Closing Of Maine Mill Sets Back Paper Industry’s Biofuel Effort

The recent closure of the Old Town Fuel and Fiber mill is a setback for the Maine pulp and paper industry’s efforts to break into biofuels production, industry representatives said. The mill, owned by New York-based private equity firm Patriarch Partners, has ceased operations indefinitely and furloughed about 180 employees. While pulp remained the mill’s […]

The recent closure of the Old Town Fuel and Fiber mill is a setback for the Maine pulp and paper industry’s efforts to break into biofuels production, industry representatives said.

The mill, owned by New York-based private equity firm Patriarch Partners, has ceased operations indefinitely and furloughed about 180 employees. While pulp remained the mill’s core business, it was the only facility in Maine experimenting with the production of biofuel on a commercial scale.

The company released a statement Wednesday evening announcing the closure: “Effective immediately, all Old Town mill operations will be indefinitely suspended. The impact of foreign competition and our competitive position due to high wood and energy costs have made it difficult to sustain operations at this time. All employees not needed for securing the facility will be furloughed. During this idled period, ownership will be pursuing options to secure the long-term viability of the facility.”

John Williams, president of the Maine Pulp and Paper Association in Augusta, said the news came as a surprise. “Under the current ownership, I thought they were doing pretty well,” Williams said. Old Town’s pilot project to produce butanol from the cellulose in wood fiber offered other mills “a lot of hope for the future,” and the shutdown is likely to delay Maine’s foray into the growing biofuels industry, he said.

The pulp and paper industry still employs 7,000 Mainers and is as productive as ever, Williams said, but there is an understanding that mills will have to diversify to remain viable.

From The Portland Press Herald: http://www.pressherald.com/2014/08/14/old-town-pulp-mill-shuts-down-lays-off-180/

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