The impact of refining conditions on the energy efficiency of the process and on the handsheet quality of a chemi-mechanical pulp was studied as part of a series of pilot scale refining trials. Statistical models of refiner performance were constructed from these results and non-linear optimization of process conditions were conducted. Optimization results indicated that increasing the ratio of specific energy applied in the first stage led to a reduction of some 15 per cent in the total energy requirement. The strategy can also be used to obtain significant increases in pulp quality for a given energy input. 20 refs., 6 tabs.