Sunday, January 2, 2011

Voulez-Vous Debark Avec Moi? Former Paper Mill About To Become High-Tech Cool

In an unusual example of the Internet replacing paper, some high-tech types are about to discover how cool, and maybe even sexy, a paper mill can be.

The giant paper company UPM is a partner in a deal to turn its former Kajaani, Finland paper mill into “one of the world’s most eco-efficient server centres” for supercomputers and data storage.

Like many old paper mills, Kajaani has hydroelectric dams, which the data center will use to meet its ravenous electricity appetite in an environmentally friendly fashion.

The adjacent river will be tapped for “system cooling water,” reducing reliance on fossil-fuel-burning air conditioning systems. (Technical note: When water is used to make paper and then returned to the river as clean as it came into the mill, the result is called “waste water”. When a data center uses that same river and the outflow back to the river is hot enough to boil fish, that’s called “carbon-neutral cooling”.)

The new tenant, the IT Center for Science Ltd., might find some of the leftover equipment at the mill intriguing, especially if it’s one of those trendy, bring-your-dog-with-you workplaces. But it will soon find out that the debarker is for logs, not yappy poodles. And the web inspection system has nothing to do with the Internet.

But there’s always the couch (pronounced “koosh” or “kootch”), the sexiest place in a paper mill. That’s where water is drained from the pulp slurry, and it’s the base of the French verb coucher, as in the infamous line, “Voulez-vous coucher avec mois, ce soir?”

It’s hard to get an exact English translation of that steamy phrase, but I've used my rudimentary knowledge of French and paper making to come up with three attempts:
  1. “Would you like to help me with my wet-end chemistry tonight?”
  2. “How’s about dewatering some sheets with me on the third shift?
  3. “How about meeting me near the headbox this evening to work on improving formation?
I should also mention that a couch roll sucks water out of the pulp. (Don’t go there.)

I know what some of you are thinking: When Patti LaBelle sang the line – and when e.e. cummings, John Dos Passos, and Tennessee Williams used it in their writing – they were all referring to prostitution, not paper making.

Listen, if you’ve ever been to some God-forsaken subarctic mill town during February, you’d know that the area near a paper machine’s press section is the only place warm enough to “gitcha, gitcha ya ya”.

Other, somewhat lighthearted articles about the forest products industry include:


Anonymous said...

Nothing new - Stora did it a year ago...

Tein Atkerson said...

Water "hot enough to boil fish." Love it.

I hear the Finns are fond of steam saunas, so maybe there's an ancillary business opportunity just downstream from the paper mill/server farm.

Dan said...

Funny, I've always said paper-making is the world's second oldest profession; perhaps they have more in common than I thought!