Digester arrives in Lewiston, Lewiston Tribune, Sept. 28, 2016

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Pulp processing equipment will be installed at Clearwater Paper later this fall

By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

A tugboat and a barge carrying equipment headed to Clearwater Paper dwarf the pleasure craft next to it in the Clearwater River at the Port of Lewiston. The equipment is part of the mill’s new pulp digester.

Clearwater Paper’s future is wrapped in plastic and moored at the Port of Lewiston as it waits for the final legs of its journey to the company’s Lewiston plant.

A vessel carrying pieces of a 200-foot-plus chip digester that is the centerpiece of Clearwater Paper’s $160 million upgrade reached the Port of Lewiston on Tuesday. At least one banner hangs from the freight with the Valmet logo, the name of the digester’s manufacturer.

The cargo was made in Sweden, sent to China for initial assembly, shipped across the Pacific Ocean, unloaded at Longview, Wash., and barged to Idaho up the Snake and Columbia rivers, company spokesman Matt Van Vleet said.

The majority of the equipment will be placed on land today after a second load arrives on a barge with a crane.

The delivery of the components marks an important milestone in the renovation. It will not increase the number of jobs at the mill that employs about 1,370. But the upgrade will improve efficiency at Lewiston’s paperboard operations, which have had some of the highest production costs in North America.

“The project is a major upgrade for the mill and will significantly improve our global competitiveness,” Van Vleet said.

The digester replaces 12 older batch digesters that were installed at various times. It will be located where raw wood chips are converted into pulp with pressure, heat and chemicals in order to make paperboard and consumer tissue products like toilet paper.

Clearwater Paper is also installing a polysulfide generator that will increase the amount of fiber it gets from each chip and has built a tank that can hold 1,000 tons of high-density pulp.

A crew of about 50 to 75 contractors has been working on the construction, which formally started last fall. Crew numbers have swelled as high as 180 during the upgrade, Van Vleet said.

Getting the dozen components off the barges is among the numerous complicated tasks that have to be completed before Clearwater Paper fires up the new digester about one year from now. The stainless steel rings are about 27 feet in diameter and range from 25 to 50 feet in height. They will be stacked during construction.

The work will be completed by employees from the Port of Lewiston and Omega Morgan, a logistics company retained by Clearwater Paper.

The heaviest pieces will be rolled off on trailers. Others will be removed with the crane on the barge, the Port of Lewiston’s crane or perhaps both, Port Manager David Doeringsfeld said. Omega Morgan employees will be responsible for attaching the components to the cranes.

At least one of the barges has a sophisticated hydraulic system with chambers that can be filled or emptied with water to level the deck or change its height, Doeringsfeld said. It’s 275 feet long and 74 feet wide, compared with container barges that called on the port that were 42 feet wide and 180 to 200 feet long.

Once the digester pieces are on land, they will sit at the Port of Lewiston until about November when they will be transported about two miles to Clearwater Paper.

“There’s a lot of irregular-shaped pieces,” Doeringsfeld said. “One looks like a giant space capsule. It’s pretty impressive.”

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]