3M Environmental Innovation Award
Making a difference
through innovative
environmental solutions


2010 Winner - Frank van Biesen

Frank van Biesen (Photo: David Trattles)

The no-carbon paper chase
Frank van Biesen is forthright about the hefty carbon footprint of his business. “The pulp-and-paper industry is a large emitter of greenhouse gases, by virtue of its high consumption of fossil fuels,” says the vice-president of technology at Mississauga, Ont.-based Kruger Products, “and we cannot say that it’s up to others to deal with. It’s as simple as that.”

Presentation of award
Click photo to enlarge

Left to right: André Préfontaine, President and Publisher, Canadian Geographic Enterprises, Frank van Biesen, Elise Maheu, Manager of Government Affairs, 3M Canada (Photo: David Barbour)
For the past three years, the Dutch-born mechanical engineer has been leading his company, Canada’s top tissue manufacturer and a division of pulp-and-paper giant Kruger Inc., on the road to sustainability. As a first step, he created a position for energy management and conservation at Kruger Products. And, most notably, he initiated the installation of a biomass gasification system at Kruger’s tissue mill in New Westminster, B.C., located on the banks of the Fraser River in the densely populated Vancouver suburb.

The technology, developed by Nexterra Systems Corporation of Vancouver, converts wood waste from local pulp mills, sawmills and even pine beetle kill into a clean-burning syngas. This synthetic gas is used to produce steam for drying paper. Within months of its start-up in December 2009, the gasification system had reduced the mill’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent — equivalent to removing 4,000 cars from the road for a year — and was supplying 50 percent of the mill’s energy needs, cutting natural-gas consumption. This is the first commercial application of this process in the North American pulp-and-paper industry, says van Biesen.

For his commitment to promoting green technologies in the industry, van Biesen has received the 2010 3M Environmental Innovation Award, presented by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and 3M Canada.

Van Biesen’s leadership shows how large companies have the power to substantially benefit the environment, says Jim Dangerfield, executive vice-president of FPInnovations, a private not-for-profit forest products research institute based in Pointe-Claire, Que., that is monitoring the gasification system. “The reality is, you can knock your head against the wall doing research,” says Dangerfield, “but if you don’t have somebody in the industry to pick it up, it’s not going to go anywhere. You need people like Frank van Biesen, who is a willing adopter of new technologies.”

Besides reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, the biomass gasifiers in New Westminster will save Kruger Products several million dollars a year, says van Biesen, who is now researching clean technologies for the company’s four other mills in Canada and the United States.

Monique Roy-Sole


3M Canada

Canadian Geographic

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