Faster & Flexible
Weyerhaeuser's new OSB mill in Saskatchewan is faster, flexible and has the ability to upgrade to produce oriented strand lumber.
By John Dietz
Weyerhaeuser Canada's newest mill, called OSB 2000, has the promise of quickly becoming an industry leader on several fronts, according to Weyerhaeuser Wood Products division officials. The $200-million mill, officially opened in late June, is one of three Weyerhaeuser facilities in the community of Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan and, as befits a new OSB operation, is big-it has 10.6 acres (460,000 square feet) under one roof. Its work force includes 165 people involved in production, trades and management. Sod was turned for the mill in mid-1999, shortly before Weyerhaeuser took over forestry giant MacMillan Bloedel, which had holdings in Saskatchewan.
It occupies the former Simpson Timber stud mill site about two kilometres south of the community. Operations began in November, 2000. The new mill can produce roof and wall sheathing ranging from 1/4-inch to 1-5/8th inch thickness and from 3x6 feet to 9x24 feet. It has the capacity to produce tongueand- groove sanded flooring and can be upgraded to produce oriented strand lumber. The mill can turn out some 600 million square feet of 3/8th-inch paneling annually. Weyerhaeuser is also attempting a high level of co-operation and collaboration between employer and employee at the new Hudson Bay operation.
The area has many families that are second and third generation workers in the logging industry. "The union, IWACanada, played a pivotal role by supporting this project initially and by entering into a Commitment Agreement with Weyerhaeuser that has created a genuine, productive partnership," says Bob Batt, unit general manager for Hudson Bay operations.
The plant relies on a combination of proven and new technology. "Our rated line speed is 146 feet a minute, or 742 mm/sec, on 3/8" sheathing," says Batt. "I believe that's the fastest line speed in the industry. We are able to achieve that with the latest version of the Siempelkamp forming and press line. In fact, we've achieved that speed on 7/16-inch sheathing." The new line does a double off-load of boards from the press, allowing the press to achieve a quicker cycle time and a faster line speed. OSB 2000 is the first mill with this line to use this ability. The forming line also is able to orient the board in two directions, an industry first, according to Batt. "We have a rail system and carriages that enable us to interchange the four strand orienters," he says. "We can take the core orienters and place them where the surface orienters normally would be. It works very well and we can make the change in two hours."
Strand orientation is significant for some customer requirements and has received strong support in the market already. Two additional surface orienters can be on stand-by in a bay. They could replace the core orienters in the line and enable OSB 2000 to produce the first oriented strand lumber (OSL), with all strands oriented in one direction. To accommodate OSL, the press platens open to 14 inches instead of the standard 11 inches. A pre-press further boosts the thickness capacity, by an initial pressing on the very thick mat that would be required for OSL. The press is also able to apply steam injection for rapid curing of the resin in mat that will be 1 5/8th-inch thick when pressed.
Only one other Weyerhaeuser OSB mill has this steam injection capability. Flexibility is designed into the OSB 2000 system so that, with the exception of the forming line and press, routine maintenance can be done at most points without stopping the flow of production. The mill design was handled by CPM Consultants of Vancouver, BC, which has designed many other OSB mills for the industry. "The mill is designed very well," says Batt. For instance, stored logs are forwarded to one of six conditioning ponds that feed three lines. (The ponds, about 200 feet long, are heated by thermal oil radiant heaters.) Each line has a debarker and strander. When any single line needs to be shut down, the stream of wood can be directed around it.
The system has two live-bottom green strand storage bins that each hold 15,000 cubic feet. Conveyors carrying green strands from the three stranders can be directed to either of the green bins. Strands are metered in parallel streams into the dryer-cyclone-blender system. Each dryer feeds two cyclones. Acceptable material from the cyclones, after screening, is fed to one of four 10,000 cubic foot dry strand live-bottom bins. Both types of bins are manufactured by Raute Wood. In the four Coil blenders, the strands are mixed with resin and wax. Two blenders are dedicated to surface resin and two to core resin.
Each blender is 11 feet in diameter by 35 feet long, now standard for new mills. Beyond the press, flexibility continues. Panels can be hot stacked or continue on to be processed to finished dimensions. Trimmed panels can go into the primary grade bin stackers or onto a specialty product line. The facility has four grade stackers available. Finally, bundled sheets are transferred to one of two paint booths where edge seal and the Weyerhaeuser stencil is applied. "Many mills have only one paint line," says Batt. "If that line has a problem, it shuts down the whole mill. With two (lines), we have flexibility." Weyerhaeuser now has six whollyowned mills in four Saskatchewan communities, says Steve Smith, vice-president, Saskatchewan.
Smith chairs a management council of the mill managers, manufacturing managers and support services leaders. As well, Weyerhaeuser has 51 per cent ownership in a joint venture sawmill with three First Nations bands, Wapawekka Lumber, at Prince Albert. "OSB 2000 joins the existing OSB 1000 facility within Hudson Bay," says Smith. "That plant was the first waferboard plant in North America, built in the early 1960s." It has 65 to 70 employees and produces 1/4-inch OSB.
The third Weyerhaeuser facility at Hudson Bay is a softwood plywood plant which employs 144 people. All three mills at Hudson Bay, plus a Carrot River sawmill, were part of the 1999 acquisition of MacMillan Bloedel. "This new OSB plant makes us a very integrated forest products manufacturer in Saskatchewan," says Smith. "We have two forest management licences for the province and from a raw material standpoint we operate those two as if they were a single supply basket for all seven mills. We can pretty much make use of every tree on every hectare on the FMAs."
Across the harvesting operations, plywood peelers are collected for the plywood plant at Hudson Bay. Small logs are segregated for the Wapawekka sawmill that is specially equipped with small log technology. The company also has large and small log lines at a mill in Big River and produces studs at the Carrot River mill. Raw material for OSB 2000 will flow from private land, primarily in the Hudson Bay area, as well as forest management areas. Up to 20 per cent of the material may be purchased privately.
"There's a lot of farm land in this region with aspen growth and farmers are quite interested in selling wood to us," says Smith. "As well, the Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management department is interested in agro-forestry and the forestation of some marginal lands. We certainly see this happening in the future." Weyerhaeuser acquired its initial holdings in Saskatchewan in 1986 with the purchase of the Prince Albert Pulp Mill and Big River sawmill. In the past 15 years, it has invested approximately $1 billion in Saskatchewan's forest industry. "We believe Saskatchewan is a good place to do business and has a good forest resource along with relative political stability," says Smith. "Our total work force here now is about 1,500 people, not counting the Wapawekka joint venture, with an annual payroll close to $150 million."
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