James Olson

Director, Pulp and Paper Centre
Professor, Mechanical Engineering
University of British Columbia, Vancouver,

Phone: 604.822-5705
Email: James.Olson@ubc.ca


  • Process simulation and optimization
  • Turbulent fibre suspension modeling and simulation
  • Low consistency refining
  • Screening and cleaning system design and optimization
  • Fractionation and paper product development
  • Fibre instrumentation
  • Plastic contamination of pulp



Currently lead a $2.4 Million, 5 year university-industry collaborative research program with BC Hydro, FP Innovations, Andritz, AFT, WestCan, Honeywell, Ontario Power Authority / CEATI, Arkema and NSERC, HSPP, West Fraser, Canfor, Catalyst) focused on reducing energy consumption in the mechanical pulping in BC.  Currently this process consumes 11% of all the energy produced by BC Hydro.  To date, we have demonstrated a technical potential to reduce energy in this sector by 20% and have developed a number of innovative technologies that we are seeking patent protection.

In collaboration with Advanced Fibre Technologies Inc., we have successfully designed, built and demonstrated high performance pulp screen rotor technology that reduces electrical energy consumption by 52%, with a technical potential of more than 200 GWh/y in BC alone. This demonstration of technology was done in collaboration with AFT, BC Hydro and Canfor. The technology is now deployed through much of the Canadian and world industry with more than 100 mills adopting the new rotors. If implemented through BC, this technology has the potential to lower electrical energy consumption by more than 200 GWh/yr or save $20 Million per year based on a $50 MW/h. The economic and environmental impact of implementing this new Canadian technology is tremendous! This partnership and innovation was recognized with the 2007 NSERC Synergy Award and the 2008 BC Innovation Council Lieutenant Governors Award for Innovation. Currently, we are developing the next generation rotor designs for further energy efficiency and have a Ph.D. student developing models of rotor performance to support this technology. This technology has been patented by UBC and AFT holds the license.  We have also been awarded four Best Paper Awards; one by Paptac and the other by TAPPI. Including, IH Weldon Medal for best paper (Paptac 2010) and the Wayne Carr Memorial best paper award from TAPPI, 2009.

In addition to the development of high performance energy efficient equipment, we have developed new understanding and created new engineering tools to optimize current pulp production processes. We have detailed the mechanism of fibre separation in industrial screening equipment and have developed simulation and optimization tools to enable mill engineers and technology supplier companies, such as Advanced Fibre Technologies Inc., to improve their separation processes. This research won the 2001 I.H. Weldon Medal for Best Paper at a Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada (PAPTAC). Further, we have developed a new method to optimize the LC refining process for mechanical and chemical pulps.  This work was awarded the Van den Akker prize for paper physics from the fundamental Research Committee for 2007 and 2009.

I was also the lead researcher on the development and commercialization of the Fibre Quality Analyzer (FQA), a device to measure the physical properties of pulp fibres in suspension. The scientific paper and Canadian and U.S. Patents outline the development of an automated, image-analysis based fibre analyzer. This instrument has been successfully commercialized by Optest Equipment Inc. of Hawkesbury ON and has become the industrially accepted standard for measuring key fibre properties. To date, approximately 150 units have been sold and exported all over the world, with gross sales estimated to be more than $20M. It is estimated that this commercial success has directly created 7 high-tech jobs and 12 spin-off jobs in the Canadian community. This work was awarded the 1998 NSERC-Conference Board of Canada University-Industry Synergy R&D Partnerships Award. It was also cited as the sole highlight of the entire Network of Centres of Excellence program by the Honourable J. Manley in the announcement of the renewal of the program by the Federal Government.

Publications (Click Here)

Presentation on the role and future direction of the UBC Pulp and Paper Centre (Click Here)

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Faculty of Applied Science
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Tel: 604.822.6413
Department of Mechanical Engineering
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Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
Tel: 604.822.2781
Fax: 604.822.2403

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