Sake, food, speeches celebrate Nippon Paper mill's new biomass cogeneration plant
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Masaru Motomura, executive vice president of Nippon Paper Industries Co. Ltd., U.S. Rep Derek Kilmer and Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd, from left, use mallets to break the lid of a ceremonial sake barrel as a symbol of luck and prosperity during a sake ceremony at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles on Friday to celebrate the dedication of the new cogeneration plant at the Nippon Paper Industries USA mill.
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Steam billows from the Nippon Paper Industries USA mill in Port Angeles on Friday. The mill’s new cogeneration plant stands in the foreground. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News.
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A trailer of wood chips is dumped into a loading receptacle for the Nippon cogeneration plant by tipping the truck and the trailer on a lift. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News.
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Masaru Motomura, executive vice president for Nippon Paper Industries Co. Ltd., left, laughs with state Rep. Steve Tharinger after ceremonially tightening screws on a plaque commemorating the official opening of the biomass-fueled cogeneration plant at the Nippon Paper Industries USA mill in Port Angeles on Friday. Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News.
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Masaru Motomura, executive vice president of Nippon Paper Industries Co. Ltd., left, shares a toast with state Rep. Steve Tharinger, right, and resident Mill Manager Harold Norlund using traditional masu sake cups. Looking on is Red Lion Hotel catering server Jamie Johnson.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

Sake ceremony blends the traditional with the new
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — As words flowed, the serving of sake was central to the laudatory presentations about Nippon Paper Industries USA's new biomass cogeneration plant.

The sake ceremony, Kagami Biraki, literally means “opening the mirror” and refers to the opening of a cask of the traditional Japanese liquor at a party.

The ceremony at Friday's Japanese-food buffet at the Red Lion Hotel involved Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd; U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the North Olympic Peninsula's congressman and a native of Port Angeles; and Nippon Paper Industries Co. Ltd. Executive Vice President Masaru Motomura.

Motomura traveled to Port Angeles from the company's offices in Tokyo.

Celebrating expansion

Wearing colorful “happi coats” and wielding wooden mallets, they smashed in unison the top of a sake barrel to mark the end of more than three hours of speeches and celebration.

“If you look in and it's clear, it's good sake,” said Cathy Price, Nippon USA's human resources manager, who introduced a multitude of speakers at the event.

In truth, the cask was filled with water that splashed when the trio splintered the top.

The real stuff was off to the side.

The clear liquid was served out of bottles and poured into square, wooden sake cups for all takers.

The buffet, attended by about 100 participants, was one of two events that marked the ongoing startup of the company's cogeneration plant on Ediz Hook.

The upgraded facility will be going full bore generating 20 megawatts of electricity by mid-November, company officials say.

Nippon is now not only a paper-maker — but a regional power producer that will be selling electricity.

Ribbon-cutting

The morning ribbon-cutting ceremony was foodless.

The early afternoon buffet was anything but that.

As participants walked into the hotel's second-floor banquet room, they were greeted by servers bearing appetizer trays that held smoked scallops, hummus cups and tartlet shells stuffed with a mushroom-cheese filling.

Those and other culinary delights were spread across several tables that also included tomato-mozzarella sticks, cheeses of varying sharpness and, of course, sushi.

The dozen speakers introduced by Price paraded to the podium to give brief presentations.

“The investment of $85 million in plant improvements by Nippon Paper is the largest private investment in the history of Port Angeles,” Kidd said.

“The manufacturing jobs retained by Nippon Paper in Port Angeles stand in stark contrast to the loss of manufacturing jobs locally and around the country.”

The speakers list also included Port of Port Angeles Board of Commissioners President John Calhoun, Jim McEntire, a Clallam County commissioner, and state Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim.

Tharinger said he worked hard with other legislators to move the project along, among them fellow 24th District state Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and now-retired state House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler.

Public funding

Nippon has received public money for the project in the form of a $1.4 million loan and a $600,000 grant from state-administered federal stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Tharinger also acknowledged Nippon's willingness to take an $85 million risk, one that ballooned from a project estimate of $60 million in 2010.

“I look for a very bright, solid return on these investments,” Tharinger said.

Added Kilmer:

“This means more family-wage jobs.

“The best kind of economic development you can do is to try and keep and grow the jobs you have.”

Then he donned a happi coat and helped smash the barrel.

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.
PORT ANGELES — The Nippon Paper Industries USA mill is reinventing itself, company officials say.

The mill on Ediz Hook will be the first of two new biomass cogeneration projects on the North Olympic Peninsula to go online. The Port Townsend Paper Corp. has delayed its plant until next year or 2015.

Officials at the Port Angeles mill cut a ribbon, dedicated a plaque and proclaimed the virtues of generating electricity for sale at the paper manufacturing plant to about 100 community leaders and employees in a private ceremony Friday.

It took place under a temporary shelter set up in the plant's gated parking lot.

“With electronic information taking center stage, the demand for printed telephone directory [paper] decreased by 50 percent compared to five years ago,” said Masaru Motomura, corporate executive vice president.

“In this tough environment, we had to look to other opportunities in order to sustain and grow our business.

“Therefore, a decision was made in 2010 to get into the business of generating renewable green power in an effort to protect jobs here locally.”

Nippon's $85 million upgraded biomass cogeneration plant will go online fully in the middle of this month.

It was being worked on as it loomed above well-wishers packed inside the canvas enclosure Friday.

The opening ceremony at the Ediz Hook plant was followed by a buffet studded with Japanese appetizers at the Red Lion Hotel that featured more presentations [see box at right].

Speakers at the events ranged from 6th Congressional District Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, to Lower Elwha Klallam tribal Chief Executive Officer Sonja Tetnowski to Motomura.

Motomura traveled from Tokyo, speaking mostly in Japanese — translated by Teruo “David” Tamaki, senior adviser for the company — of the future while expressing appreciation for the past.

The plant's new boiler, which will burn woody debris and other biomass and replace an existing oil-burning boiler, will generate electricity as it goes online.

By the end of December, it is expected to produce electricity solely for sale and for generating steam for making paper.

The factory, which began as a newsprint mill in 1920, was purchased by Nippon in 1988 and focuses on telephone-book paper, though it also manufactures newsprint for local newspapers including the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette, Forks Forum and Port Townsend-Jefferson County Leader.

Motomura said that at one time, the company was able to sell paper only to domestic customers, but in recent years, it has had to take on “quite a number of export customers.”

Mill Manager Harold Norlund also spoke of the challenges the company faced.

“Instead of looking at the worst side of the industry, as many have, Nippon looked for an opportunity, something that is complementary to the business as a whole yet at the same time will pay for itself over time,” Norlund said.

“Certainly producing renewable energy in a highly efficient [cogeneration] plant with existing employees fits the definition of complementary business.”

The brief morning ceremony included a ribbon-cutting that was accomplished together by Motomura and Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd as steam rose from the new boiler, which for the time being is working in tandem with the boiler it will replace to provide steam for the plant.

Those in the audience included Greg Pallesen, vice president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, which represents more than 100 workers at the plant who walked off the job for 4 days in March over a contract dispute.

Pallesen's theme Friday morning in an interview was cooperation, a mantra he echoed in remarks to the buffet audience.

“It truly takes business, it truly takes labor, it truly takes government to expand in manufacturing,” he said in the interview. “It takes all three working together.”

There was no sign of protest at either event over the unregulated ultrafine particulates — particulates 0.1 microns or smaller created during biomass combustion — that biomass project opponents have said will spew from the plant and damage people's health.

Nippon has survived every legal challenge over the project, which the company says complies with all local, state and federal laws.

A $55 million biomass upgrade project at the mill operated by Port Townsend Paper Corp., which would generate 24 megawatts, was delayed because of a series of appeals of court actions, the company said in December.

Original projections had the Port Townsend expansion operating by April.

The Port Townsend mill made the announcement of the delay after a Dec. 10 state Court of Appeals ruling that sent a suit filed by five environmental groups to the state Supreme Court. That lawsuit has not been heard yet.

On Friday, in prepared remarks, U.S. Department of Energy official Dave Sjoding praised Nippon for “the multi-layered air-quality systems you have installed” and said the company has “clearly moved the goal posts for this type of system.”

The Port Angeles Police Department provided security for the event, stationing vehicles at the gate's entrance for the morning ceremony and in the Red Lion parking lot during the appetizer buffet.

Norlund said later that Nippon's parent company, Nippon Paper Industries Co. Ltd., Japan's largest paper maker, is branching into biomass cogeneration in Japan, too.

Norlund said he expects the paper industry to continue to decline in the U.S.

“This mill has to come up with other ideas,” he said. “We are extremely proud of what people have done and extremely proud to be bringing this project forward.”
________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 02. 2013 10:17PM
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