Editorial: A cause for innovation

Kristina Urquhart
January 31, 2019
By Kristina Urquhart
January 31, 2019 – Last fall, I attended the Pulp, Paper and Bioproducts Course, presented annually by FPInnovations. Nearly all of the attendees were process engineers and researchers were there to sharpen their skills. I was there to acquire a whole new set!

Aside from learning the processes of mechanical pulping, kraft pulping and papermaking (that may sound like a refresher to some of you, but 33 lectures later I’m certain everyone learned a lot), one of the highlights of the week was Innovation Day. It reminded me that the pulp and paper industry is a global leader when it comes to innovation. It’s had to be. Social and environmental concerns have led to an overhaul of effluent and air quality regulations, and market pressures, like the declining demand for newsprint, have forced the industry to come up with new ways to market Canadian pulp.

On Innovation Day, we learned about biomaterials that are being extracted from wood fibre with end uses that are not necessarily sheets of paper. Cellulose filaments, made of tiny, flexible bits of wood fibre called microfibrils and nanofibrils, have high bonding potential and reinforcement properties, which make them ideal strength additives for composite and other non-traditional products. And a little goes a long way – in testing, FPInnovations has created mineral paper containing 80 per cent filler to only 20 per cent cellulose filaments. It’s especially of interest because at this ratio, the mineral paper has a tensile strength that’s 75 per cent of regular commercial copy paper, but it uses three times more filler, thus stretching its value.

FPInnovations has been working with cellulose filaments for over 10 years, developing a patented mechanical production process to extract them. It’s currently working on full-scale commercial trials with Kruger in a $43-million partnership that saw the construction of the world’s first cellulose filament demonstration plant in 2014. They’re now producing five tons of the filaments per day.

That’s just one example of the innovations happening in this industry. Bosk Bioproducts is another one of the trailblazers. I talked to the Quebec-based company in this issue to find out how it is working with residuals from pulp and paper mills to create compostable bioplastics. Bosk has spent the past two years perfecting the formula and anticipates the technology can be used to manufacture everything from containers to plastic-like films. Next up are mill trials.

And, speaking of innovation, our cover story is one about a mill that has had to reinvent itself. Canadian Kraft Paper, formerly owned by Tolko, just celebrated its two-year anniversary after nearly closing in 2016. CKP’s parent company, the American Industrial Acquisition Corporation, has been busy making investments in the mill’s future with some multi-million-dollar equipment upgrades that will streamline production – because if we know anything about innovation, it’s that with nothing ventured, there is nothing gained.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 edition of Pulp & Paper Canada. Read the digital edition here

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