By Ross Marowits – The Canadian Press
MONTREAL – Tembec is building a $8.4-million pilot plant this summer, with government financial assistance, to develop a stronger and more durable structural material made from pulp and resin.
The potentially lucrative initiative recognizes the growing demand for environmentally friendly, lightweight structural composite products, the forestry company (TSX:TMB) said Monday.
“We are not getting into this just to prove science, this is meant to be a commercial application that delivers profitablity at some point,” says Randy Fournier, senior vice-president of chemical products and kraft pulp.
The product, called Next-generation Sustainable Fibre, is based on a patented process that will use Forest Stewardship Council certified pulp and FSC certified lignosulfonates within a modified phenolic resin.
The initial product will be railway ties designed for environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands and government owned parks.
Unlike traditional ties made with creosote, Tembec’s product made from a combination of specialty and kraft pulp along with resins is believed not to leach contaminants and can even be burned.
The initial six to 24-month development stage will prove this to be true and examine other product opportunities with potential customers.
Other possible applications include automotive frames, marinas and wharfs, along with electrical and transmission poles.
The product isn’t expected to be cost competitive for home construction, although the life cycle cost should be lower, Fournier said in an interview.
“As the environmental footprint become more important to the consumer we may have something here that actually allows them to get the same performance…and less of an overall footprint right from the manufacturing side.”
The federal and Quebec governments are each contributing $3.45 million.
Tembec CEO James Lopez said the “next-generation” fibre is a natural extension for the company, which is among the world leaders in specialty pulp.