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New engineer by day, cave explorer on weekends: Meet James Rule

James Rule, Engineer

New Engineers at Resolute Series

An engineering career in forestry offers as many rewards as it does opportunities to solve challenges. That’s what candidates in the New Engineering Graduate program discovered on the job at Resolute.

We’re posting a series of Q&As with our new grads – from Quebec to Calhoun and operations in between.

James Rule in Coosa Pines, Alabama

After five months of Resolute’s New Engineering Graduate program, James Rule was finishing up his first rotation when opportunity knocked on his door.

As a process engineer at our Coosa Pines pulp mill in Alabama, James was asked to fill in as environmental coordinator while the mill searched for a replacement. Fortunately, the job stuck. Rather than completing his rotation, James is now completing environmental reports and finding new ways to improve plant efficiencies and reduce our ecological footprint as a full time job.

A former land surveyor, James went back to school to earn a chemical engineering degree before jumping at the chance to join our New Grad program that provided him with firsthand experience to all the aspects of an integrated pulp mill.

Even though this was a busy time of the year, comes with a steady stream of reports to file, James took some time to talk about learning the job, working in a pulp mill, and exploring caves; his weekend passion.

What projects were you working on when you started at Coosa Pines?

For the first two months, I wasn’t assigned to any particular part of the mill. I was spending the majority of my time just learning the different processes and meeting with the department managers and figuring out how everyone came together to make high quality fluff pulp at a competitive price. My initial assignment in the program was working in the pulp mill as a process engineer, where I focused mainly on improving the efficiency of one of our bleach plants.

How did you transition to the environmental coordinator job?

I was asked to cover the position of environmental coordinator while the mill looked for a candidate. I spent about eight hours over the course of a week with the out-going environmental coordinator getting familiar with the key functions of the position; trying to go over that amount of information in such a short time was daunting, but with the assistance of the technical manager, it made the transition a manageable task.

What does an environmental coordinator do and what do you enjoy most about the position?

Some of the regular duties associated with my job involve monitoring key environmental indicators for the mill, working with the different area managers and ensuring we comply with all state and federal reporting requirements. One of the things I enjoy most about the position is identifying projects that, when implemented, can reduce our footprint while providing cost-savings for the mill.

How has your impression of the pulp and paper industry changed since you started working here?

Growing up I was always an avid outdoor enthusiast and didn’t always have the best, or most accurate, opinion of heavy industry.  Going to school and earning a degree in chemical engineering allowed me to see just how essential industries like pulp and paper are to the modern world and how great of an emphasis there is on environmental stewardship.

Where the Coosa Pines mill is located, this focus is magnified because the Coosa River is heavily used for recreational activities. The importance of returning the water used in the process to the river in the same state as we withdraw it is vital to the communities downstream.  Great strides have been made in improving our processes in an environmentally friendly way, and working for Resolute gives me a great opportunity to make further refinements.

Does your work connect to any outside interests?

I am very passionate about caving, and one of the greatest things about moving to Birmingham from the Tampa Bay area was that it is located in the Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia area, which has one of the highest concentrations of caves per square mile in the world.

I am a member of a cave conservancy group that is dedicated to cave acquisition, conservation, and management; which allows me to help protect a cultural and biological resource that is in many ways, still not well understood.  Recently, I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to visit a cave on property newly acquired by the group that had been closed for nearly twenty years. After about two hours and over a mile of climbing and crawling, it was amazing to come out into a very large room that had an underground waterfall over 100 feet (30.48 meters) high.

Places like that are the reason environmental stewardship is so important to me, and why I was excited to move into the position of environmental coordinator with Resolute.

Quick Qs

 

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Finding something you are passionate about and being lucky enough to make a career of it.

 

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Going back to school 10 years after high school and graduating with honors in chemical engineering.

 

What do like to do in your free time? I’m passionate about conservation and exploration of all things karst; caves, springs, sinks, and other geological structures.

 

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