Paper manufacturer turns waste into oil

Paper manufacturer Essity has, together with Alucha and University Twente, built a test plant which should process waste from the production of paper into oil and gas. These products will be used for the heating of the plant. This way the paper waste will not have to be disposed, but will become useful.
When recycling used paper to new products (such as tissues) a lot of grey sludge remains. The sludge consists of fibres, fillers, plastics and metals. This sludge is currently being disposed to cement and stone manufacturers, with very little added value, or it goes to the waste disposal facilities. Essity, producer of paper and hygienic aid materials wants to change this. It has been working on a method to convert the waste into usable products for a few years now. The first test plant for the pyrolysis process is now read in Arnhem (the Netherlands).

Convering pulp into energy is not simple. After drying the pulp it is heated to 500 degrees Celcius in a low oxygen environment. In this pyrolysis process long chains of paper are broken down into small pieces and a mixture of hydrocarbons. From these pyrolysis gasses and oils can be used usefully, they are immediately burned to heat the plant. Paper roughly consists of fibres and minerals. The minerals survive the pyrolysis process so that they can be re-used. According to Essity these minerals contain enough calcium carbonate to be recycled for producing new paper. It also works as filler which gives paper its white colour.

Useful materials
The paper manufacturer kills two birds with one stone, because he doesn´t have to dump the waste (with the CO2 produced by the trucks) and the waste delivers useful materials. Because less fossil fuels are necessary thanks to the pyrolysis gas and oil the CO2 emissions of the complete production process are lower, as much as 20%. The test plant can process 100 kilo of dry sludge per hour. Essity remains vague about how much pyrolysis gas and oil this produces. In any case this depends on the type of paper the company recycles. The company wants to build a bigger version of the plant within the next two years which should be able to process 1500 kilo of sludge.

The installation was based on knowledge available from the University Twente, where a lot of research had been done into pyrolysis. In Hengelo, also in the region of Twente, Empyro has a plant which uses pyrolysis to transform woodchips into oil and gas. The heart of hte process, the pyrolysis reactor, is just a bit different from Essity´s project.

Arthur Lubbers

Arthur Lubbers, freelance journalist/tekstschrijver, schrijft zowel commerciële teksten als journalistieke artikelen, voor print en online. De liefde voor grafimedia en communicatie is sinds zijn tijd als vakredacteur bij Uitgeverij Compres nooit meer verdwenen, zo blijkt uit zijn blogs, tweets en artikelen. Ook te vinden op

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