At FPInnovations, we take an integrated approach to forest innovation by focusing on both forest sector growth and forest renewal. FPInnovations is the world’s largest private, not-for-profit forest research institute, and we work with North American forest industry companies to find new ways to keep them competitive by leveraging innovative technologies. I like to think that improving efficiency and productivity all along the forest products supply chain is not just good for our companies, it’s good for our forests.
The NIR Community from ASD Inc., a Malvern PANalytical company
Developed in cooperation with FPInnovations, ASD produced the industry’s first at-line analyzer for simultaneous measurement of Kappa number and brightness of wet pulp. The QualitySpec® K-B analyzer allows fiber-line testers and operators to take multiple Kappa number and pulp brightness measurements per hour from multiple process locations. As part of a mill’s process control strategy, this more effective method of measurement minimizes Kappa number variation, chemical costs and potential off-grade. The net results are lower raw material and fuel costs, and higher yield of more uniform pulp.
Wood is an incredibly dynamic renewable resource and as innovative opportunities for new wood-based processes and products emerge, we must strive to strike that balance of advancement and environmental sustainability. Canada-based FPInnovations is the world’s largest private, not-for-profit forest research institute. As Senior Scientist, I lead research teams with a common goal—to uncover ways to advance technologies that can make North American forest industry companies more competitive in the global marketplace. Nurturing technological advances that improve efficiency in industries that rely on wood is one of our responsibilities.
ASD recently attended the TAPPI PEERS Conference in Norfolk, VA to join the discussion on pulp, engineering and environmental issues facing the industry. As an exhibitor and sponsor, ASD has supported the pulp and paper industry for more than six years with solutions targeting issues mills are facing today…energy, environmental impacts and pulp quality.
At FPInnovations, we’re looking at new materials such as nanocrystaline cellulose, biomass energy and biochemicals to develop forest product applications for remote sensing on conveyor belts.
Our economy is wood-centric. We need renewable, sustainable material for multiple applications in construction, paper, tissue, fuel source, bio-chemicals, syngas and other advanced wood products. In the milling process, we emphasize value chain maximization; we use the entire tree including wood, chips, bark, slash, etc. Not only does this reduce our energy cost and increase the value of the material produced, it also reduces the mill’s environmental impact.
One of the fundamental elements necessary for process control and smart use of wood-centric materials is data! Data gathered using both reflectance and transmission spectroscopy can improve processes by reducing process variability.
Pulp & paper mills are designed to accommodate the flow of wood to paper and the back-flow of recycled chemicals. Wood is chipped, digested, bleached, washed and pulped before it’s made into paper. Throughout this chain we must recover the chemicals and energy latent in the byproducts. This begins the recycling process. Byproducts are evaporated, boiled and caustisized. Our kiln cycle is 95% efficient. During the recycling process, spectroscopy is used to analyze the chemical content of byproducts and measure whiteness of the pulp, lignin (energy content) of the byproducts and recycling system output.
Experiments were carried out with an ASD FieldSpec 3™ spectrometer coupled to an over-the-conveyor probe head. The probe head featured an automated internal calibration standard, which can be run at any time between sample analyses. Spectral data was an average of 128 co-added scans. A sample turntable consisting of a potter’s wheel and a tray completes the sample handling setup. During calibration development, mud samples were collected from the mill, sealed in plastic bags and shipped to FPInnovations for spectral data acquisition. Samples were spread over the tray and spun at a constant rate equivalent to 5 ft/s linear motion. The optimal distance from the sample to the probe was approximately 30 inches.
An example application of this process is our measurement of mud solids. Lime mud is a byproduct of the kraft pulping process for making paper. Mud goes in the kiln which burns off the water and then calcinates the lime. The key cost in this process is the gas used to burn off the moisture. Better moisture control (through spectroscopy) will reduce this cost.
We measure mud solids more often to control the process (mud can't be too dry or too wet). Faster measurement helps, as well as being able to measure other chemicals in the mud. ASD’s NIR technology is used to continuously measure water content and the visible band for chemicals. We monitor continuously and test the reference every 10 minutes. We calibrate with mill materials to control process variability.
Our results using this process so far have been positive. We are able to make predictions within 0.65%. This margin may help generate a universal calibration model. One of the factors contributing to that margin of uncertainty is the dust that accumulates on the conveyor. Supplementing the instrument with a shroud to protect it against ambient light and dust could make a difference.
We also realized that by feeding the processed spectrometer-derived results into the mud filter system revealed dynamics in mud moisture. We learned that some unintended effects of the filter-cleaning process were causing bad variability. But by using the data to understand process control and effects of changing operating parameters to improve the process yielded a better ROI. A one percent increase in mud solids leads to a one percent reduction in fossil fuel usage, which is a $500,000 reduction in fossil fuel costs.
Though adoption of reflectance spectroscopy requires more work, it reduces production costs (as much as $20-25 mil over 10 years) and raises the value of the mill’s product, which in turn reduces the mill’s negative environmental impact.
About The Author:
FP Innovations, Canada
Thanh Trung is Senior Research Scientist at Paprican. He works on the pulp & paper side of FPInnovations™ and is a member of the Applied Spectroscopy Society. He has numerous inventorships and co-inventorships of patents and has authored many papers.
FPInnovations – Paprican is a leading not-for-profit research and technology institute that provides valuable technology transfer and cost-competitive research addressing both the short-term and strategic needs of its members.
Dr. Alroichdi is a remote sensing expert, and represents ASD in the North Africa and Middle East remote sensing markets, selling the FieldSpec® 3 and FieldSpec HandHeld 2 spectroradiometer instruments. He is already very familiar with ASD, having spent four years in the research field and laboratory using a FieldSpec® instrument. By becoming an ASD distributor, Dr. Alroichdi complements his line of hyperspectral instruments and can further support his clients’ ground trothing work. Read more about Dr. Alroichidi’s remote sensing work.
A paper industry veteran, Wayne Bucher focuses on the Southeastern U.S. pulp and paper market for ASD. Over the last eight years as an independent process consultant, Bucher has built a reputation in working with mills to look critically at production processes and their level of technological reinvestment. ASD customers will benefit from Bucher’s experience in introducing innovative instruments and applications, such as the QualitySpec® K-B to measure Kappa number and brightness. Read more about Bucher’s experience in the pulp and paper industry.