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Northern Pulp embarks on $10-million mill maintenance shutdown

September 14 2016


The Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County is suspending operations for 10 days for a maintenance shutdown. Mill management says the influx of tradespeople is a boon to local businesses. The Abercrombie Point mill began its $10-million maintenance shutdown on Saturday.

Mill management said in a news release that most industrial facilities undertake similar shutdowns to carry out preventative maintenance on equipment while it is not in operation.

“The annual maintenance shutdown is key to ensuring a safe and reliable operation in the year to come,” general manager Bruce Chapman said.

The company had originally allotted $8 million for the shutdown but that has been bumped up by 25 per cent, with over half of the $10-million budget being shelled out to cover wages for the tradespeople that are needed to do the necessary work, mill management said. The mill’s workforce will jump from just about 330 to nearly 1,000 workers as tradespeople from across Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia converge on Pictou County.

“Not many companies have the opportunity to spend a million dollars a day for 10 straight days,” Chapman said in the release. “This is on top of our annual operating costs and capital projects.”

One of the company’s objectives during the shutdown will be to bring the power boiler into compliance with the mill’s industrial approval. That boiler tested in June at a level of 164 milligrams of particulate or fine dust emissions per reference cubic metre (164mg/RM3), exceeding the 150 mg limit allowed in the mill’s approval. The June failure was the second in the past five regulatory tests conducted on the power boiler, each time coming in at less than 10 per cent over the limit.

Kathy Cloutier, the company communications director, said recently that the power boiler is a complex operating system involving bark and air.

“We knew that this issue was not going to be a quick fix since beginning our work with specialists Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) regarding operational evaluation and improvement recommendations,” Cloutier said.

The power boiler upgrades will involve under grate air dampers, air-to-fuel dampers and air leak inspection.

The provincial Environment Department recently handed the company a summary offence fine of $697.50 for failing to comply with its industrial approval. That fine came under attack for its leniency, especially in light of the company’s ability to spend millions on a shutdown.

Extra work crews had already been on site at the mill for the past four weeks and many will remain a week after the mill resumes production on Sept. 20, mill management said. In an effort to handle the influx of vehicles, Northern Pulp has opened a parking lot at the west end of the mill and hired a bus to transport workers from the parking lot to their work stations.

 “It is a busy spot around the mill and throughout the entire community as once again local hoteliers, retailers and restaurateurs welcome hundreds of tradespeople,” Chapman said. “I’m not sure which will be more challenging — finding a parking space in our lot or a hotel room.”


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