Paper mill converts to new product

Paper mill converts to new product Click to Enlarge Photo:

Nov 1, 2013 at 9:21 am

CLOQUET, Minn. (AP) — The largest paper mill in Minnesota has successfully converted to producing a new type of pulp that's offering hope to similar plants struggling with a decline in the paper industry.

Sappi Fine Paper, in Cloquet, spent $170 million to convert its production to chemical cellulose, a pulp generally sold to textile mills to make clothing. Sappi says the Cloquet mill has reached its goal of producing 1,050 tons each day.

Sappi plant manager Rick Dwyer says it's a new beginning for the Minnesota forest industry. RBC Capital Markets predicts demand for chemical cellulose is projected to increase 50 percent by 2017.

Sappi already has a plant in South Africa producing chemical cellulose for textiles. But the conversion in Cloquet is the first of its kind in Minnesota.

The decline in demand for paper products is one reason Verso Corp. elected to close its fire-damaged paper mill in Sartell following a Memorial Day 2012 explosion and fire. 

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