Pulp and Paper Canada

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Courting Customer Satisfaction

In a time where mills are tightening financial reigns and releasing much of their technological staff, the quest continues for brighter, whiter, stronger and better paper. This in turn creates a wide window of opportunity for suppliers, whom paper...


October 1, 2004
By Pulp & Paper Canada

Topics
Research is constantly being done to improve additives. Photo courtesy of Buckman Laboratories of Canada.

In a time where mills are tightening financial reigns and releasing much of their technological staff, the quest continues for brighter, whiter, stronger and better paper. This in turn creates a wide window of opportunity for suppliers, whom papermakers depend on heavily to help them court the satisfaction of their customers. Chemical companies have heard the cry and are responding. From sinking their teeth into likeminded technological powerhouses, to burning the midnight oil to find workable, cost-effective solutions, pigment and additive industry players are coming up strong.

What’s moving and shaking in the pigment and additive industry? Pulp & Paper Canada spoke to top industry leaders to find out what their companies are experiencing.

What new developments or improvements are characterizing the pigment and additive industry? What kind of research is being conducted?

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According to Hercules, innovation is key. The company has dedicated its energies to developing new technologies in order to bulk up and improve its product repertoire.

“One major advancement, is Perform SP9232 advanced retention and drainage technology, which provides superior ash retention and controllable drainage with reduced sensitivity to system chemistry variations in neutral and alkaline pH grades. We are also introducing a new generation of strength resins, which offer new advanced functionality in a more environmentally friendly package. These new resins should have applications in a broad range of grades from the traditional packaging market to mechanical furnish grades to printing and writing grades. For mechanical grades we have recently introduced a patented cellulose-based fluidized polymer suspension for pitch control. This technology is more effective than traditional inorganic or dispersant-based products”.

Buckman has channeled many of its resources towards the focus on enzymes, an area it considers crucial to ease the deinking process. “We often receive requests from customers within the industry who are looking to improve the deinking process without losing fibre. And so we’re always looking for ways to develop new technologies to improve efficiency without losing yield. There are many things that can be done with enzymes and the fact that they are environmentally friendly is a bonus”. The company first started using enzymes in the 1990’s when they were first applied in biocides. Their use in the deinking process is a relatively new phenomenon.

DuPont directs its energy towards trying to please the papermaker by finding value-added components to incorporate into its products. “DuPont continues to conduct innovative research to benefit the paper industry. We continue to research how TiO2 can deliver additional value to the papermaker beyond what is delivered today and we continue to develop new techniques to objectively measure appearance of paper and paperboard with the DuPont Appearance Analyzer”.

According to Lanxess, the desire to provide customers with better products is a perpetual goal. “These activities can be seen in many aspects of our products –reducing/replacing a hazardous component in a product formulation, improving the stability of a liquid product, making a manufacturing process more reliable or less costly, and developing a new product for paper application”.

Lanxess listed salts as the number one enemy of a stable liquid product. In order to combat the problems salts impose, the company installed an advanced filtration technology at its dyes production plant in Charleston, SC, with the goal of reducing excess salts from its liquid dyes products. Since the installation, they have found that liquid dye stability has exhibited marked improvement.

Where is research conducted?

Hercules executes its research in a variety of manners and locations. “Our in-house research is done in one of our three laboratories around the world –Barneveld, the Netherlands, Jacksonville, Florida and Wilmington, Delaware. We also conduct joint research with universities, customers, allied suppliers and in some cases, governments. As needs around the world differ, this approach necessarily encompasses the emerging markets of Latin America and Asia Pacific. Our applications research typically starts with our own pilot paper machines and finishes with efforts on our customers’ commercial equipment. The final piece involves technology acquisition. Here we acquire or license rights to technologies that were designed for, or we believe have applicability to, the paper industry”.

Buckman also values the importance of diversified methods of research, and doesn’t hesitate to team up with relevant players to reach a desired goal. The specialty chemical manufacturer is currently working on a biotechnology-related project with the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, PAPRICAN and has funded research the two organizations shared on enzymes. Recognizing the intrinsic value universities have to offer, Buckman also keeps a foot solidly inside the door of many learning powerhouses as well. “We’re plugged into many universities, such as McMaster, and technology centres. We believe in global coordinated research; in centres of excellence. The way to achieve this is often by coordinating industry with technology suppliers”.

Trends and changes in the pulp and paper industry inevitably foster a need for change in the pigment and additive field. P&PC inquired what sorts of alterations are affecting chemical companies.

According to Omya, paper companies are constantly in search of ways to diversify themselves. This in turn places a heavy, though welcome burden on suppliers. “We’re seeing all paper grades move to higher brightness, because customer demand is such that the search for better, brighter paper is always on. Because of this we’re seeing more and more levels of calcium carbonate, it gets brighter every year. It’s really a matter of finding the right combination of pigments. This can take hours, days, years. Every paper mill is different and wants a different thing. And because we’re seeing so much reduction in technical staffing at mills, it becomes incumbent on the supplier. But we see this as an excellent way to partner with our customers”.

According to Hercules, a variety of factors play into the direction the company takes. “The pulp and paper chemical market is driven by cost, performance and environmental issues. Geographic shifts in the industry’s capacity base, fibre ability, energy costs, environmental legislation and the paper industry’s cyclical nature are trends that influence the drivers. For example, as the industry recovery occurs, more companies shift their resources and chemical spending towards improving productivity. Therefore, suppliers to the industry will gradually reallocate their resources to align with the industry’s economic drivers. We see this impact on our dry strength programs that focus on machine productivity. The industry moves toward more tropical plantation wood and recycled fibre impacts our contaminant control chemistry and program designs”.

How has the use of more recycled materials in pulp affected the use of pigments?

According to Lanxess the presence of more recycled material in pulp has in turn placed new demands on the chemical industry. “Papermakers have to use brighter/whiter filler to achieve the same brightness paper with the use of recycled fibre”.

Buckman has had similar experiences in terms of recycled materials. “Recycled materials used to make lower grades of paper. Now we’re able to make good quality paper with them, but it’s often contaminated with glues or coatings. So the question now is how to get rid of stickies. Traditionally, people used polymers or dispersers. Now we use enzymes to break down these adhesive bonds. Basically, the consumer is very conscious of what’s made using recycled materials and we have to respond”.

According to DuPont, the addition of more recycled materials in pulp has proved advantageous to its activities. “The increase use of recycled fibre has opened up opportunities for TiO2 to provide
coverage for the darker fibres and maintain appearance standards”.

Have the costs of pigments/additives risen in the past few years? What can be anticipated in terms of price and demand situations in the near future?

According to Lanxess, market conditions have been responsible for the ongoing decrease in market price for colored pigments in the last few years. However, the company feels it has used these conditions to its advantage. “Lanxess has made multiple process improvements to remain competitive and to maintain high quality. However, the current world situation with oil pricing may have an impact on the raw materials used for production of pigment products in the near future”.

Omya contends that future demand is a difficult issue to pinpoint. “No one can predict demand. We’ve seen that prices have remained stable in terms of real dollars. Prices were down in the 1990’s, but they’re slowly rising”.

Dupont shares similar sentiments on the issue of price increases. “After several years of declining prices for TiO2, prices are beginning to increase in 2004 and are expected to continue into next year”.

What demands have customers made that you’ve been able to respond to?

According to DuPont, customer demand is wide-reaching in its scope, which means the chemical company must be able to deliver on an equally wide range of needs and requests. “Customers demand that suppliers deliver value beyond that which is built into their products. DuPont has been a leader in this arena. We achieve this by developing a deep understanding of our customers’ needs and addressing them with the vast capabilities that exist within DuPont. Examples include assistance with energy reduction, safety management, statistics and experimental design training, etc”.

Lanxess feels customers are in search of a wide range of all types of colorant and quality products at the lowest cost possible, all the while maintaining product formulations that meet or exceed environmental regulations. “Customers require a high level of technical service in the lab and in the mill, both of which are Lanxess strong points. There has also been much more emphasis on, ‘just in time,’ product deliveries, which we are meeting on a consistent basis”.

“There is a distinct trend towards downsizing in North American mills,” Buckman confirmed. “This has resulted in heavy reliance on suppliers. The entire chemistry of a mill can change and at that point, the mill will be looking for single-source suppliers, which is where we want to come in.” Buckman also relies heavily on what it has dubbed ‘applied creativity’. “It’s really a matter of figuring out how to apply a technology to what a customer needs. A lot of the research we do is not necessarily on new product development, but on taking something and applying it”.

INFORMATION PROVIDED BY:

Chantale Rouleau, Manager, Papermaking Technologeis Technical Marketing, Buckman Canada; Steve Steck, Director of Marketing at Omya; Jack Lowdermilk, North American Sales Director for Hercules; Becky Hoehn, Marketing Strategic Analyst for Lanxess; Steve Thomas is Global Offering Manager Paper at Dupont

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PIGMENTS AND DYES: The difference according to Lanxess

Pigments are true colored particles that are essentially insoluble. They have no affinity for the fibre. They require a dispersion system to be made into liquid form and a retentive/fixative system. Dyes for paper are ionic salts and are soluble products in water. Unlike pigments, most dyes do have some affinity for the paper fibres. There are different classes of dyes designed for different applications, for example, basic dyes would be typically used in groundwood containing grades and direct dyes in fine paper. There are also different classes of colored pigments such as organic, laked and inorganic (iron oxides) types. As with dyes, different pigments are often used in different applications depending on the requirements for the paper being produced (degree of brilliance, lightfastness, cost, etc).