A Winnipeg company plans to use public funding to put paper products made from farmers’ crop leftovers, such as straw, to the test. The federal and Manitoba governments on Friday pledged a combined $400,000 for Prairie Pulp and Paper, a company aiming to build North America’s first commercial-scale non-wood pulp and paper mill in rural Manitoba.
Winnipeg businessman Jeff Golfman, the company’s co-founder, said in a joint government release Friday that the new company has already processed 3,000 sheets of a “prototype” paper, which he said were “very well received” when put before commercial paper buyers.
The government support, he said, will allow the firm to move to the next stage of product research and development and “produce up to 200,000 sheets of paper for further testing with potential future customers.”
Ultimately, the company aims to put up a paper plant capable of making 200,000 tonnes of paper per year, employ 300 to 500 people, and would require a capital investment of about $600 million, the governments said.
The federal and provincial governments have already put $575,000 toward the project in its early stages, through programs such as the Sustainable Development Innovations Fund (SDIF), Technology Commercialization Program and Agri-Food Research and Development Initiative (ARDI).
That funding went toward the original pre-feasibility study to develop a lab-scale prototype paper product that meets industry specifications.
ARDI in 1999 granted the then-unnamed company $75,000 for a preliminary study considering the feasibility of either a flax and hemp fibre pulp mill, a non-wood paper mill or a combination of the two.
HurterConsult Inc., an Ottawa engineering firm serving the pulp, paper and biofuel industries, in 2000 recommended further study of the non-wood paper mill option, “based on locally available wheat and oat straw and purchased pulps – the potential site would be in southern Manitoba, depending on adequate water supply.
Straw, the consultants said, is “readily available in the area surrounding the suggested sites” and the technology for cereal straw pulping, bleaching and papermaking is “well established, although some R+D work will be needed to optimize the process conditions and produce large quantities of paper for marketing purposes.”
Also, HurterConsult said, the non-wood paper mill is “a much less complicated and less costly process than the other options.”