NSERC Environmental Design Chair



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Polytechnique > I3P > Biorefinery


The Forest Biorefinery in the Pulp and Paper Industry

The North American pulp and paper industry is in an “economic stalemate” suffering from the pressure of several factors that are impacting the wealth and competitive position of the industry. The rise in the Canadian dollar, the increasing cost of the fibre, the rise in energy cost compiled with the lack of investment represent a perfect storm for the industry (Fig.1). The Canadian pulp and paper mills are strongly affected by the competition from Latin and Asian efficient, large and modern industries. In response to this uncertain climate, many companies are developing “survival strategies” such as mergers and acquisitions and belt tightening to consolidate their assets and reduce their operating costs. Nevertheless, this commodity-based industry is suffering from a lack of innovation and proactivity on the market. However the forest biorefinery opportunity offers the chance to the pulp and paper mills to diversify their core business and regain in competitiveness.

Fig.1 Economic Stalemate of the North American Pulp and Paper Industry

The forest biorefinery has been defined as the “full integration of the incoming biomass and other raw materials, including energy, for simultaneous production of fibers for paper products, chemicals and energy”.
By integrating forest biorefinery activities at an existing plant, pulp and paper mills have the opportunity to generate significant amount of bio-energy and bio-products and to drastically increase their revenues while continuing to produce traditional wood, pulp and paper products. R&D and improvements in new generation of technologies such as thermochemical, biochemical and chemical pathways will enable the rapid and efficient development of the forest biorefinery. Manufacturing new value-added by-products - as bio-fuels, bulk and specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals (Fig.2) - from a near zero-value production waste, the forest biorefinery could help pulp and paper mills to preserve skilled jobs, revitalize manufacturing facilities and regain a competitive position.

Fig.2 Evolving towards the Forest Biorefinery
Agenda 2020 website

How to implement strategically and in a sustainable context the forest biorefinery at a given mill is not an obvious question. No single industry-wide solution exists. Offering a complex array of process and product opportunities (Fig.3), the forest biorefinery dilemma needs to be strategically investigated at each mill in order to optimize process design and to identify viable products that can be economically produced. Determining the best combination process-product at each mill taking into account plant location, installed process and feedstock symbiosis as well as synergies and partnership opportunities is a required and essential step to move forward a sustainable and viable forest biorefinery project.

Fig.3 Selecting the Best Biorefinery Products and Processes from a Complex Array of Opportunities
Adapted from FERIC

The systematic approach elaborated by our Chair in order to address forest biorefinery opportunities, is built on the definition of a methodology to drive the biorefinery decision making with particular attention given to product and process design (Fig.4). The result of the analysis developed in the product design provides the product and business basis for the process design step. This process design methodology includes systems analysis of new processes using integration tools. Multi-criteria decision-making (MDCM) combines the set of outcomes from the process analysis. This approach can help pulp and paper mills to optimize the product design – business plan development- and the process design – technological strategic decision.
This approach is going to be developed in concrete case studies. Benefiting from a broad network of pulp and paper mills, students will be working at applying these tools to several cases all over Canada.

This unique approach positions our chair as a leader in applying advanced product and process design methodologies. This model has been presented during conferences in North America and is currently used as system design for several national and regional initiatives.

Fig.4 Designing the Forest Biorefinery

Publications et présentations

CHAMBOST, V., STUART, P.R., 2007, “Selecting the Most Appropriate Products for the Forest Biorefinery”, Industrial Biotechnology, 3:2, pp. 112-119.
CHAMBOST, V., EAMER, B., STUART, P.R., 2007, «Forest Biorefinery: Getting on with the Job», Pulp & Paper Canada, 108:2, pp. 18-22.
CHAMBOST, V., EAMER, R., STUART, P.R., 2007, “Systematic Methodology for Identifying Promising Forest Biorefinery Products”, 93rd Pulp & Paper Technical Association of Canada (PAPTAC) Conference, Montreal, QC, QC, B161-167 & Pulp & Paper Canada, 108 :6, pp. 30-35.
STUART, P.R., 2007, “Technology and economic risks associated with the forest biorefinery”, Guest Speaker at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting, San Francisco E.U.
CHAMBOST V., STUART, P.R., 2006, “Development of the Canadian Forest Biorefinery: Establishing Winning Conditions”, Technology Seminar jointly organized with the CQVB “Bioraffinerie forestière : une voie pour l’industrie papetière?”  Montreal, QC.
WISING, U., STUART, P.R. 2006, « Identifying the Canadian Forest Biorefinery », Pulp & Paper Canada, 107:6, pp. 25-30.
STUART, P.R., 2006, «The Forest Biorefinery: Survival Strategy for Canada’s Pulp & Paper Sector?», Pulp & Paper Canada, 107:6, pp. 13-16.


STUART, P.R., 2006, « The Forest Biorefinery: Survival Strategy for Canada’s Pulp and Paper Sector», 107:6, pp. 13-16.
STUART, P.R., 2006, « The Made-in-Canada Energy Strategy», Actualité chimique canadienne (ACCN), 2006:9, p. 2.
ORZECHOWSKA, A., 2005, « Saving the Canadian Industry : Discussing possible solutions », 106 :1, pp. 25-27.