Nippon Paper mill workers back at Port Angeles facility; some systems still coming online

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Workers returned to the Nippon Paper Industries USA plant Sunday to bring the facility back into full operation after a two-week repair closure.

The plant, shuttered to work on the company's $85 million biomass cogeneration plant, saw some systems up and running while others remained shut down as of Sunday afternoon, a union official said.

“Number 8, the old boiler, is running,” said Darrel Reetz, vice president of Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers Local 155, on Sunday.

The biomass plant had not yet begun operating as of Sunday afternoon, but, “they're getting things going,” Reetz said.

Crews encountered mechanical and electrical difficulties with several key systems in the paper plant itself Sunday — problems similar to those a car might have after not being used for some time, he said.

Reetz said he doesn't expect the plant to be fully operational for at least a few days, as each system is restarted.

Plant Manager Harold Norlund has not returned calls for comment about the shutdown.

During the shutdown, 119 out of an estimated 200 plant employees were without work.

Reetz did not know how many employees returned to work Sunday.

Some employees were retained during the shutdown to perform routine maintenance on the paper plant's equipment while the facility was inactive.

Employees received notice on Feb. 18 that a two-week scheduled maintenance shutdown scheduled for April was moved up to begin Feb. 23.

Those who were let go for the two weeks were allowed to take unused vacation time.

Others sought temporary employment or filed for unemployment.

Repairs to the new biomass boiler included new screws installed on the fuel system and upgrades to the boiler's ash-processing system.

The shutdown was due to problems with the screws, which transport hog fuel, the woody logging debris used in biomass-fired plants.

The fuel was not adequately feeding the mill's new boiler, Reetz said.

The biomass boilers burn wood waste to create steam for the plant, and the new boiler, installed in 2013, is designed to generate enough electricity to sell.

The biomass plant has the capacity to produce 20 megawatts, but has been able to produce only about half that amount.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 09. 2014 6:54PM
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