The pollution hidden from the pulp and paper mills in quebec

La pollution cachée des papetières québécoises

Charles Lecavalier

The biggest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in Quebec is not a refinery or a cement plant, but a paper. However, it does not appear in the top 10 of the biggest polluters according to the calculations of the government of Quebec.

The company Westrock, located in the small town of La Tuque, north of Trois-Rivières, spits out nearly 1.25 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year. It is more than the refineries in Quebec and Montreal, as well as the famous cement factory in Port-Daniel.

But Westrock, as well as pulp and paper mills, is distinguished by its green fuel . It burns clean waste wood materials generated in manufacturing of the carton, intended for example in the manufacture of cups for coffee or pizza box.

The logging industry is a champion of the recovery of wood waste to make energy, which allows him to avoid the top 10 of the major polluters, emitting millions of tons of GHGS into the atmosphere.

Two plants in the pulp and paper Kruger are in the top 10 pulp and paper mills polluting.

10 million tons ” erased “

Westrock is situated at 24th place on our list with around 200 000 tonnes of GHG emissions, much less than his actual production.

It is far from being the only one in his situation. The Domtar mill in Windsor is the 4th largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But by removing the biomass, it slipped in 41st place. Same thing for Fibrek, Saint-Félicien, which goes from 7th to 34th polluter.

The complex of the Domtar, Windsor, emits over 1 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, but “90 % of emissions are produced from biomass in the forest,” stresses the spokesperson for Providence Cloutier.

Thus, by calculating the difference of GHG emissions of the inventory of the polluters in quebec with and without the biomass, it teaches that this is approximately 10 million tonnes annually, which are “erased” for the carbon footprint quebecers, mainly in the forest industry.

Renewable resource

Why exclude these EMISSIONS ? When renewable materials are transformed into fuel, they take the name of biomass. And the GHG emitted when burning of forest biomass are deducted from the inventories government, since it is a renewable resource, unlike oil, coal or natural gas.

“The carbon dioxide (CO2) from biomass is not included because it is assumed that the CO2 released during the decomposition or combustion of the biomass is recycled by the forest “, one can read in the GHG inventory of the Québec 2017.

“Normally, we consider biomass as a fuel which does not emit GHG, because you are using carbon that has already been buried, but you’re going to reforest as much,” says Alain Webster, professor of environmental economics at the School of management at the University of Sherbrooke.

The Kyoto protocol therefore considers that the forest biomass is an activity carbon neutral, but this has been criticised by several research.

“Science is still trying to persist […] it is open to debate,” explains Mathieu Béland, project manager for Vision Biomass Quebec at Nature Québec.

The 10 bins of the most polluting

Name of the factoryCityGHG emissions by 2018 with biomass
Company WestRock Canada Inc. – factory La TuqueLa Tuque1 252 730 tons
Domtar Inc. – Windsor millWindsor1 163 189 tons
Fibrek S. E. N. C. -Saint-FélicienSaint-Félicien1 080 279 tons
Fortress cellulose spécialisée Inc. (Ex-FPS Canada Inc.)Thurso984 592 tons
Complex TémiscamingTémiscaming770 455 tonnes
Kruger Wayagamack S. E. C.Three-Rivers356 976 tonnes
PF Résolu Canada Inc. – factory GatineauGatineau341 750 tons
Kruger Trois-Rivières S. E. C.Three-Rivers199 880 tons
Cascades cardboard packing-crate-cabano, a division of Cascades Canada ULCTémiscouata-sur-le-Lac194 203 tons
Resolute Forest Products – Division AlmaAlma78 910 tons


A cement wood fired ?

Cement Plant In Port-Daniel

Biomass is not only the case of paper mills. The cement plant in Port-Daniel is studying the possibility of burning 100,000 tonnes of biomass per year, rather than petroleum coke. This would allow him to remove 150 000 tons GHG emissions of its balance sheet. This biomass would come from waste from the forest industry of the Gaspé peninsula. The company, however, has not finished the analysis of profitability of the project. Its main fuel, petroleum coke, a by-product of the refining is highly polluting, but little expensive. Meanwhile, the biomass must be harvested, transported and dried, and is therefore more expensive. The plant recognizes it : for the project to be profitable, the cost of a tonne of carbon will have to be high enough, otherwise the petroleum coke, also polluting it may be, will be more advantageous.

Quebec wants to burn forests to make energy

Quebec to cut forests for use as fuel and thus produce bioenergy, a proposal criticized by environmentalists.

A report of the working group on forest and climate change, commissioned by the minister of Forest, submitted in February several scenarios to the government Legault, who takes this into account, according to our information.

Some are consensus, for example, to encourage the harvest of waste of cut timber, as the trees are too small or sick, rather than leaving it to rot on the ground.

Projects, such as a biorefinery in La Tuque that can treat 650 000 tonnes of biomass per year, could transform this wood into bio-diesel and reduce the impact of gasoline-powered vehicles.

But Quebec wants to go further and dream to encourage the cutting of forests of white birch, red maple and aspen to make energy. The report proposes that the” increased harvest of wood without takers “, the species of trees of which the industry has no use.

Debt carbon

This practice is criticized. When cutting a tree that could capture carbon dioxide, it incurs a debt ” carbon “, which refers to the period between the cut and the time it takes for the transplanted tree absorbs as much carbon.

In the case of forest waste, this debt is smaller, since the C02 to be rapidly released during the decomposition of the material.

But in the case of trees in health, that’s a whole other story. “When it comes to cutting a living forest […] The debt of carbon is extremely long,” notes Xavier Cavard, holder of the research Chair UQAT-MFFP on the management of forest carbon.

A calculator created by natural Resources Canada has shown that it is necessary to wait more than 90 years to observe a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the case of a forest health.

On the back of the biodiversity

“It is not necessary that the control climate is done on the backs of biodiversity “, insists Pier-Olivier Boudreault, of the Society for parks and wilderness (CPAWS-Québec). He regretted that the working group has not studied scenarios in which Québec would reduce the logging and would create an advantage of protected areas.

“Dead wood and debris (biomass) are a source of food as well as wildlife habitat essential for hundreds of species : birds to rodents, insects, and fungi “, underlines Olivier Kölmel, of Greenpeace Canada.

The authors of the report believe that the use of “wood without lessee” would produce a return on the operations of forest operations that are not, while helping the environment in the long term.

“The goal is not to cut a forest only to make energy. It may mean that in a settlement, there are some trees for quality sawn timber, and other trees of less good quality. The sector of bioenergy has the advantage of having some criteria of quality or essence of the tree “, note Évelyne Thiffault, a professor in the department of forest science at Université Laval.

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