Straw processor plans 2017 build; looks to secure farmer contracts

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — Sustaina-Pulp Canada intends to build its first straw-to-pulp mill in Belle Plaine, Sask.

Company president Les Schaevitz said a process called Phoenix will be used to convert cereal and flax straw into pulp suitable for making paper.

Washington-based Sustainable Fibre Technologies developed the process, which promises less energy use, lower cost of production and no air or water pollution.

Schaevitz told the annual Saskatchewan Irrigation conference that far more agricultural biomass is available than wood pulp, and there is an increasing need to create tree-free paper products.

“For over 150 years we’ve been making most of our paper from cellulose fibre from trees, but we’re really testing the ability of our forests,” he said.

“Cereal straw and flax straw are the primary alternative source for cellulose fibre for the paper industry. We’re going to exploit that fibre that you are already growing and become a large alternative source to the paper industry.”

He said the process has been proven, and the first $170 million plant is about to be built in Washington state.

The company hopes to eventually build six plants in Western Canada. Each would require about 500,000 tonnes of straw a year and save the equivalent of two million trees.

“We’re going to be looking to do long-term contracts to buy your straw,” he said. “We want straw to be another cash crop for you.”

Saskatchewan producers grow about 10 million tonnes of cereal grain straw a year, and the province is the largest single flax straw producer.

Schaevitz said the straw could supply 66 mills.

The company would likely sign three-year contracts with producers, and the price would include the costs of the producer baling, storing and transporting it to the storage site.

Schaevitz said SustainaPulp hopes to build at Belle Plaine next year and be in production by late 2018.

“We will be looking to draw our straw from about a 150 kilometer radius of Belle Plaine. We’re going to be on the leading edge of a major new global industry.”

Belle Plaine is 20 kilometres east of Moose Jaw.

Schaevitz said the economics of the process and the ability to ship byproducts to the United States make this a better prospect than previous proposals.

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