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The Marcus Wallenberg Prize: POM Technology — from Idea to Product


October 1, 2005
By Pulp & Paper Canada

“The Marcus Wallenberg Prize is the highest recognition that a papermaker can get. I have admired former prizewinners and esteemed their contributions as something really extraordinary. Winning the…

“The Marcus Wallenberg Prize is the highest recognition that a papermaker can get. I have admired former prizewinners and esteemed their contributions as something really extraordinary. Winning the prize myself is therefore a confusing experience — can my own contribution really be of the same magnitude? I, however, concluded to be neither modest nor humble about it and to just be proud and happy, recognizing how important it is,” said Paul Olof Meinander, President of POM Technology Oy Ab when His Majesty the King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf awarded him the Marcus Wallenberg Prize.

Paul Olof Meinander, the founder and president of POM Technology Oy Ab in Finland has been honoured the Marcus Wallenberg Prize, also known as the “Nobel Prize of Forest Products Industry,” for developing a significant modification of the design of the paper machine wet end process. The innovation improves both the efficiency of the economic and the environmental performance. The new design is called the POM Wet End System.

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Prizewinner Paul Olof Meinander developed the idea as well as designed and built the key machinery. By removing the gases from backwater circulation at an early stage the system can be closed and consequently built considerably smaller in volume than a traditional wet end system. There are significant savings in capital costs and reduction of energy required for the process. Control of the process is also easier. All this leads to improved paper quality.

The Marcus Wallenberg Prize marks a culmination at a critical moment of development POM technology. The concept has reached a situation where the product is ready for full-scale application on all types of paper machines. This requires belief and self-confidence among papermakers and this endorsement of the POM System as a path breaking innovation comes at the best possible time.

Beliefs in papermaking

“The papermaking process is so complex that no one can know every detail of it. Papermakers therefore create their mental models based on their own knowledge and beliefs. Much of it is based on tradition and common assumption. When new insight meets old belief there is a conflict. Openness, critical analysis and self-confidence help understanding and acceptance of new knowledge. Trusting authority may change the belief — but it takes efforts,” said Meinander.

“A general tendency in the industry is to rely on suppliers’ guarantees rather than to trust [one’s] own judgment and analysis. The easy solution to trust whole projects to one supplier has led to a paper industry Microsoft syndrome and the industry is largely castrated by a couple of big suppliers. Abdicating technical solutions to the same suppliers can hardly generate competitive advantage. It is, however, safe to do what others do — even if the solution would not be the best one.

Personal security is often more important than corporate excellence. The guarantees count more than competitive advantage and few people seem to realize that business is a relentless competition where mediocrity never wins.

Add on innovations like centrifugal cleaners, slotted screens, dilution for profile control, vertical pressing or air removal may have been obvious and simple to accept at their time. For less easy ones, like the POM System, we need people who have the self confidence for actively accepting and driving new solutions,” stated Meinander.

Process misunderstandings

“Our understanding of the papermaking process originates from wrestling with the problems of a traditional system. Such problems are or were batch operation, grindstone sharpening, variable raw material and scarce control causing uncontrolled variations. Consistency and flow used to be difficult to measure and control properly and the knowledge of many phenomena was poor,” said Meinander.

“The backwater drained in a paper machine contains a lot of air. Slow, big scale turbulence in tanks causes air content variations in pits and silos. Air causes cavitation in pumps and irregular pumping leads to flow and consistency variations in the process. All of these problems are passed but they have left a number of misunderstandings.”

MISUNDERSTANDING 1:

“Volumes are needed for stabilizing the process”

Volumes do not stabilize, they only dilute or delay the changes. Further, they may cause problems themselves by giving time for detrimental processes, space for volumes and so on. The belief in the benefits of volumes is one of the deepest-rooted misunderstandings in the industry.

MISUNDERSTANDING 2:

“Dissolved air must be eliminated”

Huge amounts of dissolved air disturb forming. If air is removed before pressurizing, the amount of dissolved air will remain harmless. Early degassing prevents air from dissolving and also eliminates many other problems, like cavitation in pumps, amplifying pulsations by resonance, foaming, secondary stickies and so on.

MISUNDERSTANDING 3:

“Open surfaces are needed for avoiding pulsations”

Stable pumping eliminates the medium frequency (<0,1…1 Hz; 1…>10 s) pulsations that would need discharging. Faster pulsations are eliminated by good equipment and adequate reactance, longer ones are comfortably discharged by a pipe to an overflow.

MISUNDERSTANDING 4:

“Flow speeds must be low”

Economically, cleanliness is more important than friction in pipes. Flow resistance is best reduced by large radius bends and short pipes. A fast flow is also more stable than a slow one, i.e. it requires a bigger pressure pulse for a certain relative change.

MISUNDERSTANDING 5:

“Exact dosing takes multiple consistency control steps and volumetric dosing”

Modern consistency gauges and flow metres give good readings and direct bone-dry (consistency x flow) flow control is as accurate as indirect control via dilution of the stock.

MISUNDERSTANDING 6:

“A stuff box and basis weight valve give the best basis weight uniformity”

The combination is very sensitive, which is also the reason for the deep respect that many papermakers feel for it. The solution was long ago abandoned in Scandinavia and other technically proficient countries.

MISUNDERSTANDING 7:

“Good mixing takes a certain mixing speed ratio”

Mixing caused by turbulence and energy density determines the degree of homogenization and contact. Higher speeds (and speed differences) in smaller volumes give the best mixing.

MISUNDERSTANDING 8:

“Wet broke shall be thickened and stored”

Broke thickening separates fines from the broke. If the broke is diluted with “own water” the composition is quantitatively the same as for thick stock. Keeping the proportions and the flow constant permit direct recycling of the broke without thickening and storing.

MISUNDERSTANDING 9:

“Fibre recovery is needed for fast recycling”

Fibre recovery is used for shortening the fibre cycle in the mill. In a compact system fibre recovery causes extra delay. Increasing the thick stock consistency and breaking the circulations narrow the circulations and decrease losses more efficiently,” he explained. “When air is removed from the process, it can be operated as a compact, hydraulic system stabilized by overflow without any vessels. This eliminates the fundamental problems discussed above and makes a much simpler and more efficient system possible. That is the POM System.”

“The common perception of the papermaking process has evolved by observing a traditional process with certain fundamental problems. Even when those are eliminated, this perception has not changed and certain misunderstandings are deeply rooted. Therefore many skilled papermaking professionals have problems perceiving that it works and is superior in every respect when compared with a traditional system.”

POM System has gained re
markable attention on the marketplace. The president of the Finnish multinational Myllykoski Corporation, Carl G. Bjrnberg, considered the Marcus Wallenberg Prize as excellent proof to emphasize the position and the excellence of the forest products industry in the area of sustainable businesses. The utilization of Best Available Technology is widely applied and transparent in all processes in this industry thanks to the use of renewable raw materials.

“New inventions are crucial for paper to remain competitive in the ever tightening competition among different communication technologies,” he said. “In my opinion, the POM concept is one of the most significant recent innovations in the industry. When the future paper machines will be ever bigger, the technology developed by POM will also enable those to make fast grade changes during the run. We have efficiently implemented this technology in our own production units.”

“In an industry where major innovation has been lacking, it was both exciting and refreshing some years ago when Paul Olof Meinander visited International Paper to talk about POM. All of us have some history where inventors have something that is “new and improved,” but seldom do the promises live up to the reality,” says Richard Phillips, senior vice president of International Paper, U.S.

“In the case of POM, we were early adapters to the benefits and employed the technology at several mills. Another difference between POM and other new technologies was also evident very early: it actually worked as advertised. It is appropriate that Paul Olof is the recipient of the Wallenberg prize as recognition of his role in inventing and developing a radically different approach to managing paper machine whitewater.”

“The Wallenburg Prize is the most prestigious recognition for innovations in the world of papermaking. The financial impact the award winning innovations have had on the industry is significant. The POM philosophy and Pommel’s enthusiasm on the subject has even brought the large machinery suppliers and process designers to re-evaluate their concepts,” said John Lindahl, president of Jaakko Pyry Oy in Helsinki, Finland.

“The frontiers of knowledge and technology are expanded by talented individuals who have the gift to turn ideas and thoughts into results in the form of technical solutions, industrial applications or research results. For the forest products industry, which is based on renewable raw materials, there are virtually no limits for further development. If there is a limit, it might be a tendency for those of us working in the industry to focus too much on the already established paths for development and too little on the odd or unconventional paths that might produce the spectacular and really important breakthroughs,” stated Hans Norrstrm, technical director, F-Celpap AB in Stockholm, Sweden.

“The great value of the Wallenberg Prize in my opinion is that it acts as a fantastic source of inspiration by highlighting individuals who have created new avenues for the continued, successful development of the forest products industry.”

The Marcus Wallenberg Prize

The Marcus Wallenberg Prize was instituted in 1980 by the shareholders of Stora Kopparbergs Bergslags Ab, Sweden, the predecessor of today’s Stora Enso, to honour Dr. Marcus Wallenberg’s long and outstanding work as chairman of the company’s board. The shareholders decided that the prize should be international in scientific scope, in industrial applicability, and in the nationality of prizewinners.

The aim of the prize is to recognize, encourage and stimulate path-breaking scientific achievements in forestry or forest products industries. The achievements must contribute to broader knowledge and/or technical development. They may be made in any of the broad fields of interest to the forest industry, from growing trees and forests to making and using forest- and tree-based products e.g.: forestry: genetics, systematics and tree breeding; silviculture and agro forestry; forest ecology and tree physiology; biometrics, computing and remote sensing; forest management, forest protection and forestry operations.

Forest products industries: forest products including wood and wood processing; papermaking fibres; paper and paper board and processes for their manufacture; the recycling of forest products and innovations to improve their use and environmental performance.

There will be an increasing focus on subjects that are close to markets, including production, processing and marketing itself, while maintaining the high quality of the prize.

For the successful maintenance of the reputation of the prize the Marcus Wallenberg Foundation relies on a great number of universities, academies, research organizations and affiliated persons all over the world to nominate candidates for the prize. The nominations are then reviewed by the prize’s international selection committee and by peer scientists, forest and industry managers, and related consumer specialists over a three-year period. The prize process is kept as secret as possible and no person should be aware of his or her candidacy until the board early in each calendar year makes a final announcement. The prize was awarded first time in 1981 and the prize of the year 2004 is the 21st in row. The prize is awarded to individuals or groups normally of two to three.


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