Treating pulp & paper effluents with customer care

The pulp and paper industry is among the leading industrial end-users for water and wastewater treatment. In 2000, Frost & Sullivan estimated it to account for over 8 percent of the total European equipment market sales.

By Saana Karki, Research Analyst
Water Group, Europe, Frost & Sullivan

March 30, 2001—The pulp and paper industry is among the leading industrial end-users for water and wastewater treatment. In 2000, Frost & Sullivan estimated it to account for over 8 percent of the total European equipment market sales.

With the continued need to improve its environmental credentials, the sector is expected to increase its share to above 10 percent by the end of 2010. This translates to an over 14 percent of the industrial market sales alone. Also, coupled with the predictions of a growing worldwide demand for paper, the buoyancy of this industry is spurring a rise in industry capacity and output.

Suppliers to the European pulp and paper industry are particularly positive about the overall investment in new machinery and infrastructure taking place in the sector as a result. The water usage rate of European pulp and paper mills vary from approximately 4,000 cubic meters to a phenomenal 100,000 cubic meters a day.

The general pattern of water use in a paper mill can be categorized by three types of activities: transportation medium and solvent; cleaning and washing; as well as sealing and cooling. The majority of plants in Europe tend to extract their water from the surface with many also relying on municipal water supplies, which tend to provide sufficient water qualities for the manufacturing process. As such, the on-site water treatment requirements are relatively minimal.

Generally, plants tend to invest in standard processes containing a filtration system and possibly some form of ion exchange, such as demineralisation units. Due to the nature of the manufacturing processes, the use of many chemicals, inks and bleaching results in high levels of pollutants and solids, such as cellulose, wood sugars, wood fragments, fibre and dissolved organics in the wastewater.

Such problems thus pose a far greater concern for the industry. Accordingly, the emphasis on water and wastewater treatment requirements is by far on the effluent side. The majority of plants have now come to realize the economic benefits of treating their wastewaters on-site instead of discharging it to public sewage treatment facilities. According to one UK paper mill: 'A typical effluent cost (when discharging to a municipal sewer) is about �1,000 per day with Yorkshire Water.'

The level of wastewater treatment investment in the pulp and paper manufacturing plants is closely driven by legislative specifications. The increasingly stricter measures, such as temperature limits, maximum levels of COD, BOD, suspended solids and other contaminants dictate the comprehensive treatment requirements and types of technologies likely to suit the industry. Currently, the development of the European IPPC (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) regulation from the European Union is expected to take its toll in all spheres of the industry.

As such, the pulp and paper sector continues to be highly opportunistic for many equipment suppliers. Furthermore, wastewater treatment requirements in this industry closely resemble that of municipal effluent processing, thus making it even more attractive to many suppliers familiar with the traditional solutions. The majority of pulp & paper manufacturers have already installed comprehensive wastewater treatment facilities on site.

A typical effluent treatment process would include primary treatment systems, such as separation, floatation, sediment or settlement tanks and secondary biological treatment equipment, such as activated sludge systems as well as sludge treatment processes, many of which include dewatering units. Most often tertiary treatment processes, such as chemical disinfection, pH control, flocculants and water softeners are also installed on-site. Also, technologies such as various bio filters, DAF units (dissolved air flotation), partial disinfection by electrolysis are employed by the industry.

Though wastewater and sludge treatment has been utilized for many years now in large parts of the pulp and paper industry, the extensive installed base is alone expected to ensure a high level of demand on a replacement basis. An average water and wastewater treatment plant in the European pulp and paper sector tends to be around 20 years old and various up grades are thus commissioned regularly. According to preliminary studies, an average mill today is expected to invest between $50,000 and $200,000 annually into replacing and maintaining their water and wastewater treatment plants.

Such budgets generally include standard chemicals, equipment components and system up grades. However, largest mills are quite likely to dish out over one million dollars a year, sometimes even above $2 million. Today there is an evident shift in strategic emphasis from geographical and organic expansion strategies into addressing the specific needs of customers, providing tailor made service and improving the service level in order to ensure competitive edge in such future markets.

'It [Design, Build & Maintain Contracts] constitutes a part of our choosing criteria for a supplier. We don't just want someone to sell and install us something and not to be there to support us if we have a problem.' (France)

Frost & Sullivan has recently started a Europe-wide study to explore the water and wastewater treatment demand in the most exciting industrial sectors, such as the pulp and paper industry. This customer analysis examines the treatment and technology requirements and investment plans in full detail as well as approaching the critical elements of product purchasing, supplier selection patterns, brand recognition and service level requirements.

The first deliverables of the Frost & Sullivan Industrial Customer Analysis Subscription Service (in the water and wastewater treatment market) will be the Microelectronics and Pulp & Paper reports, both available during April 2001. For more information please contact Frost & Sullivan's Water Group. For more information visit, or contact Kimberly Howard at 210.247.2488.

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