Repurposed IP mill could boost forestry

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FRANKLIN—International Paper’s decision to repurpose its Franklin mill could create up to 200 logging and trucking jobs.

IP spokeswoman Donna Wadsworth said Tuesday the company’s fluff pulp operation, which will be operational by mid-2012, could also mean a boost for businesses that serve the logging and trucking industries, including for maintenance and fuel.

“That money gets turned over several times,” Wadsworth said. “It creates a stimulus.”

International Paper on May 17 announced plans to spend $83 million to repurpose a portion of its shuttered mill, creating 213 jobs. The news came nearly one year after the paper mill closed, eliminating 1,100 jobs.

Wadsworth was not sure how many tons of pine would be needed to produce 270,000 metric tons of fluff pulp annually.

Southern yellow pine is expected to be used because of its unique fiber length and absorption properties for producing high-quality fluff pulp.

Although the market for pine is strong, the announcement will make the market for pine even stronger, said Terry Godwin, a forester with Gelbert, Fullbright, Edwards & Randolph Forestry Consultants.

“It’s pretty significant in terms of yellow pine usage,” Godwin said. “It’s definitely a step forward.”

If Franklin Pellets decides to use a portion of the mill and uses hardwood pulpwood in production, it could be a big boost for that market as well, he said.

A newly formed partnership between Multifuels and CMI in April announced plans to use a portion of the IP mill to make wood pellets.

The thinning of timber would be beneficial to the health of forests.

“It should be a boost to the environment,” Godwin said.

Harvey Darden, forester for Southampton County from the Virginia Department of Forestry, said the use of local timber would be good for landowners as the increased demand drives up prices.

“Timber values will go up,” Darden said.

A gap will remain in pine saw timber use, and the market for pulpwood will not be as strong because new plans will not replace production from the mill during its peak, but it’s still good news for the industry as a whole, he said.

“Every ounce of timber they use is good,” Darden said.