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Author Topic: Explosion at jay me mill  (Read 6185 times)

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Offline snowstorm

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Explosion at jay me mill
« on: April 15, 2020, 04:22:22 PM »
There are some rather colorful videoís about it.one from inside a truck waiting to get on the scales.looked to be a lot of debris falling

Offline snowstorm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2020, 04:41:57 PM »
The digester blew up. Video on Bangor daily news

Offline thecfarm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2020, 05:15:49 PM »
I was at work,maybe a mile from all that. Had one guy on lunch, he came back with a video of the explosion.   :o   
I still can not understand why no one was killed. Lucky.
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Offline snowstorm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2020, 05:19:03 PM »
both digesters are gone my source says 24 months to build new ones

Offline dnash

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2020, 05:51:03 PM »
What does the digester do?
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Offline Maine logger88

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2020, 05:56:37 PM »
It turns chips into pulp
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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2020, 06:24:00 PM »
So that tells me they can't make pulp?  :o
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Offline snowstorm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2020, 06:41:52 PM »
no they cant. unless they buy pulp elsewhere. i asked about running sp fir groundwood. he said the paper would not be as strong as what they need

Offline repmma

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2020, 07:00:49 PM »
Old town aint up yet is it?  Thats strictly a pulp plant right?  Be alot of trucking!

24 months.  Jeepers. Thats if they rebuild.  Quite the blow to the wood industry in Maine, have done nothing but lost consumers of pulp.

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Offline thecfarm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2020, 07:03:19 PM »
Would give the higher ups a very good reason to close the mill.   :( 
    I am not much more than 15 minutes from the mill.  Sure would be a bad hit to this whole area.
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Offline moodnacreek

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2020, 07:16:14 PM »
I really thought this was to be the perfect early spring. What next?

Offline Ianab

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2020, 07:28:03 PM »
What does the digester do?
Imagine a big pressure cooker, full of woodchips? Add heat and pressure and it breaks the chips down into pulp. 
Or it goes boom... 
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Offline Maine logger88

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2020, 08:27:26 PM »
Old town is running and finally running well but it is no where near as big of a mill as jay. They make kraft there. Maybe pixelle will make a deal with ND to buy enough pulp from old town and rumford until they get it fixed. Iím just hoping they fix it even if it takes awhile
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Offline woodroe

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2020, 03:50:51 PM »
The wind was such that 15 miles away as the crow flies the smell from the
explosion was terrible. DW said whats that smell and I stepped out and said the Jay mill
even before I knew what happened.
Been in and out of that mill doing work for contractors hundreds of times in
a earlier life, so glad no one was in that area .

Offline Magicman

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2020, 09:50:57 AM »
Jay Mill explosion video: 
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Offline peakbagger

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2020, 01:26:31 PM »
I did not work at Jay but worked up the river in the former Berlin mill. The Jay mill has/had Kamyr Continuous Digesters. Many folks are confused that there was chemical explosion like dynamite. There was no chemical reaction, its just a tall pressure vessel full of chips, liquor and high pressure steam. Wood is mostly cellulose fibers which are strong but limp, what makes wood stiff is lignin which fills in the gaps around the cellulose. A very rough analogy is reinforced concrete, the cellulose is the rebar the lignin is the portland cement. The goal in the digester is to break the liquor away from the cellulose without degrading the cellulose strength. The "liquor" is caustic made with lime and chemicals that were recovered from the process. It dissolves the lignin while leaving the fiber alone. Going along for the ride are condensable and non condensable gases which are extracted during the cook and also come out with the cooked pulp. Some of the non condensable gases are in there in only small amounts but very noticeable at even small concentrations. They give a Kraft pulp mill a distinct odor. In a mill town that smell is regarded as the smell of money but to outsiders its very distinct.  

A swag on the steam pressure in the digester is 150 psi. Berlin had batch digesters which work very much like a pressure cooker, Fill them up with chips, liquor and steam, close the valves and then keep them hot for a period of time by adding steam as needed. Once they have "cooked" the pulp long enough, a valve is opened on the bottom and the contents are "blown" to an atmospheric tank. The mix of pulp, steam and liquor is blown through a small nozzle in a controlled manner. The Kamyr continuous digester is more complex than a pressure cooker where raw chips are fed on one end and cooked pulp comes out the other end while the digester is under pressure. Liquor through the chips is circulated in and out of the digester . Therefore there has be devices on either end to allow the chips to go in and the pulp to go out without letting the pressure escape. Compared to a batch digester the continuous digester is lot more complex with more stuff to go wrong. Since the digester is holding steam its regarded as a pressure vessel that had be be built and maintained to the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel code. That code was put in place around the time of steamboats as steamboats had boilers and on occasion they failed killing passengers and usually sinking the steamboat. The rules are strict and add a lot of cost to building pressure vessels but the trade off is they are normally safe. Folks with large compressor probably have seen the ASME cloverleaf on the data plate.

Pure speculation on my part is either the actual pressure vessel or one of the inlet assemblies on the top failed. Instead of a controlled release of pressurized brown stock and dirty liquor, the contents under pressure all tried to come out at the same time of what might be 20' diameter by 100 foot plus high pipe. All the liquid in the vessel would be above the atmospheric boiling point and it would flash to steam. When it flashes it take up more volume and thus the impressive dirty plume. This happens quickly so any solids in the tank go along for the ride. This causes thrust like a rocket engine but since the top failed the digester could not launch itself but what it could do is move sideways and damage the other digester.

The liquor is sticky and has lime component in it. It can leave a coating on whatever it lands on and its difficult to get off. Many of the mills have drive through car washes on the exit of the parking lot for employers to wash their vehicle at the end of shift, the water in th sprays has acetic acid (vinegar) mixed in with it to get to remove the lime scale that can collect on cars. Some mills hand out bottles to the employees to do it themselves. Most of Maine has acid soils so I expect the grass and local plants will look a bit greener this summer since the caustic lime liquor will buffer the aid in the soil. This dirty liquir used to be given away by the mills long ago and used to keep the dust down on dirt roads.When it was applied correctly it formed something akin to asphalt. The liquor will eventually make it to the river where its naturally broken down. This could be an issue in summer when the water is warm and does not hold much oxygen and is at a low flow but this time of year the water is cold and at a high flow so it should not be an issue. A legacy of the upper Androscoggin being an industrial sewer for a 100 years from Jay and the upstream mills is that there is a large hydroelectric empoundment called Gulf Island Pond  south of the mill that backs water all the way back up from just north of Lewiston. This pond has a 100 years of sludge that went in the river prior to the clean water act and at times the water in the pond does not have enough oxygen in it due to this rotting sludge so the upstream mills and Jay have an oxygen injection system in the river above the pond to add oxygen back in if need be, they could crank it up early. The actual pulp will rapidly rot and break down in the rain.  

The biggest issue is that the Jay mill has been struggling since IP (the original owner) transferred them to Verso Papers (the prior owner). They have been losing money and not making decent returns as the demand is not there for the type of paper they made. There are a lot of other mills in the same condition around the US, many have closed and the remaining ones are struggling for the remaining orders in the US. Paper is expensive to ship so its usually produced near where its needed and lot of the printers are now offshore. Just up the river is the Rumford mill with the same problems that was bought at a fire sale by Nine Dragons Paper who also bought the Old Town mill and at least one other in the US. They have grand plans and deep pockets but the last Chinese company that bought the old Woodland mill learned an expensive lesson that shipping pulp doesn't make sense, they now make towel and tissue parent rolls. Verso struggled for several years and eventually had to get a lot smaller before they went bankrupt (Verso was owned by hedge funds that normally want to dive in, make money and sell). The new owner Pixelle consists of several "orphan" mills competing for that much smaller market and they got Jay for the proverbial 10cents on a dollar or less. They were going to have to spend money to make the mill more competitive in the grades of paper that still have a market. They are now looking at a major 100 cents on dollar investment to get the mill running again. They probably had industrial risk insurance but that has major deductibles usually in the millions. Used continuous digesters are not available typically and even if they were they would need to be cut up and reassembled using the boiler code. They really need a set of new ones that will be custom built after they are designed. The pulp market varies year to year but they are probably not set up with the equipment and storage space to buy pulp even if they can find a nearby source (My guess is Northern Pulp Nova Scotia could supply them if NP can get their waste water permit straightened out). The initial claim is 24 months to get new digesters in place and operating. So the question is does Pixelle have the cash to cover the up front upgrades to put in a pulp feed line now and hopefully source pulp cheaply enough to make money on the paper they make?. The rational decision may be to walk away or give Nine Dragons a call and hope ND has deep enough pockets.


Offline Andries

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2020, 02:53:33 PM »
peakbagger; thank you!
That was great post, explaining the pulp and paper world from chemistry to business strategies.
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Offline snowstorm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2020, 04:32:05 PM »
I have to disagree on the mill not making money. I know some of the higher ups. And I know the outbound freight. They had converted to making food grade. Paper a while ago along with sugar packs. As it was said a couple yrs ago we are making real money now not just pushing numbers on paper. Was verso the nice guy. No when you put several billionaires together they are going to fight each other . Some of them wanted there money back. The co. Changed hands a while back but the name stayed the same. I do know they are looking for a source  for pulp. And yes that was in the newspaper my info comes from elsewhere. Food grade and cardboard is where itís at

Offline peakbagger

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2020, 07:13:22 PM »
More power to them if they figured out a way to make a buck. A big part of the profit and loss is debt on the books that the owners have to pay. I think Verso had a lot of debt, maybe Pixelle got it cheap so their debt load is lower. When Brookfield bought Berlin they sold the pulp mill, the papermill and the landfill for $1 to Fraser and kept the hydros which was why they bought it in the first place. It made it easy to do capital work at least at first until Fraser figured out they didnt know the wood market along the RT2 corridor and had to pay about 20$ more a ton for pulpwood than they planned.

I dont pay attention to the pulp market of late and that was the big driver for profits. When the Berlin pulp mill closed,pulp could be bought from South America, shipped to Berlin and loaded into our warehouse for less than we could make it. ND paper claims that China needs fiber and they plan to ship it from Maine so that implies the price of pulp is higher again. We actually tried to run some of the grease resistant food grades in Gorham that Jay runs using the Millinocket coater but the market wasnt there at the time.

The last gasp of GNP in both Millinocket on the big coated machine and East Millinocket on their machine was on purchased pulp. It didnt last long. A mill has to be integrated to make a buck in high volume markets.

I did work for small specialty mill a couple of years ago, their saying is other papermills sell paper by the ton, this place sold  it by the pound. They could afford to buy specialty pulp. Westbrook has the patents on their superembossed paper for making patterned vinyl. They can afford to buy pulp. Sappi cant afford to close the place down as they would have to clean it up.  

I switched to power plants when I was done in Berlin/Gorham, I have since worked as a consultant for two different papermill power projects and I still dont miss it. Unless someone has lived and worked in a mill town they would never realize how much "the mill" impacts everyone's lives. It can be hard nasty work, the workers are well paid but it takes a toll on them and their families.  

Offline thecfarm

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Re: Explosion at jay me mill
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2020, 07:48:03 PM »
I have no idea who said it, but there no shaking of the earth.  :( When all this happen I was only a mile from it, working. I work in a hardware store, no machines to drown out the noise. The Big Boss was outside cleaning and he came inside and told me to come here. I knew something was wrong. I went out with him and saw some smoke, kinda like what would come out of a chimney was all that was left. I never felt of heard anything and I asked him the same thing. He only heard a rumble and looked and saw that big plum of smoke. So fake noise on feeling the earth move.
But there was a lot of fibers coming down. I went home and washed my truck. Even at 40 mph,it did not blow off. I suppose that was the black liquor "burned" into the paint. One customers comes into the store and I bet he will get a free paint job on his car. It did burn the paint. He has small dots, like pencil dots, all over his car.
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