IP temporarily shuts mill

On the evening of Jan. 22, International Paper Co. experienced significant structural damage to the largest pulp digester as well as the power house at its Pensacola pulp and paper mill in Cantonment, Fla.  No one at the mill was injured.

According to media reports, the damage was caused by a large explosion, and the plant experienced what an IP spokesperson called a “manufacturing process failure.”

The mill, which employs 450, was opened in 1941. In 2007 it was converted from white printing paper to containerboard grades. Products include linerboard, medium and fluff pulp. It has about 500,000/tpy of containerboard capacity and 200,000/tpy of fluff pulp. This equates to about 1.5% of North American containerboard industry capacity and about 3% of North American fluff pulp capacity, according to industry analyst Mark Wilde of BMO Capital Markets. The shutdown is expected to further tighten the containerboard market.

According to a statement from IP, response teams are working with local, state and federal agencies to provide information for those impacted. The incident released a mixture of wood fiber, water and pulping liquor into the surrounding community.

“We have engaged contractors to develop and implement plans to clean up and dispose of the discharged material as quickly as possible. We are providing all necessary support and resources to our local community and residents as we work through the cleanup,” the company reported. “Our primary focus is on ensuring the health and safety of our employees, contractors and neighbors and on the cleanup of the affected areas and property.”

Currently, the mill is not operating. “We are assessing the extent of the damage to the mill, evaluating supply options and will be working closely with our customers to meet their needs,” according to IP.  

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