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one of a dozen North American supercalendar mills producing glossy paper for publishers and retailers for use in catalogues, magazines and advertising inserts.
"I am very optimistic we will get the mill operational again," said Dennis Bunnell, a more than 35 year veteran of the pulp and paper industry brought aboard two months ago to help relaunch the more than 100 year old mill.
machine which kept nearly two thirds of the company's more than 300 workers employed before being shut down March 12.
The business plan calls for St. Marys starting up only one of its three paper machines, No. 5, capable of supplying more than half of the mill's 245,000 tons of annual capacity, a Puma Heart Basket Shoes
"We will bring the other two machines (with nearly 100,000 tons of capacity combined) back on line as demand warrants," said the CEO, who expects to set up residence in the city next month.
The go ahead on cogeneration, through a power purchase agreement, would allow St. Marys to sell electricity to the provincial electricity grid, access steam for heating and mill operations, and "provide us with a state of the art boiler system."
The timing is right to reenter the market, he says. "We're approaching the busy time of the year (for sales) and demand and prices are strong."
Marys may restart
New ownership received millions of dollars in provincial startup funding when the mill was brought out of bankruptcy in 2007, he said, and "the startup funding has been repaid in full."
Despite the apparent dark cloud that has settled over St. Marys Paper Corp. in the past year, company officials remain confident about restarting the Sault Ste. Marie specialty paper mill.
The facility, which would be fueled by 500 dry tons of wood waste daily, about twice the current boiler consumption, would require about two years of construction time after getting the go ahead.
"It's not the preferred option, but mill assets must be protected once it turns cold."
"The first plan is to get us operational as soon as possible, hopefully within a few months. The second (plan) is our fallback position should the pieces not come together as quickly as we hope," he said.
The fallback position is winterizing the mill.
The OPA denied a St. Marys cogeneration submission over a year ago, but the submission has since been reworked.
Discussions, which began more than a year ago, remain ongoing between St.
The company has spent its downtime updating its marketing and sales studies as well as evaluating operational and capital changes necessary to ensure long term competitiveness.
mill must be self sustaining with or without cogeneration, he says, "but cogeneration would help ensure our long term sustainability and help us transition from a single product mill (supercalendar paper) to paper, green energy and bio economy opportunities," such as ethanol and wood pellets.
The paper machines have been silent for more than six months. Nearly half the mill's unionized workforce has been off the job for nine months.
Customers will need to be convinced to return to the St. Marys brand, but "the company has a reputation as a reliable supplier of quality paper . Reputation should help us get back in the game."
The two smaller machines went out of service about three months before the plug was pulled on workhorse No. 5, putting about 150 workers on indefinite layoff late Puma Suede Creepers Blue last year.
St. Marys, which has had three owners in the past quarter century, is Puma Basket Red Leather
Working in the company's favour, despite a more than half year shutdown, is the fact it is one of only a handful of specialty paper producers whose product remains in demand.
Bunnell, appointed the corporation's first CEO and board of directors chair, has a pair of options in his playbook.
Their current half century old boiler system, producing steam but not electricity, is nearing the end of its life expectancy and replacement with a similar system will cost at least $60 million, company officials have previously stated.
A new business plan has been finalized, calling for a gradual startup, and company officials are seeking private sector and provincial government operational support.
Cogeneration would come at significant cost, he admits, in excess of $100 million, but the province has previously agreed to commit up to $50 million through loans and grants towards the project.
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