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TCF and ECF:
Separating Fact From Fiction

The Alliance for Environmental Technology

September, 1994



Table of Contents

  1. Just How Fast are TCF and ECF Markets Growing?
  2. An analysis of an article entitled "Survey Shows Worldwide Growth in Mills Using TCF Processes" appearing in the June 1994 issue of Pulp & Paper.

  3. Is Retrofitting to TCF Manufacture Cost-Effective?
  4. An analysis of an article entitled "Effluent-Free Mills Possible with Existing Fiberline Equipment" appearing in the July 1994 issue of Pulp & Paper.




Summary

In a recent article published in the June 1994 issue of Pulp & Paper, Mr. Richard Albert of Parsons Main Inc. tries to create the impression that "... customer demand and tighter regulations in almost every country are driving many mills to implement non-chlorine and effluent-free technologies ..." The article makes assertions that are not supported by the data and important information is omitted. The article misrepresents the demand for TCF paper products and the growth of TCF pulp bleaching technology.

Critical analysis of the publication and important data, available to, but not included by the author, paints an entirely different picture. A more accurate conclusion is "... Customer demand and tighter environmental regulations in almost every country are driving most mills to implement elemental chlorine-free (ECF) bleaching, an "effluent-free" compatible technology ..."

This alternative conclusion is supported by the following facts:

  • Consumers in Europe and North America are demanding ECF pulp and paper products
    • ECF has captured 50% of the Canadian chemical pulp market
    • ECF has captured 25% of the US chemical pulp market
    • ECF has captured over 80% of the European chemical pulp market

  • Increasing numbers of mills are producing ECF
    • ECF is produced at all Swedish and Finnish mills
    • ECF is produced at 80% of Canadian mills
    • ECF is increasingly being produced in the US and Latin America

  • Environmental regulations favour ECF -- none presently require TCF

  • Operating economics favour ECF
    • ECF bleaching is $10-20/tonne less expensive



Introduction

In a recent article published in the June 1994 issue of Pulp & Paper [1], Mr. Richard Albert of Parsons Main Inc. tries to create the impression that "... customer demand and tighter regulations in almost every country are driving many mills to implement non-chlorine and effluent-free technologies ..." He claims this statement is justified based on four premises:

  • Consumers will continue to demand TCF
  • Increasing numbers of mills are producing TCF
  • Environmental regulations will require TCF
  • Operating economics will necessitate TCF
Critical analysis of the publication and data, available to, but not included by the author, paints an entirely different picture.




Customer Demand for TCF Products

Supply and Demand

Taking the supply-demand issue first, where the article states:

"... customer preference for TCF pulp continues to outstrip supply ..."

analysis of the data shows that rather than demand exceeding supply, the reverse is true -- supply far exceeds demand. This is easily determined by adding up the production capacity presented and comparing it to current worldwide output of TCF pulp.

According to the author [1], the productive capacity for TCF is 5.8 million tonnes, which far exceeds the estimated 1993 worldwide TCF production of 3-4 million tonnes [2,3,4]. Other estimates [5], suggest the worldwide TCF capacity is 10 million tonnes. This excess supply was confirmed by Dr. David Clark, President of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) who stated:

"... with recent capacity changes, TCF is increasingly supply rather than demand driven..." [4]

NLK Consultants Ltd., support this statement with the following:

"... TCF consumption is now driven much more by the suppliers than by the end users..." [5]

Customer Preferences

The article also states:

"... the European market has clearly stated that for a given paper product specification there is a strong preference for TCF pulp ..." and

"... Swedish and European customers accept lower brightness TCF pulp in preference to higher brightness ECF pulp, especially in personal products ..."

This is a sweeping generalization that is not based on the facts. If one simply examines the European paper production figures, it is clear that Europe favours ECF over TCF by an overwhelming amount. For example, of the 13 million tonnes of market pulp delivered in Europe in 1993, 10 million tonnes were ECF and only 1.8 million were TCF [4].

Brightness preference is by no means uniform in Europe. The Northern Europeans tend to accept lower brightness in personal products whether it is TCF or ECF. However, Southern Europeans prefer higher brightness, in fact higher than many North American consumers, again independent of whether the product is TCF or ECF.

In addition, if by personal products, the author means disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products, the market situation is misrepresented. There are little or no disposable diapers and feminine hygiene products on the European market manufactured from TCF chemical pulp. So how can they be preferred?




Increasing Numbers of Mills are Producing TCF

The article makes the following statement:

"... the number of bleached pulp mills producing TCF pulp has doubled to more than 60 (Table 1Ý and 2 ÝÝ) during the past two years..."

This is most curious when one examines Tables 1Ý and 2ÝÝ in the article. In Table 1Ý there are 55 mills and in Table 2ÝÝ there are only 2 additional TCF producers* for a possible total of 57. However, of the 57, 5 are mechanical mills and would never use chlorine or chlorine dioxide in bleaching, and as such are irrelevant in a debate regarding ECF or TCF technology. In addition, one mill listed is a pilot plant, one mill has been shut down for two years, and a further three have never produced TCF pulp.

The total is more likely 47 mills, and therefore only a modest increase from estimates prepared at the end of 1992, which showed approximately 35-40 mills producing TCF pulp [6,71. Stating that "... the number of bleached pulp mills producing TCF pulp has doubled to more than 60 during the past two years..." is not only incorrect but also highly misleading.

Perhaps more important is the statement:

"... Today, a growing number of BKPMs (Bleached Kraft Pulp Mills) are using these processes. Table 1Ý shows there are 55 BKPMs producing TCF pulp..."

Scrutiny of the table shows that only 25 BKPMs are producing some TCF pulp -- approximately the same total as in 1992. The balance of the mills listed in Table 1Ý includes 22 bleached sulfite mills and several mechanical pulp mills.

A further misconception is presented in this statement:

"... Sweden and Finland, with pulp industries sensitive to European market demand are converting rapidly to TCF production..."

This is simply not supported by production figures from those two countries. In 1994, two-thirds of Swedish pulp production will be ECF and in Finland, over 80% will be ECF [3].

A more accurate conclusion is that Sweden and Finland, with pulp industries sensitive to European market demand, are converting rapidly to ECF production!




Environmental Regulations Will Require TCF

The impression is given that tighter regulations will require TCF. This impression is fueled by the following statements:

"... And the US government has already stated its goal to eliminate all chlorine use in industrial operations..."

The US government has never made such a statement. Rather the US EPA asked Congress, as part of the reauthorization of the Clean Water Act, for authority to conduct a study toward developing a strategy on chlorine use. This recommendation was not included in the legislation. Furthermore, the new EPA proposed "cluster rule" for the largest sector of the US pulp and paper industry is based on a technology train that includes ECF (chlorine dioxide) bleaching.

The author also misrepresents environmental legislation in Canada. He makes the following statement:

"... while the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have established limits that reach zero AOX by the year 2005..."

For clarification, the B.C. regulation does not call for "zero AOX" but rather "elimination of AOX produced in the bleaching process." This could be achieved by elimination of effluent containing AOX i.e., an ECF bleach plant with an "effluent-free" process or implementation of TCF. Furthermore, the target date is 2002.

Ontario does not have a limit for "zero AOX." This is supported by the following statement from the Honourable Bud Wildman, Ontario Minister of the Environment:

"... I want to be very clear that, while the Ministry adheres to the goal of zero AOX, we are not proposing to regulate zero. In this respect, we are different from British Columbia..." [8]

It is important to note that in Sweden, Finland and Norway, there is no current or pending regulation nor goal of "zero AOX."

The author fails to produce a single jurisdiction in the world in which environmental regulations require TCF. His assertion that this is so is simply misleading and presumptuous.




Operating Economics Will Necessitate TCF

The article creates an impression that TCF provides operating cost advantages. The following statements are made:

"... Those manufacturers ... realized the operating cost advantage of using lower-cost TCF bleaching chemicals..."

"... The pulp and paper industry is learning that comparable TCF products can be manufactured at lower costs than with chlorine-based technology ......"

These two statements could not be farther from the truth. The industry is learning exactly the opposite. At the 1994 International Pulp Bleaching Conference, delegates learned that TCF pulp production, compared to ECF, increased operating costs by $10-20 per tonne in a variety of mill experiments and laboratory investigations [9,10,11].




Miscellaneous Errors and Misconceptions

AOX Emission from Pulping and Bleaching Configurations

The author's estimates of AOX after secondary treatment for various pulping and bleaching configurations are not in accord with the published literature. It is well known for example that for softwood pulp with conventional delignification followed by ECF bleaching and secondary waste treatment, an AOX discharge of 0.5 kg/tonne can be achieved [12]. This is substantially lower than the 4 kg/tonne shown in Table 4ý of the article.

In addition, a fibreline configuration of oxygen delignification, followed by ECF bleaching and secondary waste treatment can achieve 0.25 kg/tonne as opposed to the 1 kg/tonne shown in Table 4ý of the article [13,14].

More questionable is the difference between so-called "low-low" kappa cooking followed by oxygen delignification and ECF, compared to "low" kappa cooking followed by oxygen delignification and ECF bleaching. The author shows an 85% decrease in AOX generation with "low-low" as compared to "low" kappa. Since the generation of AOX is a function of lignin content and atomic chlorine applied, the impression created by the author is that the "low-low" case has 85% less lignin (i.e., the unbleached kappa no. from the digester is decreased from say 25 to 4!) This is impossible with today's technology.

The author also shows that TCF sequences have zero (0) AOX. This is not in accord with recent data presented by Dahlman et al. which showed a softwood TCF effluent contained 0.01 kg/tonne AOX [15].

ECF Processes

The author states that ECF bleaching "... further reduces , but does not eliminate, the discharge of toxic compounds..." This statement is in conflict with a published Science Panel report, "A Review and Assessment of the Ecological Risks Associated with the Use of Chlorine Dioxide for the Bleaching of Pulp." The report evaluated nearly 300 works on chlorine dioxide bleaching and made the following conclusion:

    "... mills bleaching with chlorine dioxide (100% substitution) and employing secondary treatment and with dilution typical of North American mills present an insignificant risk to the environment from organochlorine compounds..." [16]


References

  1. Albert, R.J., "Survey Shows Worldwide Growth in Mills Using TCF Processes." Pulp & Paper. June 1994.

  2. "The Impact of Environmental Issues on the Pulp and Paper Sector: The Latest Developments and Trends in Western Europe and North America." NLK Consultants Ltd. January 1994.

  3. "Trends in World Bleached Chemical Pulp Production: 1990-1994." Alliance for Environmental Technology (AET). June 1994.

  4. Clark, D., "A European Perspective." Proceedings, International Non- chlorine Bleaching Conference 1994.

  5. "The Impact of Environmental Issues on the Pulp and Paper Sector: The Latest Developments and Trends in Western Europe and North America." NLK Consultants Ltd. June 1994.

  6. Pearson, J., "More Tonnage Set to Reach Markets." Pulp & Paper International. March 1992.

  7. "Totally Chlorine-Free Pulp & Paper - European Supply & Demand Trends." NLK Consultants. January 1993.

  8. Letter from Bud Wildman to David Hamilton, Mayor of Thunder Bay, Ontario. November 1993.

  9. Helander, R., B. Nilsson and Bohman, "Development and Progress in Ozone Bleaching at the Skoghall Mill." Proceedings, International Pulp Bleaching Conference 1994.

  10. Mokfienski, A. and B.J. Demuner, "Pilot Plant Experience with Ozone in TCF Bleaching of Eucalypt Pulp." Proceedings, International Pulp Bleaching Conference 1994.

  11. Dillner, B. and P. Tibbling, "Optimum Use of Peroxide and Ozone in TCF Bleaching." 1994. Proceedings, International Pulp Bleaching Conference.

  12. Pryke, D.C., G. Bourree, S. Swanson, P. Kloepper-Sams and W. Owens, "The Impact of Chlorine Dioxide Delignification on Pulp Manufacturing and Effluent Characteristics at Grande Prairie: Effluent Quality Improvements and Ecosystem Response." 1994. In press, Pulp & Paper Canada.

  13. Clem, E. "Champion's OD100TM Process Performance Results. 1994. Proceedings, NCASI Technical Workshop "Effects of Alternative Pulping and Bleaching Processes on Production and Biotreatability of Chlorinated Organics."

  14. Thut, R. and H. Persinger, "Performance of Weyerhaeuser Bleached Kraft Pulp Mills with Extended and/or Oxygen Delignification and 100% Chlorine Dioxide Substitution." 1994. Proceedings, NCASI Technical Workshop "Effects of Alternative Pulping and Bleaching Processes on Production and Biotreatability of Chlorinated Organics."

  15. Dahlman, O., A. Reimann, L. Strömberg, and R. Mörck, "On the Nature of High Molecular Weight Effluent Materials form Modern ECF- and TCF- Bleaching." 1994. Proceedings, International Pulp Bleaching Conference.

  16. Solomon, K., H. Bergman, R. Huggett, D. Mackay and B. McKague, "A Review and Assessment of the Ecological Risks Associated with the Use of Chlorine Dioxide for the Bleaching of Pulp." 1994. Proceedings, International Pulp Bleaching Conference.


*The other 5 TCF producers listed in Table 2 are already counted in Table 1.

Table 1 - Pulp & Paper, June 1994: p.94, 97.

Table 2 - Pulp & Paper, June 1994: p.98.

Table 4 - Pulp & Paper, June 1994: p.101.

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