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Residual Stream from the Pulp- and Paper Industry can be Processed into Versatile Chemical

03 December 2021, 15:02

- This project is a great example of the transition to a circular economy, says Mikael Hörlin, Nouryon.

The transition towards a circular economy is one of the cornerstones in achieving the global climate goals. This means that resources must be used more efficiently and through new innovative technologies. For example, residual streams from the pulp- and paper industry can create fossil-free solutions for various applications in the chemical industry.    

Ethyl chloride is today used in the chemical industry as an input, among other things as a reagent in the production of thickeners in paint. In a cross-industry collaboration between Domsjö Fabriker, SEKAB and Nouryon in the EU project paperChain, the project partners have now succeeded in producing fossil-free ethyl chloride from fiber rejects for use in the chemical industry.

The chemical and forestry industries are two of Sweden's most important basic industries and account for about 20 percent of the exports. An increased demand for fossil-free products and a declining demand for paper in certain segments affect both industries, where the forest industry needs to supplement its existing product portfolio with new products, while the chemical industry strives to replace fossil-based materials with renewables. The paperChain project has shown that cross-industry collaboration creates new conditions for the development of new technologies and solutions. RISE Processum has had the role of project manager.

- At Domsjö Fabriker we always strive to develop our product portfolio to remain competitive but also to enter new markets. The paperChain project has allowed us to carry out such product development in close cooperation with both a potential new customer and research institutes. This cooperation has given us great insight to both the challenges and potential in our process, says Hanna Wiklund, Process Engineer at Domsjö Fabriker.

As a result of the production processes at Domsjö Fabriker, approximately 20,000 tonnes of fiber rejects are generated annually, which mainly consists of cellulose and hemicellulose. Fiber reject is a by-product of most pulp mills and is usually used for internal energy production. Part of the transition to a circular economy is to find new opportunities to further refine this type of residual streams. The new technology for producing ethyl chloride from the ethanol in the fibrous pulp has been developed in a collaboration between the chemical and cleantech company SEKAB and RISE Processum.

- Sekab strives to contribute to reducing the use of fossil raw materials in the chemical industry by, among other things, producing and marketing various types of ethanol derivatives made from bio-based ethanol. In the paperChain project, the development in that area has been concretized through a collaboration between the pulp mill Aditya Birla Domsjö and chemical industries in the form of Sekab and Nouryon. The pulp mill has a residual stream in the form of fiber rejects that can be converted to bioethanol. This bioethanol can then be used in the production of the chemical ethyl chloride by Sekab. The ethyl chloride produced can in turn be delivered to Nouryon, who in their work to find more sustainable solutions can use it in the production of cellulose derivatives, explains Erik Thalén, Plant Developer at SEKAB.

For Nouryon, who develops specialty chemicals for a variety of industries around the world, the new technology means an opportunity to replace previously fossil-based components with fossil-free alternatives. Ethyl chloride is used today, for example, as a reagent in the production of a cellulose-based thickener in paint.

- Our strategy at Nourion is to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions for society's needs, today and in the future. paperChain fits very well into this strategy, where Nouryon in Örnsköldsvik in the long run could raise the sustainability in our products. The project is a great example of the transition to a circular economy, where a residual stream is refined into a valuable chemical and leads to reduced consumption of fossil raw materials, says Mikael Hörlin, Process and Quality Control Manager at Nouryon.

PaperChain is a Horizon 2020 project and is now in its final phase. David Blomberg Saitton at RISE Processum has been the project manager for this part of the project and he sees great potential in the new technology.

- It feels fantastic that we have been able to bring together several industrial parties in a joint project where we have developed a new process based on a residual stream from the pulp production process for the production of a cellulose derivative. The project is multifaceted and the cooperation between all actors in the project has been a basic prerequisite for success. We have made great progress during the project period and intend to continue the development to reach an investment in the technology.



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David Blomberg Saitton

David Blomberg Saitton


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