New paper machine on Sappi's wish listA preliminary move was made public this week that may pave the way for Sappi Fine Paper to build a new paper machine at its Cloquet mill.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
A preliminary move was made public this week that may pave the way for Sappi Fine Paper to build a new paper machine at its Cloquet mill.
According to Sappi executive and former Cloquet mill manager Tom Collins, public notice was posted on Monday by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency seeking input regarding an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) for a proposed expansion of Sappi’s Cloquet facility.
Collins clarified, however, that such a project has not yet been funded.
According to the EAW, the prospective expansion of the Cloquet mill would nearly triple production of coated paper through the addition of a new paper-processing machine and natural gas-fired boiler to provide steam for the proposed project.
Sappi’s Cloquet mill currently has two existing paper machines and one off-machine coater. The last paper machine was added in 1989, and the other one dates back to the 1940s.
The expansion project would have the potential to increase production at the mill to more than 1 million tons annually (significantly greater than the 340,000 tons currently produced at the mill per year), and it would require 100 to 200 additional workers.
Under the proposed expansion, the mill would operate 24 hours per day with approximately 30 people working each shift.
Sappi’s Cloquet plant currently employs some 760 workers, according to the EAW. There are 300 parking spaces at the existing mill. A new, 100-space employee parking lot would be constructed to serve the new paper machine complex and accommodate the additional employees associated with its operation.
The plan proposal as outlined in the EAW also calls for a new main gate entrance to be constructed approximately 500 feet south of the current main gate entrance. A third stop sign would be added to the intersection of Avenue B and 18th Street North to reduce vehicle speeds entering the plant at this intersection.
Kevin Kain, MPCA project manager, stated the project proposal would not require the mill to increase pulp production or necessitate any additional timber harvest, since the plan would be for Sappi to use the pulp it normally sells on the open market to feed the increase in its own paper production.
Because the project would be constructed in the existing on-site wood yard area of the Cloquet mill, the proposal also calls for the creation of a new wood storage yard in an adjacent open area that at one time was used as a tree nursery. Such a plan would require Sappi to apply for annexation of portions of Avenue B and the rerouting of traffic to 18th Street between the existing scale road and Highway 45.
According to the EAW, the expansion plan projects an increase of an estimated 3.5 million gallons per day in the mill’s average daily use of water from Lake Superior and an estimated decrease of 1.8 million gallons per day in the average daily use of water from the St. Louis River.
The new paper machine would be equipped with state-of-the-art technology for water conservation, according to the proposal, and would use water more efficiently than the existing paper machines, making it possible to increase overall paper production by 197 percent, while only increasing water consumption by 10 percent.
Based on the air quality modeling analysis in project outlay, the EAW stated the mill operation would continue to comply with the applicable air quality standards and is not expected to contribute to an adverse cumulative potential air quality effect.
Sappi’s application for a permit to consider such an expansion puts into motion a 30-day comment public comment period.
Collins said the mill has also filed for modification to its existing air quality permit to accommodate the eventuality of an expansion, which becomes a matter of public record beginning on Thursday.
The MPCA invites written comments on the plan to be submitted by 4:30 p.m. June 3, 2009, to Kevin Kain, MPCA, 520 Lafayette Road North, St. Paul, MN 55155-4194, or faxed to 651-297-2343.