Friday, May 30
by Mathieu Régnier, Paper Advance
A few minutes before the Awards Dinner, the PACWEST 2014 coverage team met Kevan Ross, General Manager, Pulp and Paper at Allnorth Consultants. He reflects on his experience at the conference.

Kevan Ross chaired the Kraft Pulping and Energy - Technical Session on May 29th 2014. “Papers presented in this session were all of a very high quality says Ross”. He believes there are plenty of avenues for the sustainable use of energy in mills today, that it is often just a question of good maintenance.

How do you assess the relevance of a technical session?

We each take back something different from these technical sessions but we can certainly test the relevance of a session by the corridor discussions that surround the session itself and believe me, we heard a lot of talk on energy and kraft pulping this week.

It was my privilege to chair the session on Kraft Pulping and Energy and to see it so well attended. I am sure participants received value from the excellent papers that were presented and, yes, it was great to see the enthusiastic discussions after the session on issues like steam economy, precipitator sizing and performance, sulphur reductions (a smelly topic!), production rationalization by offering a grade of Northern bleached hardwood kraft, etc.

What are the highlights of the Kraft Pulping and Energy session?

This is a hard question. There was so much information shared yesterday that we must all go back to our offices and look at our notes and at the papers themselves. Depending on our areas of interest, some papers will be more useful than others but I know for a fact that participants go back to papers throughout the year pending on situations we have to deal with very rapidly. We look back at the papers but we also contact their authors. A session like this one is not just about the PowerPoints and the actual papers (all available on the CD provided to participants by PACWEST) – it is about making connections with the authors themselves and with some of the actors involved.

Manufacturing is still a critical part of the Canadian economy. We had to struggle over the last several years and not only financially. Mills had to face energy efficiency challenges too – whether this was to save money or to follow corporate social responsibility strategies. This is especially the case in terms of environmental sustainability. Valmet’s presentation for instance centered on energy savings possibilities from a new way to look at evaporators and concentrators – the largest energy users in a kraft pulp mill. Yet, we learnt that evaporators retrofits represent one of the areas where significant savings in production costs and even in extra revenues can be achieved. This is just one example of how energy reduction strategies can help our sector while leading to a low-carbon economy. The pulp and paper sector is one of the most important industrial energy user on the continent. We know that by using existing technologies we can lower this energy use – and lower our operating costs.

This is not your first experience at PACWEST. Why do you come back year after year and why is Allnorth interested in such events?

The PACWEST conference provides me an excellent venue to network with my clients and I can do this in a pleasant social environment. Allnorth continuously looks for ways to better serve our pulp and paper clients. Our extensive process knowledge in pulp and paper has allowed us to assist clients across North America with strategic planning and I could share some of the most recent examples of that throughout the week. Our team includes engineers with pulp and paper mill operational and maintenance experience, so we understand mill managers goals. Still, an event like this one allows us to understand them even better. This comes from attending technical sessions but also from a good cup of coffee facing the mountains!

One of our specialty services is process and energy integration. We produce process simulations that we calibrate to accurately reflect actual mill performance. These mill simulations provide a valuable tool in determining the results of selected projects before making large capital investments.

If you could just have one take away message from the 2014 edition of PACWEST, what would it be?

Easy and straightforward: the high degree of optimism in the future of our industry. There is certainly a buzz of exciting projects being discussed around mill improvements.