Lab Canada

Technology development project to find use for mountain pine beetle devastated wood

Edmonton, AB – A $28-million multi-partner research project in Alberta is developing the technology to convert dead trees into high-grade newsprint, and provide a use for massive tracts of forest in Alberta and BC devastated by the mountain pine beetle.

The project involves field testing new Alberta-developed sensor technology and equipment modifications at Alberta Newsprint Company’s Whitecourt plant. The new technology will adjust the newsprint process for beetle-killed wood’s drier, weaker, and darker characteristics. This installation is part of a broader research and development project that started in 2005 and will continue through to full-scale production in 2015.

“Millions of dead and dying mountain pine beetle-infested trees will be put to commercial use to manufacture newsprint,” says Doug Horner, minister of Alberta Advanced Education and Technology.

“The industry faces growing challenges when processing inferior wood, given today’s customer pressures to make even higher quality products,” says Ron Stern, president and managing partner of the Alberta Newsprint Company. “Through our combined efforts we are adopting new Alberta Research Council sensors for high level process control and redesigning the papermaking process to enable mechanical pulp mills to consume inferior fibre.”

This three-year start-up project is supported by investments of almost $17 million from the Alberta Newsprint Company and a $10-million grant from the provincially administered national Community Development Trust (CDT). Other funding partners include the Alberta government, through the Alberta Forestry Research Institute ($600,000) and the Alberta Research Council ($450,000), the National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program ($240,000), and Woodlands County ($200,000).