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PacWest: Real Life Solutions

The industry's financial constraints may have diminished the attendance at PacWest, but the conference remained a valuable gathering for networking and professional development. The final count was 15...

July 1, 2009  By Pulp & Paper Canada

The industry’s financial constraints may have diminished the attendance at PacWest, but the conference remained a valuable gathering for networking and professional development. The final count was 150 attendees, enjoying the June sunshine in the mountains at Sun Peaks Resort, near Kamloops, B. C.

PacWest is hosted each year by the Pacific Coast and Western branches of the Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada (PAPTAC).

PacWest’s opening forum touched on the subject of carbon markets and bioenergy. Experts from various fields made it clear that global policy decisions are creating opportunities for forest products companies in these emerging markets, although much of the legislative framework is not yet set.


Michael Weedon, executive director of the BC Bioenergy Network, noted: “There’s an enormous interest but this industry is really in its nascent stage.”

Dong Singbeil of FPInnovations- Paprican elaborated on some of the challenges the industry faces in its efforts to create a bioenergy or biochemicals market in Canada. He noted that there is an opportunity to take lignin out and make new products with it, but in doing so, we may compromise other uses of forest biomass. “Our processes are designed to optimize the properties of cellulose. Optimizing for lignin might be detrimental to that.”

Already, small scale modifications to existing infrastructure are underway, he commented. He predicted that new partnerships will be formed, recognizing the interdependence between sawmills, pulp and paper companies, and energy companies.

Canadian kraft pulp is the best

PacWest attendees had the pleasure of hearing that Canada’s kraft pulp is superior in many ways to pulps from other nations. Research comparing Canada’s kraft market pulp with those produced elsewhere in the world arrived at some conclusions that Canadian pulp producers will be happy to hear. In 2008, FPInnovations- Paprican conducted a program to benchmark the quality of bleached kraft market pulps to provide a database of physical, optical, and chemical properties. The program included 49 pulps from Eastern and Western Canada, the southeastern U. S., Scandinavia, southern Europe, South America, Asia-Australasia, and South Africa.

Among the softwood pulps, the average fibre coarseness of Canadian species was found to be 25% lower than that of other species. Also, at 400 CSF, Canadian pulp generally exhibited an 18% higher tensile index than other pulps.

Maurice Douek and Wayne Bichard of FPInnovations conclude that, in general, softwood pulps produced in Canada exhibit superior fibre and hand-sheet properties compared with pulps from other countries. Canadian pulps had the lowest coarseness, highest tensile strength, highest light scattering coefficient, and lowest bulk.

“This should translate into superior papermaking potential, in terms of better formation, increased sheet bonding, higher smoothness and opacity, but lower stiffness,” they report.

Tackling tall oil issues

Research at FPInnovations-Paprican has shown that tall oil production at mills pulping grey stage mountain pine beetle attacked wood has dropped substantially due to higher soap solubility in black liquor, a reduced tendency for the soap to “float” off in storage vessels and skimmers, and lower soap quality (acid number).

Two experimental approaches to address this problem were discussed at PacWest. First, Vic Uloth and Erin Guy of FPInnovations-Paprican assessed the effect of higher air injection rates on skimmer performance when pulping mountain pine beetle infested wood. They determined the higher air injection rates provided little benefit, and concluded that this procedure is not recommended.

Later, in a paper entitled “Waste Fatty Acid Addition to Black Liquor to Decrease Tall Oil Soap Solubility and Increase Skimming Efficiency in Kraft Mills Pulping Mountain Pine Beetle Infected Wood”, Uloth and Guy discussed a mill trial which confirmed that waste fatty acid addition decreased tall oil soap solubility, increased tall oil soap skimming effi- ciency and produced a higher quality soap that was readily processed in the mill’s tall oil plant.

This submission was coauthored by Dale Shewchuk of Cariboo Pulp and Paper and Ron van Heek, now with with Aker Kvaerner, Vancouver.

Best practices for capital projects

Terry Good and Cal Green discussed a pulp machine capacity upgrade undertaken at Canfor’s Intercontinental mill in Prince George, B. C. Good is with Allnorth Consultants Ltd., while Green works at the Intercontinental mill.

As a result of numerous runnability improvements and upgrades over the years, the pulp machine had become the bottleneck of the Intercontinental mill.

Phase 1 of the plan to increase the capacity and reliability of the pulp machine was designed to achieve a capacity increase of 20 ADMT/day. It included top felting the first and third presses, increasing the capacity of the dry end repulper, and significant improvements to the layboy. The project team determined that the most economical method for increasing the capacity of the machine was to increase the consistency of the pulp sheet entering the dryer. Top felting of the third press provides the biggest contribution to increased consistency.

GL&V was selected as the vendor for the top felting portion of the project. The top felting equipment was able to operate at rated capacity immediately after startup, and achieved an average consistency increase of 2.52%.

Robert Matchett of Cook Engineering presented a case study of a power boiler upgrade at AbitibiBowater Thunder Bay, which allowed the mill to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and burn more biomass.

The paper, “Greenhouse Gases and Multifueled Boilers: A Case Study in Efficiency Improvements on Renewable Fuel Usage”, was authored by Trent Woolsey of AbitibiBowater, Dave Burton of Alstom Power Canada, Robert Matchett, Cook Engineering, and Randall W. Morrison, Automation Applications Inc.

The project included improvements to the biomass handling equipment, boiler bottom configuration modifications, new combustion air control strategies, and a new ash removal system, all controlled by an Invensys DCS with the application of advanced control strategies developed by AAI.

The project met its goal of reduced natural gas consumption and reduced the mill’s CO2 emission by nearly 20% in the first year of project operation (2006- 2007). With the boiler able to meet its steam demand using biomass only, the project’s capital costs were recovered in one year through savings in natural gas consumption.

Rounding out the PacWest program were a panel discussion of trends in product certification and an insightful panel on energy management led by Alex Adams of BC Hydro. Speakers on the energy management panel generally agreed that the pumping system is a good early target for energy conservation projects, as are compressed air systems and blowers.

Armed with ideas and examples from other mills, PacWest attendees headed home invigorated, knowing they aren’t alone in the challenges they face day to day.

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