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Wet end chemistry helps NewPage save water & energy

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Wet end chemistry helps NewPage save water & energy

May 20, 2012 - 16:00

BRUSSELS, May 21, 2012 (RISI) -The management team at NewPage Wisconsin Rapids (Rapids), WI, paper mill continuously searches for ways to improve the sustainability of the mill, ranging from expanding upon local forest certification, reducing water and energy consumption to returning ever-cleaner water to the river. What they are particularly good at is what some refer to as manufacturing-based sustainability, which focuses on maximizing the efficiency of mill processes.

Late in 2010 they saw an opportunity to reduce formulation costs, improve productivity, and save water and energy by making two simple changes on PM 16. While some risk was involved to day-to-day operations, they chose to switch to advanced retention chemistry, followed by the installment of injection technology just prior to the headbox.

What made these changes potentially more complicated was the fact that PM 16 produces a wide range of grades from lightweight to heavyweight, as well as variations in sheet properties. As a company, NewPage produces 560,000 tons/yr of coated, specialty, supercalendered and uncoated papers for high-end commercial printing, direct mail, publications and digital printing.

The Rapids team Gary Gordon (left), Jason Jones (center) and Peter Koeppen at the polymer TrumpJet station

Manufacturing based sustainability in action

According to Tom Haferman, Wisconsin Rapids purchasing manager, "It's important for our short and long-term sustainability efforts to be cost effective for production. We also have an ongoing need to be better than the competition. As part of our style to innovate, our team began to seriously discuss entirely new mixing technology and chemistry, aiming to reduce costs and environmental impact. We saw a way to make immediate gains, but also open the door for alternatives for other raw materials. Every day that goes by we keep moving forward, and are looking at entirely new ways to optimize further."

Says Brian Kozlowski, director of sustainable development at NewPage, "Sustainability is always about balancing costs, environmental performance, and social implications, while also focusing on our customer needs and expectations. The mill made a lot of environmental improvements in the seventies, eighties, and nineties primarily driven by regulatory requirements. Our recent step forward is big because the benefits are far reaching - reducing the use of chemical, water and energy at the same time. This is a win-win for suppliers, our company, the community, and even our customers, and shows the power that we can achieve when we work together toward common goals."

The sustainability report card

The Rapids PM 16 team exceeded project objectives for overall cost reduction, maintaining quality of all grades. Equally important, these gains have a direct correlation to sustainability. Because energy usage declined annually by 50,000 MMBtu's, this correlates to a 2,750-tonne reduction of CO2. The annual 80 million gallons of water saved equals enough water to supply 1,500 people per year.

First, they switched to a simple, proprietary 4th generation nanoparticle colloidal silica sol and polymer based system, yielding quality benefits, as well as steam, energy and chemical savings. Next a dual TrumpJet injection system lifted performance even higher, because rapid, intensive mixing capability allows for the nanoparticle silica sol and polyacrylamide additions to evenly disperse throughout the stock in just seconds.

Rapids mill manager Mark Swenson observes, "Our Lean Six Sigma team conducted trials and saw potential for running smoother, and saving freshwater and energy. Not long into the trial process, it became apparent we would meet expectations. In fact, we did even better than anticipated."

Swenson points out that it's not easy to find capital to modify a paper machine in the current economic climate. Being a Six Sigma black belt himself, he saw the value of the Six Sigma method to raise efficiency, improve quality and improve on environmental performance.

Mark Swenson, NewPage Wisconsin Rapids mill manager