The three Rs of the environment — reduce, reuse, and recycle have been the mantra of environmentally conscious individuals and companies for decades. Emerging best practices and advanced equipment are now enabling the pulp and paper industry to aspire to bold new environmental targets in order to create a new generation of mills with net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
FPInnovations scientist, Enrique Mateos-Espejel, gave a presentation at the Paperweek Canada 2019 conference in Montreal in February titled, “Roadmap Towards a GHG Emissions-free Mill: Energy, Power and New Technologies.” The presentation was co-authored by FPInnovations scientist Tatiana Rafione, and Natural Resources Canada scientists Luciana Savulescu, Etienne Bernier, and Serge Bédard.
“The goal for pulp and paper mills is to minimize GHG emissions. And several years ago, no GHG emissions would have been very unlikely or even impossible to imagine, but we are past the imagination stage and well into the implementation stage,” says Mateos-Espejel.
Eliminating GHG emissions requires a multi-pronged approach beginning with optimizing energy use, valorizing excess heat, and maximizing its recovery. The use of biomass to generate energy is an important step in lowering GHGs. Biomass supply differs by region and access to biomass greatly affects a mill’s ability to move towards net-zero GHG emissions.
Using biofuels instead of fossil fuels in lime kilns and using emerging technologies are more advanced steps towards GHG-free mills due to their significant capital investment. Research is being done on the use of lignin and renewable natural gas as alternative fuels to power lime kilns. Applying new energy-efficient technologies brings additional benefits. Mateos-Espejel says the emphasis is often on external energy devices such as heat pumps that increase energy recovery. Emerging technologies such as carbon capture hold promise.
FPInnovations’ partnership with CanmetENERGY
Mateos-Espejel’s presentation was based on the work FPInnovations and Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY have done in their joint integrated energy optimization studies. The partners analyze the way heat is used to determine where it can be recovered and better applied throughout mills to increase sales of green power, lower emissions, and support the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“It’s a progression from incremental to radical changes,” says Mateos-Espejel of the drive towards emissions-free mills. “There’s a sliding scale of what mills can do based on their economic reality.”