Full operations have resumed at International Paper’s Pensacola Mill in Cantonment, company officials announced Monday, ten weeks after an explosion crippled the plant.
The January 22 incident happened after “an explosive atmosphere was created by a combination of off-gasses” in a pulp digester combined with of one several possible ignition sources, the company said last month. “The unusual set of circumstances set in motion a chain of events unlike any that International Paper had ever seen or heard of,” officials said at the time.
The ensuing explosion released a mixture of wood chips, wood fiber and black liquor — a manufacturing byproduct — into the air, coating nearby streets, vehicles, and homes. A team of over 100 contractors spent several weeks remediating approximately 150 affected homes.
The incident temporarily shuttered the plant, which employs around 450, though limited operations resumed shortly thereafter.
“We are pleased to report that full operations at our Pensacola site have resumed,” said Tim Nicholls, senior vice president, International Paper. “Our primary focus remains on ensuring the health and safety of our employees, contractors and community members — along with providing our customers the excellent service they have come to expect.”
With the assistance of independent third-party experts, International Paper has implemented “enhanced procedures and protections” across the company to prevent the recurrence of such an incident, officials said Monday.
Including capital expenses, the company estimates total costs related to the incident will be between $80 and $120 million. The majority of these costs are expected to be recovered through insurance coverage, the company said.