Looking back over the last several years, the Canadian northern bleached softwood kraft (NBSK) pulp industry has been on a roller coaster ride.
Metsä – the epitome of sustainable forest-based business
Metsä is not only the Finnish word for forest, but also the name of a Finnish cooperative owned by 90,000 Finnish forest owners that collectively own over half of Finland’s private forests.
From breadmaking to bleaching
Cake batter can be easily mixed with a wooden spoon, but bread dough, with its higher solids content, requires a lot more energy to be properly mixed. Similarly, wood pulp becomes more difficult to mix with bleach liquor as the solids content increases, requiring higher mixing energy.
Textile fibres – animal, vegetable, or mineral?
Since humans first clothed themselves, clothing has changed a lot, especially in the last 100 years. Today, considering the number of humans on the planet, it is more important than ever to consider the sustainability aspects of the fibres and processes used to make that clothing.
Anomera nanocellulose – from university lab to commercial product
Sometimes the barriers put up by intellectual property lawyers to protect their invention lead to innovation that results in the development of a better product by its competitors. This was the case with the carboxylated nanocellulose product now being produced by Anomera in Temiscaming, Quebec.
PaperWeek 2022 virtual conference well-attended
For the second year in a row, PAPTAC’s annual Paperweek/BIOFOR conference was held virtually. Last year’s virtual format hosted on Microsoft Teams resulted in very high attendance by mill personnel and this year was no different – out of 969 registrants, 741 were from paper companies.
Tree DNA: from sex to violins
A few years ago I was at a roadside viewpoint in Utah looking at a slope covered with poplar trees whose leaves were starting to turn yellow in the cold October air. An interpretive panel pointed out that while different shades of yellow could be seen in different groups of trees, all of the trees in each grouping were exactly the same shade of yellow.
The role of enzymes in a biorefinery future
The 2021 Nobel prize for chemistry was awarded to Benjamin List and David MacMillan, who independently discovered organocatalysts about 20 years ago.
The joy of math in the pulp and paper industry
Some children are reluctant students of mathematics; they’re not interested in learning equations they don’t think they’ll ever have a use for. I find there’s something magical, however, in plugging numbers into an equation and coming up with an answer – like solving a puzzle!
Deep Decarbonization and the Pulp and Paper Industry
In his book published in early 2021, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”, Bill Gates points out that the world is currently adding 51 billion tons per year of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in order to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the increase in global temperature by only 1.5 °C.
The Evolution of Innovation in the Paper Industry
In a recent blog post, I discussed the importance of using the scientific method in evaluating new products. My historical reference to the origins of the term “snake oil” provoked some interesting reactions, but it was a device to attract the attention of readers, and apparently it worked!
Snake Oil or Miracle Product?
The use of “snake oil” as a derogatory phrase traces back to the late 1800s when "patent medicines" were often peddled by travelling salesman or on the back pages of newspapers, promising to cure a wide variety of ailments, with little proof of their curative powers.
Process Modeling to Save Energy
As everyone knows, it’s difficult to manage a process if you can’t measure it. This is particularly true of energy management in a pulp and paper mill, especially when dealing with steam flow meters, which are notorious for sometimes giving inaccurate measurements.
Green chemistry in the pulp and paper industry
The colour green is associated with many things, including jealousy and inexperience. But for most of us the first association is probably “natural”. This is the idea behind “green chemistry”, which is a concept that has first developed about thirty years ago.
Managing Covid-19 risk in a production environment
The world has changed in the last few weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those of us who live in a city are dealing with the lockdown by working from home and only emerging to exercise and buy groceries. But what’s it like for large companies operating production facilities in the forest products industry?
Cellulose filaments – from lab to reality
Resolute Forest Products recently announced a $27 million investment to build a 21 tonne per day cellulose filaments plant at its Kénogami paper mill, to start up in 2021.
Hoshin Kanri, a tool for strategic alignment
If you’ve worked for more than one employer in your career, or even for the same company under different leaders, you’ll be very aware that when goals are not very well defined, productivity can suffer, and you and your colleagues could even be working at cross-purposes.
Tree Plantations – the good, the bad and the ugly
Last year I had the experience of driving along the east coast of South Africa north of Durban. For most of the journey, the surrounding land had rather scrubby vegetation: widely-spaced bushes.
Reducing the carbon footprint of pulp and paper production
There are two good reasons why the world should be focused on reducing carbon footprint. The first, obviously, is to slow the effects of global warming and the drastic consequences it has for the planet’s future. The second reason, sometimes forgotten or ignored, is that non-renewable or fossil resources will run out, possibly as soon as 2060.
Unstable sensors and control loops
The crash earlier this year of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max that took the lives of all passengers and crew aboard appears to have been caused by the combination of an angle-of-attack sensor that was sending an incorrect signal and control software that reacted to this signal, not allowing the pilot to override it.
Automation and Employment
A sign at my local courier office seems to claim that there is a shortage of robots to replace humans. In fact, the situation is the reverse. Currently in North America, in many industries, there is a shortage of humans to carry out jobs that cannot be automated.
Papyrus – the first writing material
The movie Black Panther uses the premise that a small nation in Africa is well ahead of the rest of the world in developing new technologies.