Friday, August 31, 2007

The Pulp Mill

This is my second attempt to write up today’s activities. My first attempt this morning was really a rant about the attitude of some campground owners who think all RV’ers should stay in RV parks every night. This business of boondocking is taking money out of their pockets! Rubbish. I had second thoughts about posting it so this will have to do.

Anyway, that discussion grew out of the fact that the internet was still not up at 9:30 this morning. Since it was not available I did some cleaning in the truck storage cabinets where dust and water had gotten in. Then we drove into town for our tour of the pulp mill located here.

Wood pulp looks just like thick paper, but it is just the wood pulp itself. It is not a finished product. From here it is sold as a raw material to companies who make paper, tissue, dog food packages, etc. Wood pulp is a major industry here.

We had to put on safety gear including safety glasses, helmets, vests and we all had to carry an emergency breathing apparatus. Scary, huh?

Wood pulp is made from chips of wood. The chips are small, about ¼ inch thick and a couple inches across. They are a waste product from lumber and plywood mills. No trees are actually cut just for pulp anymore. There is zero waste from any tree that is harvested.

The chips arrive by truck and train from a 200 mile radius of Prince George. They back fully loaded semi’s into a lifting mechanism that lifts the front up in the air to about an 80 degree angle to dump the contents out the back. We could not get a photo of that but will try to get one before we leave here.

The chips then go into the digesters which are tall tanks with hot, caustic chemicals under pressure in them. This causes the chip to explode into pure fiber. The pulp is then run through cleaning and bleaching tanks, and then sprayed out onto huge, wide belts that run them through processes to remove the water and press the mat together. It is then run through a dryer where all the remaining moisture is cooked out, and then to a cutting, stacking and banding room.

The plant we were in runs 365 x 24 and produces 1,500 tons of wood pulp per day. That’s a lot. All the waste material that cannot be turned into pulp is sent to the “hog” pile and is used as the fuel for the steam generators that run the plant. Like I said – nothing is wasted. They even wash down any spills and run it back into their system.

All in all it was a fun tour. The only bad part was the smell. If you want to see all the pictures, they are in the gallery under Southern British Columbia.

After the tour we did our shopping at WalMart and then came home to find that the internet service appeared to be working. Appeared to be working because when I tried to sign up for it their software crashed. After a call to tech support I finally got on. It is a pretty good connection, but not the best I have ever seen. According to their literature only one computer can be connected at a time, but we are both using it and it seems to be working OK.

So, we are set for a while. Tomorrow we may visit a museum or something. Who knows.

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