Despite the shrinking demand for paper used for printing, the International Energy Agency forecasts a 1.5% annual increase in paper and paperboard production by 2030, due to the growing need for packaging and sanitary paper. This predicted increase in production has serious implications for energy consumption by paper mills — which are energy-intensive facilities using steam produced from fossil fuels. In a scenario to meet net-zero emissions by 2050, the pulp and paper sector needs to continue decoupling energy use from paper production by limiting its overall increase in energy use to 0.5% annually.
With over 500 kraft mills in the U.S. alone, pulp and paper is a growing opportunity for low-carbon technologies and processing equipment that improve energy efficiency. Kraft mills worldover use thermal evaporators, a century-old technology, to boil off and concentrate black liquor, a concentrated byproduct of the pulping process that contains solids and chemicals including sulfur species, lignins, and cellulose. Evaporation can represent as much as 35% of a mill's thermal energy demand. Masschussetts-based Via Separations has been working with customers to improve the energy efficiency and lower capital expenditure of the black liquor concentration step using membranes.
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