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December 30, 2008

Paper mill upgrade cuts costs, emissions

New pulping system recycles excess heat
By Bert Caldwell  - Staff writer

New equipment for converting wood chips into pulp will reduce natural gas consumption at the Inland Empire Paper Co. by as much as 75 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 33,000 tons annually, President Wayne Andresen said Monday.

The $40 million investment will also allow the mill to slightly increase output, to about 570 tons per day, Andresen said.

Inland Empire Paper is a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

Andresen said the new thermal-mechanical pulping system reduces gas consumption by using heat produced during the pulping process to dry the finished paper. The pulping equipment in the plant today dates to the 1960s, he said.

“With the significant environmental benefits associated with this project, Inland Empire Paper Co. is taking a proactive approach towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Andresen said the mill’s efficiency has helped keep the company order book filled while older plants across North America have shut down in response to declining demand. The mill’s paper-making machine, built in 2001, is the newest in North America.

“There’s a major restructuring going on in the industry,” he said.

Newsprint consumption has fallen – from 16 million tons in 2000 to 10.2 million tons in 2008 – as newspapers shrink due to declining circulation and advertising revenues. A few newspapers, notably the Christian Science Monitor, have dropped print editions and migrated primarily to the Internet.

The mill delivers papers to 160 sites, Andresen said, adding that sales to The Spokesman-Review represent less than 5 percent of total output.

He said installation of the new equipment has been delayed by a shortage of steel and bad weather, with completion now expected in the fourth quarter of 2009.

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