Celgar brings new excitement to old news

Castlegar Source
By Castlegar Source
March 3rd, 2010

A press conference held at Castlegar’s Zellstoff Celgar pulp mill last Thursday announced old news – but putting a new face on the story.

Tory MP for Okanagan-Shuswap Colin Mayes trumpeted a $42 million federal grant through the Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program to support Celgar’s bio-energy project, which has seen construction under way for months now.

Celgar manager Al Hitzroth confirmed, back in October of 2009, the funding was in place, but no federal minister was able to schedule a Castlegar appearance at that time. Mayes’ visit, while perhaps a little late in the process was, he said, to highlight an important initiative for the Celgar, for the region, and for the country as a whole.

“You (Celgar) are the first (company) in Canada to take advantage of this program,” said Mayes. Explaining Celgar was the only company with a proposal complete and ready to go when federal funding was first announced. “It’s a three-year program, though, so I’m sure this won’t be the last (proposal to be brought forward). (The funding) was created (not) just to address the environmental and energy savings a project like this will have – it was also a response to what was happening in the U.S. with the $1-billion black-liquor subsidy.”

Celgar’s green energy project features a power boiler upgrade and the installation of a new 48 MW condensing turbine to capture waste heat, increase the production of steam from wood waste and increase capacity to generate bio-energy, which will then be sold to the grid.

Mayes said this sort of government support is critical to ensuring Canadian pulp-and-paper companies are able to compete in an international market alongside their American counterparts.

Hitzroth said such was certainly the case for Celgar.

“We need this project for the longterm viability of our mill,” he said. “(The funding) couldn’t have come at a better time for us – the project was put on the shelf (due to financing issues).”

Hitzroth said Celgar’s green energy program was at risk of dying an ignominious death, were it not for the funding program.

“The money came, literally, in the nick of time.”

The project is expected to generate 145 jobs during construction, create value-added product to Celgar processes, and promote green energy production throughout the country. Celgar expects to be selling power to the grid as early as this autumn.

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