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Maine Plant Newest Mill for Price Companies

Price Systems chip mill equipment - dual debarking systems keep plant running in Maine winter.

By Jack Petree
Date Posted: 6/4/2002

WEST PARIS, Maine ó Between the day it signed its first major contract for a new concept in chipping with a paper mill in the late 1980s and today, Price Companies Inc. has become one of the nationís largest producers of chips for the pulp and paper industry.

The firmís growth has been built on a sophisticated approach to servicing pulp and paper mills wanting to husband capital costs yet still have the assurance that a steady supply of quality chips are delivered to the mill in a timely fashion.

The Price Companiesí newest mill in West Paris, Maine stands as an example of how the company operates using a contract chipping service concept to reduce capital costs to the mills. A closely controlled processing system designed around Price Systems equipment and mill design results in chips that consistently meet quality standards demanded by the most exacting paper manufacturers.

Price Companies is a contract chipping service for pulp and paper mills. The companyís concept is that it can remove a considerable financial burden from the mills by constructing and operating a Price designed and owned chipping mill to process customer-owned fiber under contract. Price never owns the wood, before or after chipping. Just as the mill did when it managed its own chipping operation, it procures logs and sees that they are delivered to the chipping facility. Chips and bark remain the property of the paper producer. Price is responsible for using care in processing the paper companyís fiber and maximizing the production of premium chips, then delivering wood and hog fuel to the mill itself.

"Weíve taken an area with relatively high capital and labor requirements and put the burden on a service group focused on satisfying its customer," John Price said, describing the concept in a 2000 interview with TimberLine. "Both sides benefit from the cooperation."

To ensure that premium chips are produced at a Price Companies plant, plant design is carefully addressed at each facility in order to take local conditions into account, explained Dick Carmichael, general manager.

The plant at West Paris, for example, differs from other company facilities in that it features two separate debarking systems. The reason for two debarking systems is that operations in the Maine winter are substantially different than chipping at more temperate times of the year.

A typical Price Companies plant centers around a drum debarking system designed by Price Systems, an equipment manufacturing business located in Jones Mill, Arkansas. While sharing common origins, the two businesses have been independently owned for more than a decade. Price Systems supplies high-efficiency parallel debarking and chip processing equipment and systems to high-volume chip plants.

Price Systems plants are centered on the drum debarker concept coupled with high-volume chippers and conveying systems. Drum debarkers are based on an old idea Price Systems has perfected over the years in the operations it has built. The debarkers consist of a large, rotating drum which is filled with tree stems. As the wood tumbles in the drum, the stems rub against one another continually, literally rubbing the bark off each other. The drum debarking method tends to be gentler on the wood than some kinds of mechanical debarking and is effective with crooked stems that might cause problems for other systems. Drum debarkers also can process high volumes; they are fed a half a truck-load or more at a time. They can hold and process large quantities of wood continuously while most systems process one log at a time.

According to Dick, the drum debarking technology his firm relies on in most situations does have one shortfall. In areas like Maine where wood is often delivered to the mill frozen, quality can fall off. In the new plant, his company has lived up to its reputation for innovation and quality by addressing the frozen wood issue through the use of a dual debarking system. It provides high-quality and high-volume debarking the year-round.

At West Paris, fiber is delivered to the Price Companiesí yard by contractors working with the customer paper mill. A LeTourneau JC 40 jib crane is the major piece of equipment used for unloading the trucks. The yard also has a Liebherr knuckleboom loader as back-up. "We emphasize service to the logger as well as directly to our customer," said Dick. "We wanted to make sure that even when a lot of trucks come in at once, we could get them unloaded in a timely manner."

The jib crane configuration was selected because it makes more efficient use of the log storage circle than more traditional cranes. Logs are delivered by type because it is important to paper mill operations to have the chips sorted. Most plants do a hardwood sort and a pine sort. The West Paris mill also sorts for hemlock.

When the chipper is ready for them, the logs are fed onto a Price Systems designed positive feed conveyor system patented by Price and built for continuous maximum capacity use.

The conveyors deliver the logs to one of two debarking systems. Most of the year all logs are sent through the Price Systems drum debarker, which is 12 feet in diameter and 90 feet long. In winter, when logs come into the yard frozen, straight, larger sized logs are debarked using Nicholson A27 ring debarkers. The quality of the debarking process through the ring debarkers is very good. The chips produced from these debarked logs are so clean that they offset any diminished chip quality from stems processed in the
drum debarkers in cold weather. The averaging of the two allows Price to produce premium chips at high volume throughout the winter.

Chipping is accomplished using a 116-inch Carthage chipper driven by a GE 2500 hp electric motor. The chips move onto twin BM & M screens with oversize chips reprocessed through a Jeffery resizer. After processing, the chips are forwarded via Price designed conveyor systems to stockpiles and then onto the mill customer.

No wood fiber is wasted. Fines and bark are hauled to the paper mill and used in the boilers to produce steam required in the manufacturing process.

Hauling is accomplished using trucks owned by the Price Companies.

Innovation and cooperation will be key words when it comes to success in the forest products industry of the future. The results that can be achieved when both are applied to a problem are demonstrated by the success the Price Companies has had in applying its unique concept. It is backed by innovative and efficient equipment and systems supplied by manufacturers like Price Systems.

In the case of the Price Companies West Paris, Maine plant, applying both innovation and cooperation have aided a valuable customerís efforts to be cost competitive.


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