in electrical energy use, we realized we had to go there," Thomson says.

Through Power Smart programs, Thomson estimates the company has saved millions of kilowatt hours and millions of dollars.

"We've conserved roughly 24,000,000 kilowatt hours per year. That's almost a free month of power for us." With a monthly electricity bill over $1m, that's considerable.

All of these energy-savings-related activities have helped increase the company's competitiveness.

"We're competing with mills not only in Canada, but in Europe and South America. Our power might be relatively inexpensive compared to some of these countries, but our labour costs are higher. At the end of the day, it comes down to how much is your pulp per tonne compared to a tonne of pulp out of Argentina? You have to take advantage of cost structures or cost-savings initiatives you have control over."