Howe Sound Pulp & Paper

Left to right: Meredith Illman, Gary Fors, Christina Welscher, Mike Staiger, Iver Iverson, Steve McGillivray.
Missing: Fred Fominoff, Rick Crebbin, Leigh Windsor, Blaine Schleibinger, Dave Beauchesne, Byron Gillard, Julian Blackman, Peter Hildering.

Focus on energy management yields huge savings

Thermo-mechanical pulping is the most energy-intensive process of any industry in B.C. That means improving efficiency can lead to huge energy savings – as Howe Sound Pulp and Paper has shown with a recent upgrade to its pulp screening process.

This one project alone will save a whopping 17.2 GWh of electricity per year – enough to power more than 1,500 B.C. homes.

But you don't find savings if you're not looking for them. That's where good energy management helped play a role.

One-year payback

"We use more than 1,000 GWh of electricity per year, which puts us in the top 10% of electricity consumers in the province," says Gary Fors, Energy Manager for Howe Sound Pulp and Paper (HSPP). "Of that, about 460 GWh goes to the TMP [thermo-mechanical pulping] process."

The TMP process uses large refiners to grind wood chips down to pulp. HSPP has seven refiners, each one driven by a 19,000 hp motor. (An average jet engine has 8,000 hp.) After grinding, the material is cleaned and refined in several stages, first in a screening process, then through centrifugal cleaners.

"Over the past few years, the technology for screening has been improving," says Fors. The newer screens yield very clean pulp, allowing HSPP to cut out the centrifugal cleaning step with no loss of quality – and cut energy use too.

"The big difference is in pumping," says Fors. "We had huge pumps to feed the centrifugal cleaners, and we’ve now been able to shut them all down. The more of those pumping loops we can get rid of, the more energy we can save."

Investment in the project was approximately $500,000, with an expected payback of less than one year. "Even though we had to reinstall a lot of piping and invest in new screens, the payback on 17.2 GWh is worth it," says Fors.

The energy manager difference

HSPP had tested the new screening equipment before Gary Fors started with the company in June 2010, but the project had not moved ahead.

"The project stagnated without it being fully on anyone's desk," says Fors.

His role marks the first time HSPP has had a full-time energy manager – a position subsidized by BC Hydro under the Industrial Energy Manager initiative.

"The competence that an energy manager brings is to be the champion, to help out with all aspects of getting a project like this done, and do it full-time," he comments.

Fors credits the TMP operations group for taking on the challenge of implementing the new system. "They had to learn a new system, rebalance it and fine tune it, so this took a lot of effort," he says. "But when we all really know that it contributes to energy savings and greenhouse emissions reduction and sustainability, we all buy in."

Since Fors has arrived, HSPP has established a cross-functional energy management team with input from every area across the plant.

"Basically, we bring the talent to the table and talk about how we can reduce energy consumption and be more efficient," he says.

The company's work continues to pay off in terms of both technical upgrades and behavioural changes that support better energy efficiency. That means Howe Sound will likely have more energy-saving news in the future.

"This project is a great energy success story," says Fors. "We're going to look at every energy opportunity we can, as long as we can maintain quality for our customers."