29 January 2003

Squeezing more costs out of pulp and paper mills

New technology to improve water usage in the pulp and paper manufacturing process is now in the process of hitting the market.

The Alberta Research Council Inc. (ARC) will manufacture and market the thermal Colloid Analyser. The product is a combination of ARC-developed software and analysis tools and UV-Vis spectrophotometer hardware built by Varian, Inc. as a tool to help pulp mill operators better manage their water usage. The two companies said the technology will enable mill operators to improve measurement and control of the stability, concentration, and composition of resin by-products (or pitch) in papermaking process streams.

"We believe [this technology] will help mills significantly lower water usage through better management of the contaminants that foul machinery," said Ted Garver, manager, ARC's Aquantix Group. "This contamination and the resulting loss of production has been a long-standing problem in the industry," he said. The companies recognized and characterized the relationship between particle stickiness and the thermal response of light scattering of the pitch particles, he added. This advancement measures and controls particle stability in papermaking process streams, Garver said.

"Currently, mills perform this control measure manually in a lab. Using our technology, these tests can be performed faster, cheaper, and more accurately," said Garver. "We estimate cost savings for a mill to be 50% of their present costs, or approximately $250,000 per year."

Two patent applications have been awarded to ARC in Canada, the U.S., and worldwide. The same technology can also apply to manufacturing processes in the oil and gas, cosmetics, agriculture, and food processing industries, company officials said.