Abitibi strives to reduce dust

Abitibi-Consolidated here is getting tough on dust.
No, it isn’t a late spring cleaning. The maintenance department at the mill has embarked on a long-term project to reduce the amount of dust it emits into town.
The project began last summer with a trial using four large nets around the mill’s chip pile.
The chip pile is literally that—a mountain of wood chips on the mill’s property, surrounded by a 25-foot fence. The chips are dropped onto the pile from several chutes above, and as they fall, the wind often carries the dust over the fence and onto nearby streets.
In an effort to curb the amount of blow-over, the mill’s superintendent of maintenance David Beach decided to try an experiment. He had four large blue nets, about 20 feet high and five feet wide, placed side-by-side on top of the fence. On the other side of the fence is a small bucket to collect and measure the amount of dust that carries over.
The four panels were able to reduce the amount of dust in that area by 10 percent, explained Andrew Hallikas, the student services engineer who was in charge of the project this year.
With proof of the nets’ effectiveness, the company invested $50,000 to expand the project. Now, the entire north side of the chip pile has the additional netting.
Hallikas, an engineering student at Lakehead University, was given the summer project of ordering the nets and columns and making sure they were put up in the most effective locations.
In addition to the chip pile, nets have also been put up on either side of the chip truck dumper, where trucks loaded with wood chips come to dump their loads.
The underground conveyer belt where the chips are transported from the truck to the pile is thick with dust, showing just how much dust is produced.
More nets have been placed beside the cyclones on the upper level of the mills. The cyclones is where the chips are brought into the kraft mill, to be cooked into a slurry to make pulp.
As the chips are blown around inside the circular cyclones, more dust flies out. The additional netting here should also help reduce the dust output.
“Our goal is to have a 20 percent dust reduction,” Hallikas said of the mill’s efforts.
The idea to use netting to reduce dust came from Abitibi’s paper mill in Kenogami, Quebec, Beach said. The dust there was flying into the nearby Saguenay River.
As the mill there had had success with the nets, Beach said they decided to try it here too.
“We’re trying to be a good neighbour,” he said of the project. “We’ve made a whole bunch of changes, from the way we put chips on the pile, to having the town sweeper come out.”
Many factors can contribute to the amount of dust in the air, including wind speed and direction, humidity, and the amount of precipitation.
Beach said the mill has a dust reduction committee who will continue to come up with new ideas.
“It’s been a pretty good team effort,” he said.