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From pulp to end-product

Kemira is committed to being a strong, multitalented player in chemicals and chemical solutions for the global pulp and paper industry. The company believes that it can only succeed in this ambition by working closely with its customers, research institutes, and other partners.

Compared to its competitors, Kemira Pulp&Paper’s business is aimed at offering customers a broad range of pulp and paper chemicals – from bleaching to fibre treatment and paper coating – rather than concentrating on individual chemical components. The goal is very much to be a true solutions house.

As part of this, Kemira puts a lot of effort into understanding how its chemicals impact each other and how they work together in overall processes. And is switching its development work away from traditional product line thinking to a broader approach that addresses the entire value chain in different segments, from pulp through paper to end-product.

This parallels and complements customers’ own understanding of their processes, and helps ensure that Kemira can be a proactive partner for them in their product and process development.

To avoid a technology gap emerging when a product begins to come to the end of its life, it is important to decide in time whether the best route forward is to refine an existing technology or development something new.

This approach offers a lot of opportunities for new solutions in areas such as enhancing brightness, as this is something that can be controlled and modified from bleaching all the way to paper coating. In addition to bleaching chemicals for pulping, for example, Kemira Pulp&Paper can offer optical brighteners, colorants, and calcium sulphate for controlling the relative brightness of the end-product.

Working together, globally and locally

Partnerships – with customers and other partners, such as specialist suppliers of process technology and automation – are central to the company’s development projects.

The days are long gone when major savings can be achieved by fine-tuning just part of an overall process. Today, important technological leaps forward can only be made by working together.

R&D plays an integral, supporting role for Kemira’s overall business strategy and its goals in terms of organic growth and focus on growth markets.

Traditionally, Kemira has been strong in Northern Europe and North America. Kemira’s acquisition of the Lanxess paper chemical business, finalised in 2006, has given the company a stronger foothold in Central Europe.

To strengthen its position in Asia, Kemira opened a technology centre in Shanghai in 2007, and is planning to open one in South America in 2008. These join technology centres in Finland, North America, and Central Europe.

This reflects Kemira’s belief in the importance of being both a global player and having a local presence in its key markets.

While few of Kemira’s customers are truly global, many are active on the global playing field, and this means that all need a partner with global reach. At the same time, being present locally is essential to providing customers with solutions for their local needs and because raw materials and paper and board requirements can vary significantly around the world.

Collaboration with universities and research institutes in key markets also forms an important part of Kemira’s R&D effort. Kemira is also closely involved with other members of the forest cluster in Finland in discussing where research needs to be focused and improving research performance through better networking.

Keeping pace with new production technology…

Kemira is very much aware of forest product companies’ need to be able to get more productivity and efficiency out of their paper and board machines and production processes.

Machine and process speeds are increasing all the time; and pilot machines are already producing paper at over one and half times the fastest speeds offered by the best machines currently installed.

Processes are becoming more compact, and process stages more and more compressed. This increases their susceptibility to disruption, and means that chemical and process management systems need to become more and more sophisticated. Automation, sensors, and dosing are set to become increasingly critical factors as a result.

… and today’s costs

Raw material and energy costs are rising steadily worldwide, and keeping the impact of these costs in check is a central concern for many in the industry.

Producing mechanical pulp requires a lot of energy, and increasing the amount of fillers that can be added to mechanical pulp-based paper can help. Increasing the proportion of fillers used can also make a positive contribution to the cost of chemical pulp. When a tonne of fibre costs something over €500 and a tonne of non-organic filler around €150, it is easy to see what even a small increase in filler usage can do in cost terms.

Kemira’s calcium sulphate pigment and associated application and production know-how can also now provide better brightness and strength than traditional pigments – and achieve the same strength and brightness with less fibre. More advanced retention technology also enables the proportion of fillers used to be increased.

In terms of energy savings, many mills have done more or less all they can, and increasing filler usage is the most significant energy-saving measure that a mill producing wood-based printing paper from TMP pulp, for example, can make right now.

> Johan Grön
(Published in HighTech Finland 2008)