IP celebrates 50th anniversary of Grande Prairie, Alberta, pulp mill, which recently marked 365 days free of recordable safety incidents; mill produces over over 380,000 tonnes/year of NBSK pulp that it ships worldwide for tissue, towel application

Sample article from our Pulp & Paper Industry

July 19, 2023 (press release) –

Grande Prairie Pulp Mill produced its first bale of pulp on July 17, 1973.

Since then, the now International Paper (NYSE:IP) Grande Prairie Mill (Mill), has been the backbone of the community. Roughly 40,000 people have been employed by the facility over those years. In turn, those teams sent, Alberta-grown and made products around the world.

Every day the world moves forward with new ideas, technologies and priorities. And, every day, International Paper strives to make the world better, safer and more sustainable.

An Overview of the Mill

Procter & Gamble (P&G) first began construction of the Mill in 1970, with operations starting in 1973. The Mill would operate under their leadership until 1992 when the site was sold to Weyerhaeuser Company. Then, in 2016, International Paper (IP) acquired the mill.

Throughout the years of having different names, the culture at Grande Prairie Mill has remained the same. Team members continue to put safety first, above production and cost, to ensure everyone returns home safely and the same way they came to work.

The Mill employees believe that team members can go home safely and that zero life-changing injuries environment is possible. Just this past year, the mill celebrated 365 days recordable-free, keeping team members and contractors safe.

Customers have always been at the core of everything they do, supplying a safe, quality product for customers and consumers. The customer portfolio of the mill ranges internationally with 35 customer locations spanning 8 countries. Quality and safety go hand in hand. While the mill produces high-quality pulp, they ensure the product is safe for customers to work with and consumers to use.

IP at the Core

IP transforms renewable resources into products people depend on every day. As a world-leading producer of fibre-based products, the company creates packaging solutions that protect and promote goods, enable worldwide commerce and help keep consumers safe. They produce renewable basic materials such as pulp for diapers, tissue and other personal care products.

And they deliver circular solutions that enable recycling, reduce waste and build a better future for our planet.

The Mill is a member of IP’s Global Cellulose Fibers (GCF) business.  In turn, GCF has most mills in the southeastern United States and relies on Grande Prairie to provide a specific type of pulp.

Grande Prairie specifically makes Northern Bleached Softwood Kraft (NBSK) which is used in tissue and towel application. In fact, over 380,000 tonnes are produced annually and shipped all over the world.

The next time you’re in the grocery store and reach for those products, remember, you’re supporting the mill in your backyard.

So, the next time you are in the grocery store, go ahead and pick up an extra roll of paper towels and a box of tissues. When you do, you support the mill in your backyard!

The Pulp-Making Process

The mill is able to make pulp sustainably, ensuring they are good stewards of the environment. They purchase of 100% of the fibre required from sustainably managed forests or recovered fibre while safeguarding forests, watersheds and biodiversity.

The wood chips, water and chemicals are cooked in a pressurized digester; this process separates the cellulose wood fibre from the trees’ other components, including lignin. The resulting wood pulp is then washed to remove the chemicals and lignin, transforming the wood chips into a slushy, naturally brown pulp that is then bleached.

The pulp mixture goes onto a wire screen that drains some of the water, forming a large sheet. The sheet moves onto a press, draining more water. Finally, the remaining water is removed as the sheet passes over dryers, and the end result is pulp. The pulp sheet is cut into bales and are packaged and shipped to customers around the world, where it becomes products people depend on every day.

Made from renewable resources, paper is recyclable. Recycling your paper-based products encourages the reuse of resources again and again.

The mill generates 100 per cent of its power requirements produced from renewable sources. They are a net exporter of green energy to the local power grid within the region, and the boilers produce steam for turbines that make the electricity for motors and pumps.

Creating What’s Next

The IP Grande Prairie Mill is here to stay, investing in the future of Grande Prairie and providing opportunities for those who want to work at the mill. The Grande Prairie Mill employs over 400 Albertans, just at its plant site. This does not include the other careers it supports such as loggers, truckers, contractors and suppliers. Over $60 million is invested back through local wages with the mill paying over $7 million in annual property taxes.

The mill remains reliable and a valued asset having invested more than $800 million into capital projects over the past 50 years. This investment ensures the mill runs reliably, is structurally sound and remains sustainably operational. Capital investments create a cycle of investment in contractors, vendors, manufacturers and suppliers.

The mill continues to invest within the community through schools and local non-profits that align with the company’s Signature Causes: Hunger, Health and Wellness, Education and Disaster Relief.

The Grande Prairie Mill has committed to investing  $350,000 back into the community. This comes in the form of IP Foundation Grants for local non-profits, such as the FemCare Kits, Butterfly Kits and Arbor Day and through donations and sponsorships. Each year, they raise around $35,000 for the local United Way through donations, company matches and fundraiser events.

Since 2016, the mill has supported Women in Scholarship, Engineering Science and Technology (WISEST), which focuses on creating effective programs to empower women to pursue and succeed in STEM fields. The mill sponsors two to three students to attend this program each summer at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta.

This year, the mill has kicked off the International Paper Way Forward Education Fund, managed by the Northwestern Alberta Foundation. This fund will award five scholarships of $1,000 each to post-secondary students in the region of Northwestern Alberta.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the investment IP has for the greater Grande Prairie area and doesn’t account for the countless hours of volunteering the employees do outside of work.

At International Paper, we do the right things, in the right ways, for the right reasons, all of the time. This is called The IP Way – a compass that guides all employees through their work. With The IP Way, the mill will continue to be a pillar within the community, creating jobs, promoting sustainability and investing in the community. And there’s no stopping any time soon.

Information provided by International Paper

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Dan Rivard
Dan Rivard
- VP Market Development -

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