How are pulp and paper mills greening the industry?

Pulp and paper mills are among the world’s worst polluters and consume a huge amount of water. However, efforts are being made to become greener. 

The pulp and paper industry has a reputation for being one of the world’s worst polluters and heaviest consumers of water. However, tightening performance standards and increased regulation have seen stakeholders beginning to green their mill operations.

Let’s explore three key approaches being taken by the pulp and paper industry and how Altum is playing its part.

  1. Optimize water use

The pulp and paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry, from using it to turn wood chips into a pulpy soup to the water-intense bleaching process. While the average water intake per ton has decreased by 47% since the 1990s, as much as 100 liters (26 gallons) can go into making a kilo of paper.

In fact, it is estimated that that 85% of water used for pulp and paper is process water. Growing pressure to reduce water footprints and increase efficiency has seen improved filtration and distillation procedures that allows that contaminated wastewater to be safely discharged or pumped back for alternate uses.

The water footprint of mills is further swelled by the hundreds of gallons of water used to clean the black liquor/red liquor evaporators that burn biomass-based black liquor. This is an area in which Altum’s waterless Zero-Process-Downtime (ZPD) ultrasonic cleaning technique can support the drive to reduce the industry’s impact on water scarcity.

  1. Reduce CO2 emissions

A kilo of paper can result in approximately a kilo of CO2 being produced during its production and this edges up to 1.2 kilos if the paper isn’t recycled. As a high emitter of carbon, the pulp and paper industry is in a strong position to make major contributions towards achieving a net-zero economy and innovations are already being made to accomplish just that.

A 2022 Finnish study concluded that many mills already have the possibility to act as a carbon sink, with a CO2capture rate lower than 6% enough to make all the studied market kraft pulp mills carbon-negative. It has been shown that that biogenic carbon emissions captured from mills and combined with hydrogen could be used to create enough synthetic fuel to power an entire country.

While several carbon capture technologies exist and others are maturing, our IoT- and AI-enabled ZPD solution is already supplementing the reduction of CO2 emissions. By removing any fouling from the inside of evaporator tubes, Altum’s patented ultrasound cleaning process ensures that these undesirable deposits won’t degrade operational capacity and increase carbon emissions.

  1. Improve energy performance

Production efficiency is vital to success in the pulp and paper business, both in terms of profitability and environmental impact. Boilers and the drying process are two energy-intensive areas that are being innovated, along with the implementation of energy efficient motors and improved efficiency of steam use through heat recovery.

The International Energy Agency notes that the pursuit of other renewable energy sources, along side bioenergy and alternative fuels, will be an important part of getting the pulp and paper industry to meet its 2050 targets. In addition, the application of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) has the potential to significantly enhance the industry’s energy efficiency.

Another key factor that often leads to reduced production efficiency and end-product quality defects is fouling and scaling in equipment and pipes. With no downtime in production, the utilization of Altum’s ZPD ultrasound increases pumping efficiency by more than 10%, operational time by 25%, and evaporator energy efficiency by more than 50%.

If you want to start reducing your pulp or paper mill’s carbon footprint, contact us. We can help solve your fouling and/or scaling problem today.