OSB MILL UPGRADE
Driving costs Down
Recent improvements at the Louisiana-Pacific OSB plant in BC are helping to drive costs down and improve worker safety.
By Jim Stirling
A recently completed improvement project at Louisiana-Pacific Canada’s OSB plant in Dawson Creek, BC, has helped drive costs down and enhanced worker safety in the log conditioning area of the plant. Next in line for upgrading are the plant’s cyclones and dryers with work expected to begin in the second quarter of 2004. “Between June and November 2003, we basically refurbished the log pond area of the plant. It was a little too small and it was also deteriorating,” explains Peter Boon, plant manager for the OSB facility located at Mile 3 of the Alaska Highway in northeastern BC. “We also made it safer for employees working in that area. One of the things we did was to install cherry pickers at the base of the jack ladders,” he adds. Previously, manipulating logs from the ponds into the plant proper was done manually.
Eliminating the risk-prone procedures cost 13 jobs. But it has improved the overall working conditions in that area of the plant and reduced downtime, adds Boon. The $7.25 million project included installation of four new log ponds. Each is 200 feet long, 10 feet wide and eight feet deep, with a capacity of 75 cords of wood. The OSB plant uses 75 per cent white poplar and 25 per cent cottonwood, delivered to the log yard in eight-foot long bolts. Logs stay in the heated ponds up to eight hours before moving on into the plant to be debarked and waferized. “Frozen wood produces a lot of fines, which are smaller wood flakes that are less desirable in our process. By conditioning the logs in the ponds with temperatures around 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, we decrease the amount of fines produced and utilize more of each log,” points out Boon.
The objective is an internal flake temperature of 50 to 60 degrees at the log’s core. Flake samples are taken regularly to check temperatures and the efficacy of the conditioning process. A Salton thermal oil furnace, fired by bark removed from the logs, is used to heat the ponds, operate the press and produce some of the heat required by the plant’s buildings. The cherry pickers supplied by Serco remove any crossed over logs from the ponds and place them on a new set of steel risers. The process is overseen from a panoramic control booth for operators supplied by Surround Technology. Fab Rites Services of Cranbrook, BC, supplied the project’s infeed hoppers, log lines, jack ladders and the infeed conveyors. Bearings and Transmission supplied the chains and Chubb Security the closed-circuit TV system. Epscan of Fort St John handled the electrical installations and Northway Industrial was the mechanical contractor.
Pre-engineering functions were supplied by the Gisborne Group, and CWA Engineering of Burnaby, BC, did the detailed engineering for the project. “It was a very successful project,” summarizes Boon. It’s a credit to the employees that the learning curve associated with the training required was short, he adds. “We’re getting the benefits of improved yield and we see a lot safer working environment there. I think, too, we’ll get a much more consistent product.” A self-cleaning system in the new ponds helps further reduce costs. And that’s what it’s all about, keeping costs down, observes Boon. Louisiana-Pacific’s Dawson Creek OSB operation is a mid-size plant, with a design capacity of 380 million square feet/year on a 3/8-inch basis.
It was built in 1988 and employs 132 hourly workers and 20 staff, making it Dawson Creek’s single largest employer. “It’s been a very successful plant and you’ve got to credit a lot of the people here for that,” says Boon. Work anticipated in 2004 in the dryers area of the plant is designed to build on that success. Plans call for replacement of three cyclones and moving from triple to single pass in the dryers. Further down the road, a new saw line is contemplated and after that some work on the press. The quest for improvement is never ending.
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