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Exploring ways of cutting back energy consumption in the paper and carton industry

The paper and carton industry has teamed up with Wageningen University & Research Food & Biobased Research to explore ways of making major cutbacks in its energy consumption.

Food & Biobased Research digs deep.
Loud van Kessel is senior process engineer at the Paper & Carton Knowledge Centre Smurfit Kappa Roermond Papier

One of the partners in the project is paper and carton manufacturer Smurfit Kappa Roermond Papier, where Loud van Kessel is senior process engineer. Van Kessel: ‘Food & Biobased Research is answering the questions that we can’t answer ourselves.’

Paper and carton is an energy-intensive industry, which accounts for around 7% of the energy consumption in the Netherlands. Loud van Kessel is convinced that, in order to survive in this competitive market, it is imperative to push down the energy costs: ‘That’s the only way we can continue in the long-term’.

Make the paper stiffer

The use and removal of water consume a lot of energy. Food & Biobased Research has collaborated with the Paper & Carton Knowledge Centre , Smurfit Kappa, and other paper manufactures, in an in-depth research project to find ways of reducing energy consumption. Van Kessel: ‘We looked at the possibility of making paper stiffer by increasing the volume of solid ingredients. That cuts the drying time and the water requirement.’

The only one with the right knowledge

The project significantly enhanced Smurfit Kappa’s knowledge – which is now being used to develop alternative formula for the production of paper and carton. Van Kessel is enthusiastic about the collaboration with Food & Biobased Research: ‘We’ve built up a strong history together. That’s because Food & Biobased Research is the only research institute with the right knowledge of our business. Whereas we, as a company, look at the bigger picture, Food & Biobased Research digs deep. They can answer the questions that we can’t answer ourselves.’

As an example, Van Kessel quotes the use of starch to improve bonding in fibres: ‘We knew from measurements that there were differences in effectiveness, but we hadn’t a clue about the reason. Analysis at Wageningen revealed that the problem was caused by the molecule division. The research team then shifted its attention to finding alternative raw materials.’

One question is towering above all the others on his list: ‘We still haven’t found how to make paper stiff at a relatively high level of humidity. That’s our quest. And we’re in hot pursuit’.

This testimonial was published in the Food & Biobased Newsletter - June 2011