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Three plants in the new century


November 1, 2008
By Pulp & Paper Canada

What do the pulp and paper mills of the 21st century look like? This is the question New Zealander Tony Johnson of AMEC, an engineering and consulting firm, took on in his presentation on June 3 durin…

What do the pulp and paper mills of the 21st century look like? This is the question New Zealander Tony Johnson of AMEC, an engineering and consulting firm, took on in his presentation on June 3 during the International Pulp Bleaching Conference. The event, which took place in Quebec City from June 2 to 5, brought together the industry’s leading experts from all four corners of the planet.

Representing six of his colleagues,* Johnson’s presentation examined three of the most recent pulp mills established in the 21st century: Varacel Celulose in Eunapolis, Brazil, Hainan Jinhai Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd. on the island of Hainan in China, and Celulosa Arauco y Constitucion in Valdivia, Chile.

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A new situation

Johnson highlighted the key factors that led to the creation of these mills, as well as the processes used, the equipment, and the output of all three. This last point proved to be particularly significant, as it can be a good reference point in relation to older mills for the new generation of plants emerging in certain parts of the globe.

The design of these new pulp and paper mills is radically different than those of the past, Johnson said. Pressure to improve energy efficiency, raise product quality, reduce environmental impact and maximize productivity have notably shaped bleaching and pulp production methods.

An expanding market

In his presentation, Johnson painted a picture of the bleached kraft pulp (BKP) market around the world. He underlined that, on an international scale, this market has been expanding consistently.

For example, in 2005 worldwide capacities on the pulp market were close to 54 million tonnes per year. BKP made up 85% of the production. This was made up of 50% hardwood pulp and 50% softwood pulp.

North America was at the head of the pack with 37% production capacity, followed by Western Europe with 25% and Latin America with 18%.

Worldwide BKP production capacities rose significantly from 1990 to 2005, from 29 million to 45 million tonnes per year. It should be noted that the rise in BKP production from hardwood was particularly strong during this period.

To conclude this part of the presentation, Johnson pointed out two-thirds of the recent rise in world pulp production capacity -with all categories taken into account -is attributed to plants built in Latin America and Asia.

On a small level, this rise can also be attributed to the Canadian pulp and paper sector, as well as Western Europe’s.

Key factors

According to Johnson, decision-makers need to think about more than just the elements related to good economic performance and environmental protection before building new plants; they need to be able to work with new concepts like social responsibility in business. Wood resources, the realization of economies of scale, environmental impact, energy efficiency, investment and operation costs, markets, and product quality are the essential factors to consider when setting up a new mill in the 21st century.

New pulp and paper factories offer new answers to these demands. There is less equipment at the heart of these factories, but production capacity is much higher than older mills. Mostly set up in Asia and South America, these ultramodern enterprises are located close to their supply. Their primary materials also have the great advantage of being fast-growing.

Secondly, they emerged during a period when demand for paper products was high in certain Asian countries. This demand has assured them great returns on their investments.

Finally, to take on this new situation, new technologies and equipment were put into place. The three plants Johnson focused on are completely representative of this. In brief, the design and productivity of these new plants provides a clean contrast when compared to the generation of BKP plants set up in the 1990s.

Increased capacities

Since starting up in 2005, the Varacel Celulose plant in Brazil produces its bleached kraft pulp using eucalyptus. As the result of a joint venture between Aracruz Celulose and Stora Enso, the papermaker has an annual production capacity of 900,000 tonnes. As a sign of the times, the plant has even exceeded its production goals since starting up. For example, it produced 1.05 million tonnes in 2007. The company, Andritz, supplied some pieces of major equipment.

Designed for an annual production of one million tonnes of hardwood BKP a year, the Jinhai Hainan plant in southern China is the largest mill in the world with only one production line. It was built in May 2003 and started operating in November 2004. Its supplies mainly come from 233,000 hectares of forests; the rest is imported from Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

The mill also intends to start an ambitious replanting program, a plan that would eventually allow for self-sufficiency in the domain. It is also important to note strict environmental standards and emission rates below the norm characterize this mill.

Like Veracel, the Chinese plant produces more than its initial production capacities. Its long-term strategy is to become an industrial centre that integrates timber, pulp, paper and other paper products.

As for the Celulosa Arauco y Constitucion plant in Valdivia, Chile, which began operations in February 2004, it produces about 550,000 tonnes of pulp per year. It’s primary supply -about 60% -comes from Monterey pine, while the rest comes from eucalyptus. The plant was designed for a maximum production of 1,700 tonnes of pine pulp a day and 1,900 of eucalyptus pulp.

The mill is located in a particularly sound environmental area, and has proven to be fastidious when it comes to respecting emissions norms and water quality.

Common features

The three mills are all fitted with solid control process systems and have state of the art technology designed to guarantee superior productivity. This assures planned parameters vary little, and product quality is uniform.

As for bleaching, all three use very few chemical products. In addition, they produce one single high-quality pulp. This effectively eliminates the logistics surrounding production while maximizing gains and productivity.

In all three cases, management closely monitors environmental performance. This is notably reflected in the attention they put into choosing what wastewater treatments to use.

Future plans

What is in the cards for these three plants in the next few years? Currently, Veracel is studying the possibility of increasing its production capacity to 1.2 million tonnes per year. The plant is also on the road to installing ultramodern process control systems for its pulp production, bleaching operations and drying operations. On top of this, a new biomass shredder has been installed in order to reduce the plant’s dependence on oil. Finally, a preliminary study to look at the possibility of installing a second production line has been commissioned. This production line would have a 1.3 million-tonne annual capacity.

Hainan Jinhai also has a number of long-term plans. They plan to install a new paper machine, which will principally be used for fine papers. The mill has enough land to accommodate a second production line.

Finally, at Celulosa Arauco y Constitucion in Valdivia, the possibility of exceeding their production capacities – the road to new developments -is near. In brief, there is no lack of expansion plans at this trio of mills.

PPC

* The other co-authors of the piece presented by Johnson on June 3 in Quebec City are: Barbara Johnson, AMEC, Tauranga, New Zealand; Peter Gleadow, AMEC, Vancouver, Canada; Flavia Azevedo Silva, Veracel Celulose, Bahia, Brazil; Ronaldo Morales Aquilar, Veracel Celulose, Bahia, Brazil; Chen Jui Hsiang, Hainan Jinhai Pulp and Paper, Hainan, China and Hctor Araneda, Celulosa Arauco y Constitucion, Valdivia, Chile.


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