Polytechnique to the rescue of the forestry industry and the environment - Renewal of NSERC Chair in Environmental Design Engineering



    MONTREAL, Feb. 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, the day before the Pulp and Paper
Technical Association of Canada (PAPTAC) annual conference, Ecole
Polytechnique de Montréal celebrated the renewal of the NSERC Chair in
Environmental Design Engineering. Since its creation in 2000, this Chair, led
by Professor Paul Stuart of the Department of Chemical Engineering, has
focused on the application of process systems engineering tools in the pulp
and paper industry to identify cost-cutting opportunities to help improve the
industry's competitive position. This second mandate, a logical next step
following the work accomplished thus far, is dedicated to the implementation
of forest biorefining-doubtless the most promising potential transformation
for the Canadian forestry industry.
    The Chair benefits from $2,275,000 in funding until March 31, 2012,
thanks to support from the following partners: the Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council of Canada ($1,000,000); Natural Resources Canada
($750,000); Kruger Inc. ($125,000); White Birch Paper, Papier Masson Ltd.
division; ($125,000), NewPage Corporation, Wisconsin Rapids mill ($125,000);
Norampac, division of Cascades Canada Inc., ($125,000); and Tembec ($25,000).
    "Dr. Stuart's pioneering research in the emerging area of process
integration has provided significant benefits to Canada's pulp and paper
industry," says Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and
Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). "His research emphasizes
holistic and sustainable approaches that will help this industry evolve toward
treating the forest as a biorefinery and making more complete use of raw
materials. Dr. Stuart also has an innovative institution behind him in Ecole
Polytechnique de Montréal that recognizes him as a leader in his field."
    "Our Government is proud to be investing and partnering in this project,
which will develop cost-effective and energy-efficient designs in the pulp and
paper industry," said the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural
Resources. "Our commitment to the forest sector continues in Budget 2009,
which will allocate an additional $170 million over two years to support
market diversification and innovation initiatives that are crucial to the
long-term prosperity of the sector."

    Environmental and economic concerns

    With ongoing layoffs affecting thousands of workers in the Canadian
forestry industry, it is not clear whether or not the Canadian pulp and paper
industry, once a jewel of the national economy, will be able to survive. Those
who feel it will nonetheless warn that in order to do so, it must become both
more competitive and greener. This is the driving force behind Dr, Stuart's
work, which aims to support real sustainable renewal.
    Canadian pulp and paper companies are impacted by fluctuations in the
Canadian dollar, energy costs, and competitive pressures from more modern and
productive South American and Asian mills. In order to consolidate their
assets and reduce their operating costs, most forestry companies in recent
years have implemented cost-cutting strategies coupled with extensive merger
and acquisition activities. These changes have been essential, but still not
enough to ensure a prosperous industry in the long term.

    Self-sufficiency and diversification

    "Attitudes are changing in the forestry industry, but the potential
benefits of using process integration tools are not yet well understood," says
Dr. Stuart. "Nevertheless, these tools will be used increasingly in the coming
years considering the environmental and competitive pressures facing the
industry. The advantages of biorefining will also be recognized as part of
that process."
    Forest biorefining, defined as the full utilization of biomass and other
raw materials, such as energy, for the simultaneous production of fibres for
paper products, chemicals, and green energy, is an avenue for strategic
diversification. By integrating biorefining into their traditional activities,
pulp and paper mills could increase both their revenues and their markets
while maintaining their traditional production. Furthermore, they would
significantly contribute to green house gas (GHG) emissions reduction.

    Biofuels, bioproducts and bioenergy

    Some European forestry companies have already started biorefining woody
residues and other lignocellulosic materials as a key element of their
strategies to become energy self-sufficient and to diversify their revenues.
In Canada, pulp and paper mills are increasingly considering the potential of
producing cellulosic ethanol and other green products from woody biomass,
especially in the context of the food-versus-fuel debate, in which grain-based
ethanol production is being questioned by many. It's clear that, in order to
reach the targeted percentage of biofuel use in transportation required by
recent federal government policy, second-generation biofuels from algae, fungi
and lignocellulosic biomass are better choices. Since no "silver bullet"
solution exists, the Chair will focus on laying out viable strategies that
might be employed by a given mill in order to maximize its revenues by
manufacturing added-value bioproducts such as biopolymers.

    Canadian talent at work

    "The innovative approach being used in the Chair attracts PhD students
from around the world. So far, about 20 students have graduated from the Chair
and almost all are working in their research field," adds Christophe Guy, CEO
of Ecole Polytechnique. "We are very pleased with the renewal of the Chair,
which supports important design-directed research in this field seeking to
enhance our economic future. At the moment, the Chair boasts an impressive
team, including four MSc students, 11 PhD students and one post-doctoral
fellow."

    A researcher and practitioner

    Prior to joining academia, Dr. Stuart worked in process design consulting
as Company Associate and Director of Process Engineering at Beak Consultants
Limited, as Partner and Director of Environmental Services at Simons
Environmental Group, and as Director of the Process and Environmental
Engineering Group at H.A. Simons Limited in Montréal (now AMEC).
    Dr. Stuart received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from McGill
University in Montréal. He serves on Canada's National Advisory Board on
Energy S&T (NABEST), is Senior Consultant for his sole-proprietor consulting
firm, Processys Inc., was recently President of the Canadian Society of
Chemical Engineering (CSChE) and was Vice-Chair of the Canadian Design
Engineering Network (CDEN). Dr. Stuart's principal contribution to research is
in the development and application of process integration tools for systems
analysis and, more specifically, for the resolution of critical design
problems for the pulp and paper industry.
    Dr. Stuart joined Ecole Polytechnique in 2000 to become holder of
Canada's first NSERC Chair in Environmental Design Engineering , which has
recently been renewed for a second term.

    About NSERC

    NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country
of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency
supports some 26,500 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their
advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800
university professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more
than 1,400 Canadian companies to participate and invest in university research
projects.

    About Natural Resources Canada

    Natural Resources Canada works to ensure the responsible development of
Canada's natural resources, including energy, forests, minerals and metals.
The department also develops policies and programs that enhance the
contribution of the natural resources sector to the economy and that improve
the quality of life for all Canadians. Natural Resources Canada's CanmetENERGY
is the Canadian leader in clean energy research and technology development.
CanmetENERGY works with the energy industry, academia and environmental
stakeholders to develop, test, demonstrate and implement clean energy
technologies.

    About Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal

    Founded in 1873, Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal is one of Canada's
leading engineering institutions in terms of both teaching and research. It is
the largest engineering school in Québec as regards its student body and the
scope of its research activities. Ecole Polytechnique provides instruction in
12 engineering specialties and is responsible for more than one-quarter of
Québec's university research in engineering. The school has 230 professors and
close to 6,000 students. It has an annual operating budget of $85 million, in
addition to a $68-million research and infrastructure fund that includes $38
million worth of grants and contracts.

    Photos of the event, of Dr. Paul Stuart and his NSERC Chair in
Environmental Design Engineering team are available upon request.

    NSERC Chair in Environmental Design Engineering website:
    http://www.polymtl.ca/pate-papier/en/index.php




For further information:

For further information: Annie Touchette, Ecole Polytechnique de
Montréal, (514) 340-4711, extension 4415, (514) 231-8133,
annie.touchette@polymtl.ca; Andrée Peltier, Relations publiques Andrée
Peltier, (514) 846-0003, (514) 944-8689, apeltier@ca.inter.net


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