The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, better known to most people in the industry as NCASI, has been active in the US since 1943. Although non-US companies were eligible to join, relatively few did, until NCASI opened a Canadian division in 2002.
NCASI provides a variety of services to members, including readily available, and excellent, advice on many environmental problems faced by mill staff on a simple phone call or email. This free consulting is fabulous value for money relative to the costs of becoming a member. NCASI will not design a Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) upgrade as free consultants (or at any price.) They will, however, provide extensive information on what works in other mills, and strategic advice such as which process alternatives are worth evaluating. This kind of high-level advice, free of any interest in selling on-going services, is not available from any other source, unless you have trusted friends in other companies with the necessary know-how. Particularly if tackling an emerging environmental issue that is somewhat beyond your experience, the opinions and data the NCASI offers to member is invaluable.
Another unique service from NCASI is benchmarking data on many environmental control systems. NCASI periodically compiles data on performance of such systems. Because NCASI is trusted by pulp and paper companies to respect confidentiality of data, and generally well-respected, they achieve a very high response rate to questionnaires to members. The data collected is analysed, and presented along with well-informed technical comment, to all members.
I always felt in the past that it was a pity that so many Canadian companies missed out on profiting from the data and technical advice available from NCASI, although of course some mills in Canada were able to access NCASI by virtue of being subsidiaries of US companies.
When NCASI membership was almost all American, NCASI’s work was focused on the environmental issues the US mills faced. Some issues related to US environmental regulations were of course of little interest to foreign mills, however, about three-quarters of NCASI’s is purely technical, so was relevant to mills worldwide. For example, burning the smelly Non-Condensable Gases (NCG) from a kraft mill in a safe and efficient manner is a universal problem. NCASI’s technical strength, and its unique ability to gather details of practical operating experience, produced a vast amount of useful information on this problem.
NCASI Canada has expanded the organization’s focus to Canadian regulatory issues, and also supports the industry in negotiations with regulators on development of new rules etc. For example, NCASI in the US publishes an annually updated handbook to assist a mill’s staff in complying with the requirements of the annual reporting of toxic chemical releases. NCASI Canada publishes a Canadian version that reflects the differences on the regulations up here in the Great White North. Of course, much of the scientific information on any one substance is identical in both countries, so each benefits from data collected by the other country.
Today, there are about twenty Canadian member companies, representing roughly half the pulp and paper production in Canada. This is less than in the US where there are 75 members representing about 90% of production volume.
To those Canadian companies who are not NCASI members, I suggest that they investigate the opportunities at www.NCASI.org. The annual cost of membership will be saved several times over by avoiding consulting fees, or being better able to get best value for consultants. (Notice that I make my living as a consultant solving pulp and paper environmental problems, but I still recommend mills spend their money on NCASI first. And, no, I do not benefit from increasing NCASI membership.)
With the demise of the specialized Environmental Conferences formerly run by CPPA/PAPTAC and by TAPPI, professionals and managers in the industry lost a great way to networks and share solutions to environmental problems. NCASI’s periodic conferences (NCASI calls them “meetings”), in both Canada and the US are filling this gap. Incidentally, they do so at substantially lower cost than the conferences we used to attend.