A Passion for Green

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A Passion for Green

February 12, 2014 - 06:05
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Deborah Marais & Percy Jaquess

PPI looked at the decision-making process Buckman undergoes before a new product is introduced.

In this article, PPI will focus on new technology. One of the main points that Buckman personnel emphasized in the course of the interviews was the importance of sustainability and “green chemistry”. The company has won two US EPA Presidential Green chemistry awards for their enzymatic products. Work is also ongoing across the board with similar sustainability initiatives such as the elimination of volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Since its founding in 1945, Buckman has been committed to the idea that chemistry not only solves problems but also creates new opportunities. It has been dedicated to gaining a deeper technical understanding of the products its paper customers produce. It remains customer-focused, working hands-on and on-site, improving processes, and applying new chemistries.

Buckman is global, serving customers in more than 90 countries including the Americas, Europe, the Pacific Rim to the Middle East and Africa.

The company also takes sustainability seriously. “Sustainability doesn’t start in a forest. Or on a shore. Or in the air. It starts in us. In our desire to safeguard the future. In our understanding that saving energy, water, and resources saves money, enriches lives, and bolsters hope. But passion is not enough. It must move from the heart to the head and finally to our hands. Only then can we measure it. In the work we do. In the goals we set. In the progress we make. In the people we touch and the resources we don’t touch.” From Buckman’s Transparency 2012 Sustainability Report.

Buckman continues to work towards a sustainable future and is committed to working with its customers to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment. Buckman offers greener chemistries like enzyme-formulated products to reduce energy usage, carbon dioxide footprint, or VOC emissions. Buckman helps customers reduce their environmental impact using its Reinforce approach to optimize the entire production process to achieve higher recycled fiber yield while improving effluent characteristics. The company also has a proprietary sustainability calculator that enables them to measure the environmental impacts of their chemistries at customers’ sites.

George Thomas is product manager biocides and deposit control in the North America Strategic Marketing Group. He is responsible for the Busperse® and Busan® product lines that include biocides, boilout chemicals, pitch control, felt conditioning and stickies. He discussed how regulations are an ever-increasing part of doing business. “More and more, global regulations have an impact on what we’re doing in the US,” he explains.

Another aspect is the customers’ response to environmental, health and safety issues. “Increasingly, they want products that are sustainable (according to their definitions) and safe. All of this information needs to be taken into account with product development,” Thomas says. “For example, how can you clean a paper machine felt while eliminating the use of harsh compounds to reduce a product’s environmental impact and safety concerns? This is what drives R&D efforts.”

Thomas adds that Buckman’s US EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Awards originated with proactive efforts to continue developing greener technologies. “But sometimes we must also react to regulatory changes“. For example, the US government recently changed the way it looks at Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS), which meant that Buckman has had to review its product line and make any necessary changes to proactively ensure customer compliance with the regulations.

As noted, there is an initiative in some countries to reduce or eliminate VOCs from the paper making process. Thomas admits, “This will take a lot of effort on the part of papermakers and chemical suppliers to achieve, but great progress has been made to date.” As an example, Thomas says Buckman is developing organic solvents based on agricultural raw materials to clean stickies off dryer cans and fabrics. These are to replace petroleum-based products.

Work is also ongoing in addressing the issue of stickies. Although paper producers are decrying the reduced quality of secondary fiber, Thomas notes that poor quality has always been a factor. In terms of secondary fiber, one issue the industry is facing with respect to stickies is that adhesive manufacturers are developing more sophisticated glue products, making it more complex to remove them. Buckman is responding to these challenges with new, improved technologies. Thomas continues. “We are always looking for a better way. Continuous improvement is the objective.”

Turning to enzymes, Thomas says Buckman pioneered the use of enzymatic technologies in the pulp and paper industry. Use of enzyme technology is recognized as a strong contributor to meeting environmental and safety sustainability goals in many industries. Today Buckman is the leading supplier of enzymatic technologies to the pulp and paper industry, with close to 500 applications globally. Buckman’s enzymes are being used in more and more novel ways in order to meet operational and quality targets for its customers, such as felt conditioners, fiber modification, deposit control, boilouts, stickies control, bleaching and waste water treatment for improvements in process efficiencies. Enzymes are also used to improve paper qualities such as strength, porosity, brightness, opacity and bulk.

Deborah Marais, group manager – biotechnologies, and Dr. Percy Jaquess, senior biotechnology research scientist, both work in R&D. Echoing what Thomas said, Marais and Jaquess say a lot of work has been done in the application of different enzyme packages that contribute to various pulp properties, not just one, for example, strength and drainage.

Product development and expanding applications work hand in hand. Specialists can work with customers in a mill and then come back to the lab for further product development. For example, Marais explains, “A mill may want to reduce energy consumption, but we may also be able to help in other areas such as fiber substitution.”

Enzyme biotechnology has advanced greatly since the 1990s. Although enzymes may not seem to be an obvious solution to a mill, Jaquess says, “Here, we can see where enzymes could work in various parts of the process.”

Initially, the focus of enzyme application was on biodispersants and starch system cleaning, followed by starch modification, pre-bleaching, stickies and pitch control, among other applications. Later research has been focused on using cellulases for fiber modification.

Enzymes can reduce problems that in the past may have necessitated more equipment, e.g., screens and refiners.

Present research is looking at enzymatic approaches in different areas of the pulp and paper- making processes. “Everything is always changing,” comments Jaquess, “furnish, machine speed, so we always need to stay ahead of the game.”

“We’re working from one end of the process to the other,” Marais adds. “For example, the problem with sludge is weight; if we can reduce it, there is a big return for the customer.”

The truth is that the potential for enzymes has not been fully tapped and the “what if” factor leaves room for much more exploration.

Biocides also continue to be a key focus of research. Introducing new biocides can be problematic because of enhanced regulatory requirements, which is a global phenomenon. “It seems like we receive new regulatory notices every week,” Jaquess says. “We need to know each country’s requirements so we can develop truly global products that meet our customers’ needs.”

Still, they say, greener biocides are on the way.

There are other products besides enzymes also in the works as Jian Tan, senior development specialist in R&D, points out. Overall, no matter the product, the emphasis is on greener and more sustainable chemistry and technology, what Tan calls, “Buckman’s color, passion and promise.”

One of the specific areas where Buckman is continuing to innovate is in Yankee coating chemistries. Buckman has a developed and patented multiple chemistries for the creping process including greener releases and adhesives. “We have cutting edge projects for new tissue products in all stages of development from feasibility through to field trials at this time,” says Tan.

Recycling paper into new paper products is a sustainable initiative that has continued to evolve over several decades. The chemicals used are also evolving. There is a new deinking product, BRD® 2361, which, says Tan, is “greener, based on a naturally modified raw material and comparable with conventional chemistry, yet biodegradable.”

Chemistries to aid in pulp production and bleaching are also becoming greener and more sustainable. A next generation cooking aid to help break down lignin is also being worked on since the anthraquinone has been removed from the BfR approval list for food contact in Europe. Buckman is routinely introducing new, greener enzyme-based bleaching products and new, greener chelant products for metals management as a result of Research and Development efforts.

Tan explains that the product development group is not just focusing on the development of new technologies but also developing test methods to evaluate and predict new product performance in the lab. This is important because results in the field need to replicate lab results to increase product launch success. For example, the group has developed a tack test for Yankee coating applications which helped develop and sell new technologies very successfully.

Buckman’s focus on greener, more sustainable products is yielding a treasure trove of new bio- technologies to help paper manufacturers conserve energy and valuable raw material.