Thursday, February 08, 2007

PaperWeek International and EXFOR 2007

Chances are, you're not really into the pulp and paper or forestry industries. But that's what I've been covering for the past four days, so that's what you're going to get.

I was complimented on my excellent writing, by the editor-in-chief of Pulp and Paper Canada (the larger magazine that runs the daily Reporter for which I was interning), as well as by the editor-in-chief of the French equivalent, Les Papetieres du Quebec, who was the francophone writer for the convention.

I might do some freelancing for them, either pitched or assigned. One thing is sure, I want to go back next year.

Here's some of the stuff I wrote. In fact, I think I'll post all the stuff I wrote. Whether or not you like pulp and paper mills, you should check out the articles, because they include a whole lot of information on the industry's challenges, research, and new technology.

Enjoy!

* Posted in order of writing *

Metso presents innovations that increase safety and effectiveness

In its 22nd seminar in conjunction with PAPTAC, Metso presented innovations and acquisitions that aim to improve operator safety and mill effectiveness.

“We are developing products that are using less fibre, less fresh water, less energy, and less manpower,” said Metso Paper North America president Jukka Titinen.

The acquisition of Aker Kvaerner Pulping and Power exactly one year ago provided Metso with new capabilities to ensure a continuous service to its clients, making them as competitive in the fibre industry as they are in the paper sector.

Titinen started his presentation by thanking Metso’s clients, to whom he feels the company owes a large part of their success over the past year.

“It’s more of a recognition for the commitment you have shown, and the time you have set aside to spend with us this afternoon,” he said.

Through a video presentation, Metso presented its dreams for the future, which include innovations like their new press section design. This compact, pre-assembled press fits into standard transport containers and no longer needs cantilever beams to operate.

The big emphasis was on the safety in installation of the press and for the operators, who can access the back of the machine and gain quick access to the major points of interest using a new mobile platform system.

Harri Parnanen, vice president of sales for Metso Paper Canada, noted the record number of orders received by Metso in the past year. About $2.4 billion dollars of profit were generated through the work of 10 500 employees globally.

Metso received at least six major orders for rebuilds and start-ups in North America in 2006, and several others across Europe and Asia.

Two large orders were received in fibre line for Canadian companies, including a complete mill-length logline for ALPAC in Boyle, Alberta.

Metso also provided Shandong Chenming in China with the largest newsprint line in the world.

“It features the latest Metso de-inking technology and newsprint technology,” said Parnanen, underlining the use of ChipWay™, a unique solution for woodhandling that saves on wood.

The company is currently building the world’s largest single drying line, due in August 2007. It will also work on increasing their cooperative agreements, a joint venture to meet their clients’ priorities over a period of four to eight months, plus monthly follow-ups on the effectiveness of the solutions implanted by Metso.

Most impressively, Metso beat several world records for speed for woodfree, LWC, and SC paper machines. The UPM PM 1 in Changshu, China became in 2006 the first woodfree paper machine to operate at a speed of over 1700 metres per minute, recently clocking-in at over 1706 m/min.

Fuelled by new technologies and product innovations like the new generation of ValFlo headboxes that can be used for all paper grades including paperboard, Metso is on track to follow its dreams in 2007.

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A look at the past, present, and future of bleaching

Early Tuesday morning, the mechanical pulping committee presented the Douglas Atack Award for the Best Mechanical Pupling Paper in 2006 to Yonghao Ni for his work on peroxide bleaching in mechanical pulps.

Also, the bleaching committee gave the Howard Rapson Memorial Award for the Best Chemical Pulp Bleaching Paper in Canada for 2006 to Hans Süss and Dan Davies.

The session started with the presentation of the PAPTAC bleaching committee’s annual report, updating committee activities over the past year. Then, Paul F. Earl presented the results of a survey of Canadian mills on pulp washing after the first extraction stage. This PAPTAC-sponsored overview showed that most mills are operating efficiently at this stage, and that mills that use hot water or White Water had cleaner pulps.

To conclude the morning session, Barbara Van Lierop of Paprican, QC presented a historical overview of the bleaching based on predictions made in 1985.

The audience was reminded that the first bleaching actually took place pre-1800s by exposing textile fibres to the sun. In medieval times, bleaching was taken quite seriously, and the penalty for using any improper materials was a criminal record… and death!

A look back at the events that marked the history of bleaching and lead to the modern bleaching process showed noteworthy advances like a 1854 patent for soda pulp bleaching. This process was only used in the industry in 1930, because of problems getting rid of the orange color that appeared when chlorine was added to pulp.

In 1900, an evaluation of the stoichiometry of chlorine and lignin allowed bleachers to measure the amount of chemicals needed during the process rather than add and waste chemicals until they were satisfied with the product.

It wasn’t until the 1930s that progress was made in multi-stage bleaching, when plants in Port Edwards, WI, and LaTuque, QC started using elemental chlorine. This process is still applied today, making multi-stage bleaching a relatively new technology.

Van Lierop also underlined the 1949 ozone pulp bleaching patent that describes ozone as it is being used today, and the rapid implementation of a 1980s advancement on enzymes in pulp bleaching, an uncommon event.

“The chemicals were known, but how to apply them on the pulp was dependant on the efficiency of the equipment,” said Van Lierop.

Using data from a 1985 paper by Norm Liebergott, she compared the technologies of the past and the present. Liebergott was right in 15 out of 17 predictions on the future of bleaching plants, and those that were not put in place are all technologies in development.

They include the absence of chlorides in effluent, shorter retention times by using U-tubes for towers plus high-intensity mixers, and using oxygen at a lower pressure, which is currently the case only in two-stage bleaching.

Van Lierop believes that the bleaching industry should think of itself as a chemical plant, especially for on-the-floor operations. She recommended that PAPTAC recognize the importance of proper and solid testing.

“There’s more emphasis put on the online control, but you still need to calibrate equipment,” she said. “We are finding that there’s not enough emphasis on the control of the mills for proper testing.”

As for the future, Van Lierop expects that pulp properties would be an important issue in the bleaching process.

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New business tools for a changing industry

The Business open session on Tuesday afternoon focused on three distinct areas. First, Mathieu Seguin, an emergency responder from Thurso Pulp, a Fraser Paper mill, discussed the benefits of creating an emergency plan. The full process can take several years, but effective results can be seen after about four years.

The plan itself takes a recommended six steps, including gaining the approval of the executives, verifying laws and codes, and identifying internal and external risks and personnel.

“It’s very important to implement the emergency plan in the field,” said Seguin. “It serves no purpose if it’s left on the shelves. And if someone leaves the company, you need to update your plan so that it is always current.”

A seven-step manual should also be created to foster a structured management in emergency situations. Of course, no two emergencies are the same, so the manual should be a guide that can be adapted to each situation.

Seguin also mentioned that a plan is useful only if it is tested in the field through simulation days, and if the manual is complete and easy to understand.

“When you consult an emergency manual, it is usually in an information situation, even though we really should familiarise ourselves with it earlier.”

A following presentation by consultant François Côté underlined the advantages of a fully-integrated environment and health services management system. Although some services must remain independent, this concept helped Tembec’s Chetwynd mill achieve ISO health and environment certification, all the while remaining flexible.

Next, Bill Haverinen (Albany International) and Ron Labrie (Humeng International) discussed the possibilities of eLearning as a training tool for the pulp and paper industry. This program is based on the need for training that exists in the industry, as a result of less technical support and higher cost pressure.

Some of the advantages mentioned include flexibility, time and content wise, the company sending a consistent message, and the ability for the student to learn at his or her own pace, reviewing content whenever needed, without losing face.

The success of this tool is tracked through a Total Needs Assessment taken before the course is started. The student is quizzed through questions randomly selected from a database. At the end of the course, the student takes a Total Final Assessment that similarly checks what was learned.

Trials at the Longview mill showed a 30% increase in knowledge after only three hours of learning on six modules. Comments received by the program include the experience value of eLearning for a new employee, and the increased level of confidence for all employees.

Possibly the most anticipated event of the session was the R&D tax credit round table. Experts from different backgrounds presented statistics, problems, objectives and tools to help the industry fully understand and take advantage of this Canadian Revenue Agency program.

About $1.8 billion in investment tax credits is awarded to 11,000 projects in a given year, with the possibility of a 20% refund for large companies, applied as far as 20 years back or three years forward.

There are several limits from both the CRA and the industry that currently undermine the mill’s ability to earn a Scientific Research and Experimentation Development credit, so a special committee created documentation that helps both sides come together.

The credit cannot be applied to a research project for adapting standard practices, routine development or troubleshooting. It must have some scientific or technological uncertainty. Also, the product created during the research process cannot be sold, which goes against the reality in the industry, since SR&ED in the pulp and paper industry is usually done as part of the manufacturing process.

One of the committee members, Stéphane Rousseau (Kruger) believes the industry must react and change or it will fail. A simple recommendation?

“Never use the word optimization. Use the word innovation.”

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Biorefineries for a greener industry

The biorefinery symposiums have attracted a lot of attention this week due to the increasing concern for greener practices across the world. The Wednesday morning session on practical steps to a biorefinery was no different.

Christian Messier, the director of the new Centre d’Etude de la Forêt and a forest ecology professor at UQAM, fashioned himself to be an outsider to the industry. However, he presented ideas on farming trees in Canada, and especially in Quebec, that appealed to the pulp and paper industry representatives in the room.

His main concern was to keep everyone happy, environmentalists and industry leaders alike.
“If we want to do transformations with trees, we need to grow them,” said Messier. “I believe we can do both. We can cut trees and we can have biodiversity and protected areas.”

To do so, Messier proposed zoning principles for forests that would ease the struggle between stand complexity, which is better for biodiversity, and wood removal. He proposed a rotation of intensive and super-intensive zoning, coupled with the planting of hybrid trees like larch and poplar. This concept is already in use to grow large quantities of timber in Finland, which has a similar climate to Canada.

Basically, the zoning principle would allocate 60 to 80 per cent of the forest to ecosystem management for biological legacy, at least 12 per cent to protected areas for necessary control, and one to five per cent to super intensive plantations where trees could be grown quickly in 20 to 25 years.

Messier’s productivity chart for different tress species showed a yield per cubic meter per hectare per year that was four to 20 times higher in intensive and super intensive management.

Messier also reassured the audience that research is being made as to the quality, in terms of strength and length of fibre for applications in the pulp and paper industry.

Other presentations included an introduction by Mark Ryans (RPF) on the use of forest feedstock as a biomass source, which dealt with recovery issues like cost, volume and transportation, and an analysis presented by Jim Frederick (Georgia Institute of Technology) on biofuel and fiber co-production in a forest biorefinery, a concept that could create profitable ethanol sales opportunities for the pulp and paper industry if cellulose loss can be eliminated during the wood extraction process.

Also, Garth Gorsky (Ensyn) presented a case study of a biorefinery in the community setting of Renfrew, Ontario. Benefits include readily available biomass from industries in the surrounding area, the extraction of valuable chemicals from the bio oil produced, and cooperation between , and biofuel and fibre co-production in a forest biorefinery.

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Lack of bio means lack of interest for non-wood fibres… for now

With heavy competition from the biorefinery symposium, the non-wood fibre session on Wednesday afternoon had to deal with a lack of “bio” in their paper presentations.

Shijie Liu from SUNY-ESF first discussed pulp fibre size and fine characteristics. He compared the difference between optical and gravimetric measurements of fibre length and width and concluded that optical tools show a richer distribution of results.

Liu then announced that he was stepping down as the chairman of the non-wood fibre committee and that his current TAPPI equivalent, Bob Huerter, would be taking his place. This led to an open discussion between members of the audience and the new members as to what topics the PaperWeek International conference should cover next year.

“Biorefinery is the big thing right now,” said Huerter, “and all the money is going there. But one of the things that no one is looking at is how to get the biomass into the mill, because that’s different for non-wood fibres.”

The non-wood fibre industry will largely be impacted by the pulp and paper industry’s decisions in terms of bioenergy, and a new structure will need to be created for the transformation of flax fibre into fuel, for example.

“It’s tough,” Huerter said, “when Shijie organizes a program, and three papers don’t show (as they did this morning), and you have a competing conference (like biorefinery).”

Huerter does not think that biorefining and non-wood fibres are competing in all aspects. He gave the example of a cornstalk mill in Ioha that reduced its costs and increased its efficiency by adding a gasifier. This technology produced all the steam and power needed for the mill’s operations, making it a truly green mill that produces environmentally-friendly fuel.

“I don’t think we can do this in Quebec or Ontario,” Huerter said, “because we don’t have the right type of biomass. It’s a Prairies project.”

David Carruthers (Saint-Armand) was one of the more vocal audience members, suggesting that the sessions move back towards pulp and paper applications to attract more interest. He was also concerned about the amount of usable agricultural fibres that the industry is wasting in Canada every year.

Carruthers also brought up the possibility of using second-hand clothing for papermaking, a practice that was abandoned by the pulp and paper industry when fabrics became contaminated by synthetic products. With the trend changing back to cotton clothing, a “marvellous” paper-making fibre, non-wood fibre mills should explore the possibility of transforming the volume of post-consumer waste that is, for lack of a better term, going to waste.

All suggestions were good ones for Huerter, who concluded, “It’s nice to talk agriculture, but it needs to go back to pulp and paper making. It needs to become more balanced.”

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That's it for now! Stay tuned...

4 comments:

Anya O said...

Interesting blog, Naila. I see that working on The Reporter has given your self-confidence quite a boost.

Naila J. said...

It really has! Thanks for the comment! :)

Helge V. Keitel said...

Hello, I found your blog about Paper Week International. Are you covering the Pulp and Paper industry?

I'm writing a book about Enterprise 2.0 and Vancouver was once an important meeting point with my colleague Esko.

Found your writing by accident. Excellent work, great blogging, bleaching was one of things that brought me to Vancouver in the first place.

Metso is now selling the intelligent bleaching sensors. What are you working with? Are you a journalist, blogger? What made you cover the Paper Week International? Just curious.

Best regards
Helge V. Keitel

Naila J. said...

I am actually not covering the Pulp and Paper industry, save for 1 week a year, when I did/do cover PaperWeek International and EXFOR in Montreal for the magazine Pulp and Paper Canada.

It's a one week internship, so I can't really say I know the industry. However, I find it all very interesting, especially the new technologies. Some of the stuff these people come up with is incredible!!!

And of course, as a journalist to be, the creation of paper (and environmental repercussions) are extremely important to my future.

Thanks for the comments!