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Paper making in a low carbon economy

John G Rogers

*Corresponding author: John G Rogers john.rogers@bath.edu


Paper and pulp manufacturing industry produces versatile products from renewable feedstock that are easily recycled. It is the fourth largest industrial sector in terms of energy use. Much of the energy used comes from biomass derived fuels or high efficiency combined heat and power plants so the industry is not considered as carbon intensive. But at production paper making emits five times the CO2/tonne of steel; this is gradually removed from the atmosphere by the growth of replacement trees which can take between 7 and 90 years. This study reviewed existing literature to establish estimates for future energy requirements, and way that these could be met with minimum carbon emissions in a world where there are electricity grids with low carbon intensities, high recycling rates and growing demand for sustainable biomass. It was found that energy consumption could be reduced by 20% using technologies that have been demonstrated at an industrial scale. Most virgin pulp is made using the kraft chemical processing method. It was found that it should be possible to eliminate all fossil fuel use from this process, by combustion of by-product while exporting a small amount of electricity. Recycled paper is becoming the largest source of pulp. In this case the waste streams cannot provide sufficient energy to power the process, but process heat can be produced by burning some of the collected waste paper in steam plants or by using electric heat pumps. The energy needed to produce high quality office paper is nearly twice that required for non-deinked packaging paper. This couples with the lower pulp yields obtained with high quality pulp means that the environmentally preferred option for energy supply to the recycling process is dependent on the grade of pulp being produced.

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