TAYLORVILLE — Thanks to some new technology, your paper tissue products might have a lowered carbon footprint.
The Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill, which annually produces approximately 20 million cases of tissue, towel and napkin products, installed three new air compressors and two new dryers that have, employees estimated, lowered energy consumption at the facility by 5.5 million kilowatt hours, or approximately 1.5 percent, per year.
“Energy conservation is important for our community and for Georgia-Pacific and we are always looking for opportunities to reduce our consumption,” said Steve Francoeur, vice president and mill manager. “Any time we can conserve energy, reduce our energy costs and improve our efficiency it is a success for both the environment and for business.”
Compressed air is used to operate the manufacturing equipment throughout the mill, which makes 51 percent of all Georgia-Pacific products sold on the West Coast.
“The initial compressed air assessment took place back in ’08, ’09,” said Michael Burghardt, energy team leader at the mill, about the process of going through the entire facility looking for minute areas of energy savings. “The project really got going in 2010. It just takes a long time for this size of project to get initiated and executed, so here we are in 2012 and we finally have it all commissioned and running.
“(It’s) comprised of three new compressors, a couple new dryers and a control scheme to where these three compressors pretty much talk to each other and ... increase air flow or decrease air flow.
The new high-efficiency air compressors allow Wauna’s air system to consume less, saving energy.
“Along with this new equipment came new piping, new flow meters, new flow valves,” said Burghardt. “We have a system that pretty much ties all the departments together now.”
Burghardt said that in addition to the cost and energy savings and the centralized control of the air system, the new machinery also reduces needed maintenance, increasing safety for workers at Wauna Mill, which employs more than 900 people.
The cost of the project, which was performed through the Bonneville Power Administration’s Energy Smart Industrial program, came in at about $2 million. Clatskanie People’s Utility District reimbursed Georgia-Pacific $1.4 million for the project, which qualified for credits provided by the BPA energy efficiency program and funded by the PUD’s electricity rates.
“It’s Clatskanie’s conservation project, but we go through the Bonneville Power Administration to get our money back,” said Becky Rakoz, a spokeswoman for the PUD.
This was the largest single project ever performed by the PUD, which has partnered with the Wauna Mill on six similar projects over tha last half decade, saving 7.5 million kilowatt hours annually.
This year, Wauna Mill had a goal of reducing its energy consumption by 2.5 percent. Burghardt said this project cut the mill’s consumption by approximately 1.5 percent. That’s in addition to Georgia-Pacific’s goal of reducing its overall energy consumption by 25 percent by 2020, said Burghardt.
“The 5.5 million kilowatt hours equates to a cost of $200,000, roughly, in additional energy savings on Wauna’s bill yearly,” said Brian Fawcett, technical services specialist with the PUD. “For us, this offsets our need to acquire new generation in the future, which is increasingly expensive.
“For the mill, we’re happy to help them out. It provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace and helps them stay competitive.”
Fawcett said that in the 1950s or 1960s, the area of Clatsop County west of Bradwood wayside was annexed into the Clatskanie PUD. When Wauna Mill came online, it automatically sought power from the PUD. Clatskanie PUD provides power to Wauna, Westport and areas in Clatsop County east of the Bradwood wayside. Rakoz said that with Wauna, Clatskanie PUD might actually be the largest power supplier in Clatsop County.
Bonneville Power Administration
BPA has a goal to meet 85 percent of its load growth for regional public utilities through energy efficiency and conservation over the next 20 years. In that vein, it started the Energy Smart Industrial program about three years ago. So far, more than 100 regional public utilities, including Clatskanie PUD, have signed up to take part.
“The Wauna Mill ... (project) does fall in the top 15 energy savings projects done in the past three years in the Pacific Northwest,” said Jennifer Eskil, leader of BPA’s industrial program.
“And the Energy Smart Industrial program has done 650 projects.”
The program has recaptured 55 megawatts over the last three years. That compares with only 23 megawatts of recaptured in the three years preceding the program, said Eskil.
As for Wauna Mill, there are several more energy-saving projects in the works, most of them proprietary.
“Clatskanie PUD has been a great partner in helping us identify and work on energy conservation projects,” said Burghardt. “Energy conservation will continue to be a focus for Georgia-Pacific and the Wauna Mill, and the Clatskanie PUD will continue to play an important role in helping us achieve our sustainability goals.”
Georgia-Pacific was recently recognized by the American Forest and Paper Association with its Leaders in Sustainability energy efficiency award, part of the Better Practices, Better Planet 2012 Sustainability Award program.
Nationwide, Georgia-Pacific has lowered its energy use by more than 2 trillion British thermal units, a measurement of heat produced by burning any material, through similar projects in other large pulp and paper mills.
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.