Close up of reams of paper inside a paper mill.

Paper and pulp

The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of virgin wood pulp and the second largest producer of paper and packaging products.

Despite over half (~56%) of energy being generated from renewable energy resources, it still accounts for 8% of total energy-related GHG emissions from fossil fuel-based energy used for process heating. EPIXC aims to address these emissions challenges by capturing significant opportunities for fuel switching to clean electricity and accelerating energy efficiency improvements for forest products decarbonization while supporting the rural economy and diversity by creating well-paying jobs.

Paper production is heat-intensive, mainly due to the large amounts of water to be evaporated in drying pulp, paper, tissue, and packaging products. The energy use varies by product type and whether the manufacturing processes are separated or integrated.

For example, integrated mills use recovery boilers for steam production from carbon-neutral biomass for electrical and process heating while regenerating the used cooking chemicals and minimizing waste. The temperature can vary widely from less than 200 degrees Celsius for process heating, at about 500 degrees Celsius for steam boilers, and 800 degrees Celsius or higher in lime kilns operations.

In paper mills, the drying section of the paper machine is the highest thermal energy consumer with many complex configurations such as multi-cylinder dryers (steam cans) for paper and packaging grades drying; Yankee and through air-dryers for tissue and towels products; and air caps and IR dryers for coated paper drying. The drying process temperature can range from average 150 degree Celsius for multicylinder dryers heated with low-pressure steam to 1000 degree Celsius for IR dryers powered by natural gas heaters.

Sawmills often use kilns to remove water from within timber to prevent shrinking or swelling during the manufacturing process. But many kilns use steam-based boilers to create the heat for the drying process, consuming large amounts of energy and releasing emissions into the atmosphere.