Chinese pulp order keeps Franklin mill running

Published 8:13 am Friday, August 7, 2009

FRANKLIN—An order for pulp by a Chinese paper company allied with International Paper Co. has forestalled a plan by IP to idle its Franklin mill for two weeks.

Ted Lewellyn, manager of operation services for the Franklin mill, confirmed Wednesday that IP had considered idling the plant for the last week of July and the first week of August before receiving an order for pulp from partner Shandong Sun Paper Ltd.

“We have an opportunity to help our company in China, and it helps us as well,” Lewellyn said. “We’re trying to run business as normal.”

Lewellyn said pulp is being made with the No. 1 and No. 6 machines at the mill. The two machines are usually used to manufacture paper and had not been used previously to make pulp exclusively.

“We’re just not using some of the equipment that we use when we’re making pulp,” Lewellyn said. “The mill has done a great job at making pulp on machines that have never made it before. The employees have done an outstanding job of making that happen.”

He added that the mill formerly produced pulp for export using the No. 2 machine, but that was prior to flooding from Hurricane Floyd in September 1999.

According to Lewellyn, the Chinese orders for pulp began coming in about two weeks ago, and the mill has been busy making it since. He said the Chinese orders “will get us through this year.”

It is unclear, he said, whether Shandong Sun Paper will need additional pulp in 2010.

“We don’t know what next year is going to look like,” Lewellyn said. “Nobody does.”

IP has so far idled the Franklin mill for four weeks this year, citing a lack of orders. The downtime occurred during two weeks of March, the last week of May and the first week of June.

Lewellyn said the company does not foresee having to idle the mill again this year, but that decision is dependant on the economy.

“We’re not controlling the economy,” he said. “The economy is controlling us.”