New federal funding of $3.6 million will launch a collaboration between the International Paper Company and Via Separations Inc. for a first-of-its-kind filtration technology that cuts energy intensity and carbon emissions from the kraft pulping process.
International Paper (IP) will introduce the technology at its mill in Grand Prairie, Alberta, where it will utilize a separation process for black liquor waste recovery that reduces overall energy requirements by 50%.
Black liquor is the spent liquor generated by the kraft process, in which pulpwood is converted into paper pulp by removing lignin, hemicellulose and other extractable materials from wood to free the cellulose fibers.
Designed by Massachusetts-based Via Separations (Via), the new process displaces steam use in evaporators to increase the dry solids in black liquor. The new process also electrifies the separation and provides modular demand response for kraft pulp mills, translating to cost, energy and emissions savings for the facility.
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Via uses a black liquor pre-concentration system that increases concentration from approximately 15% to 30%, using 10% of the energy required by evaporators.
Overall, the improvements are estimated to save between $7 – $12 million per year for the mill through a 3-10% increase in pulp production and converting black liquor soap into crude tall oil, which can be used in applications such as biofuels for transportation.
“Via is decarbonizing industries today by changing the way we manufacture our most important chemical and material products,” announced Via Separations CEO Shreya Dave, in a statement. “The pulp and paper sector is a perfect focus for us due to its renewable products and focus on sustainability. Our collaboration with IP demonstrates their commitment to energy efficient solutions that boost the economy and create jobs.”
Via says its black liquor concentration system uses a “reverse-osmosis-like process” to directly remove hot, clean water from weak black liquor.
The pulp mill upgrades are funded through the Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT) program, which aims to create a more competitive and resilient forest sector focusing on low-carbon projects that result in new or diversified revenue streams.
Clay Ellis, senior vice president of Global Cellulose Fibers for International Paper, said “the project is a great example of our Vision 2030 commitment to reduce enterprise greenhouse gas emissions by 35% and ensure our manufacturing process is sustainable for generations to come.”