Water Week

EWN Publishing

South Australia’s Penola pulp mill chosen because of cost and site advantages over other locations

Posted by waterweek on 28 September 2007

The pulp mill proposed to be built at Penola was nothing like the pulp mill that had been proposed by Gunns Limited for the Tamar Valley in northern Tasmania, said South Australian MHA Mitch Williams in the South Australian House of Assembly on 11 September 2007.

Fewer chemicals: Williams said: “As the member for Ashford pointed out, the process here is a chemothermo mechanical one. Basically, the wood is ground to the point where the fibre is separated and can be formed into paper. It does not make a high quality product, particularly when compared with the strength of the paper that is made by the craft process, which is proposed by Gunns in northern Tasmania. The craft process is heavily reliant on chemicals. One puts the woodchips into a digester with chemicals — principally caustic sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfites — and cooks up the chips in this mixture in a big digester and uses the chemical reactions to break down the pulp and to dissolve the lignum, which holds the fibres together in wood. #What happens then is that they wash the dissolved lignum away from the wood fibre and end up with a recovery rate of about 25 per cent. So, in relation to greenwood chip, about 25 per cent of the weight of chip ends up as craft pulp; some 50 per cent of the green chip is water and 50 per cent is lignum, which is processed out. In the CTM process (which is proposed here) the recovery rate is 50 per cent because the lignum is left in the paperd. I am told that it does not make paper of strength but there is a growing market in the world for CTM paper.

Costs drive decision: “The proponents came along with their proposal,” Williams said, “which raised controversy in a number of areas. They originally proposed to build a small mill at Heywood in Victoria and then a second small mill at Penola. Subsequently, the proponents, when it got to the point of detailed design, realised that costs had increased significantly since the initial estimations and one way of cutting the capital cost of the project was to redesign it as one single large project; and for various reasons they chose the Penola site over the Heywood site, principally because the Penola site is next to a railway line, has a natural gas pipeline and major power line, and is close to the resource. I think they are the principal reasons why the Penola site got the nod from the company.

Water a major issue: “Obviously, it needed water, which caused one of the controversies, said Williams. “Water was one of the issues on which the committee spent time discovering the truth because, over a long period, a lot of scuttlebutt in regard to water was spread throughout the region.”

Reference: Mitch Williams, Member for MacKillop, House of Assembly, South Australia, 11 September 2007.

Erisk Net, 16/9/2007

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