Looking good in print: CHP and the use of biomass in the European pulp and paper industry

The energy-intensive pulp and paper industry is one of the largest users of CHP. Here, Danny Croon describes the growing use of CHP in Europe’s paper industry and examines the growing utilization of waste and biofuels.

by Danny Croon

A cost-efficient and secure energy supply is a key competitiveness factor for industry. The European pulp and paper industry is no exemption.

Combined heat and power (CHP) makes sense particularly where there is a coincident need for heat and power as in the pulp and paper industry. The European pulp and paper industry is one of the largest users of cogeneration technologies, mainly thanks to the coincident need of heat for drying paper and electricity for motive power. The pulp and paper industry is energy-intensive, but it is also energy-efficient. The high cost of energy (7%-35% of production costs) has always been a major incentive and continuous driving force to improve energy efficiency within the industry. This has mainly been achieved via CHP, giving 30%-35% energy savings compared with conventional technology.

The pulp and paper industry is a large user of CHP in Europe (StoraEnso)
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Figure 1 provides an overview of the on-site total primary energy consumption and fuel use by the industry in 16 member countries of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI). These countries are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland (starting from 2003), Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. These countries represent more than 90% of the market for pulp and paper production in all 17 CEPI member countries.

Increasing use of on-site waste fuels

The European pulp and paper industry has increased its on-site production of energy in order to safeguard a cost-efficient energy supply. But higher on-site energy production leads to higher primary energy consumption.

Figure 1. On-site total primary energy consumption and fuel use, 1990-2004
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The industry is the biggest single producer and user of renewable energy in Europe; on average, 51% of the energy produced on-site originates from biomass. This includes black liquors, wood and bark, sludges, used paper, methane from anaerobic digestion, tall-oil, methanol and other biodegradable materials.

Figure 2. Relative use of fuels for total primary energy consumption, 1990-2004
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The European paper industry has a voluntary declaration of intent to increase the share of biofuels for its total primary energy consumption to 56% by 2010 (the declaration does not include fuels for purchased electricity and heat). CEPI’s Declaration of Intent on Renewable Energy Sources (launched at the European Paper Week in November 2003) is a third-party verified voluntary commitment which has been welcomed by the European Commission.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per fuel consumption fell by 20% between 1990 (1 TJ led to CO2 emissions of 40 kg) and 2004 (only 32 kg CO2 emissions from 1 TJ) as a result of switching fuels to less or non-polluting ones in terms of CO2 emissions and a larger catch-up of CHP leading to an increased efficiency in energy production. Figure 2 shows the percentage of different fuels used on-site for total primary energy consumption.

Fuel trends by country

Over the last 25 years or so, the industry has switched from coal and fuel oil to natural gas and biofuels. The shares of biomass and natural gas in 1990 were 43% and 27% respectively; they had risen to 47% and 36% respectively in 1999 and to 51% and over 36% respectively in 2004. The shares of fuel oil and coal fell from 15% and 13% respectively in 1990 (10% and 6% respectively in 1999) to 6% and 5% respectively in 2004. The remaining fuel sources are mainly peat and wastes that cannot be considered as biomass. The share in total of this ‘other’ group has remained stable at between 1% and 2% since 1990.

A paper mill at Figueira da Foz, Portugal. To increase cost efficiency, pulp and paper makers have been increasing their production and use of on-site power using locally produced waste fuels (Portucel Soporcel)
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A more detailed analysis gives the following:

In 2004, the use of coal was very low in most CEPI countries apart from the Slovak Republic (19%), the Czech Republic (17%) and Germany (14%). However, the use of coal fell significantly in these countries between 1990 and 1999 (Slovak Republic: 39% to 33%; Czech Republic: 60% to 23%; Germany: 32% to 20%).

In 2004, natural gas was hardly used in Sweden (1%), while in Italy it is almost the only fuel used (97%). The same applies to the UK (91%). In Spain (65%) and Germany (61%), natural gas was also the most significant fuel used in 2004.

Fuel oil represented a 2-4% share for the majority of the countries in 2004. It was more significant in Norway (26%), Portugal (15%) and Belgium (12%).

The importance of biomass increases with higher production of chemical pulp. Consequently, the highest figures in 2004 are from Sweden (87%), Finland (75%) and Portugal (73%). Italy produces no pulp and biomass therefore does not play a role (1%). In general, paper recycling mills have a more limited access to biofuels and hence the share of biomass in Spain (28%) and Germany (21%), for example, in 2004 were not high.

‘Other’ fuels play a role mainly in Finland (6%), where peat is used as a fuel.

Growth in on-site power generation

Figure 3 shows the growth in on-site power generation between 1990 and 2004 for the same 16 CEPI member countries (Poland starting from 2003) as in Figure 1. The split between hydro power and CHP is also shown.

On-site electricity production amounted to 49.7 TWh in 2004 compared with 26.2 TWh in 1990 and 38.2 TWh in 1999. It rose by 90% between 1990 and 2004. This is more rapid than the production of market pulp and paper, which rose 54% during the same period. However, the European pulp and paper industry still purchased 66.3 TWh in 2004.

Total electricity consumption amounted to 116 TWh in 2004 compared with 87.1 TWh in 1990 and 106.3 TWh in 1999. Total electricity consumption has increased by 33% since 1990.

Electricity production has increased more rapidly than consumption as pulp and paper mills have become more self-sufficient in terms of electricity. While on-site electricity production in 1990 covered 30% of consumption, the share in 1999 was 36% and in 2004 it was 43%. Due to the current uncertainty about electricity supplies and the high prices, this trend is expected to continue and self-sufficiency will further increase in the future.

The Imara Mills paper plant in Finland. The country is one of the biggest users of renewable biomass as fuel (StoraEnso)
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Self-sufficiency in terms of electricity varies considerably between the countries. While the Spanish pulp and paper industry produces 50% more electricity than it consumes, the pulp and paper industry’s self-sufficiency in electricity in Norway is only 12%.

Figure 3. Total electricity produced on-site, and contribution from CHP and hydro, 1990-2004
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The share of CHP of the total on-site electricity production has also increased, amounting to 93% in 2004 compared with 87% in 1990 and 88.5% in 1999. Some 5% of the electricity was produced by hydro power and 2% by other means (such as small-scale electricity generators).

The pulp and paper industry is the biggest CHP producer in Europe. CHP’s share of total on-site electricity production is 10% in several countries; Belgium, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the UK used only CHP as a method of producing electricity in 2004. The figures for Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany and Italy are all > 90%. Hydro power is used by the Norwegian pulp and paper industry (61%) and to some extent also by the Finnish industry (11%). The Czech Republic, France, Germany and Italy also have some hydro production. ‘Other’ means of producing electricity is an insignificant and decreasing share.

Prospects for further growth

At the end of 2002, CEPI finalized a study under the EU SAVE programme that aimed to quantify the opportunity for further development of cogeneration in the EU pulp and paper industry. The study considered the substitution of existing high-pressure boilers by new gas turbine units sized to match the heat requirement of each mill. In this way, a substantial surplus of electricity compared with the mill’s demand can be generated (and in addition via a much-enhanced thermal efficiency). The specific additional avoided greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the incremental power generation amount to approximately 0.45 kg CO2 per kWh generated.

Although investment in CHP benefits the community at large, the relatively low cost of electricity and the relative high prices of natural gas in 2002 meant that, at the time of the study, existing cogeneration plants were operated sub-optimally and future investment was unlikely. This picture has changed with increased uncertainty about electricity supplies and the dramatic rise is the cost of electricity during 2005 coinciding with the start of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

The Kaipola mill in central Finland produces newsprint from recovered paper and pulp wood. The use of cogeneration at paper mills offers many environmental and fuel benefits (UPM-Kymmene)
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The European pulp and paper industry is an ideal partner to contribute to the cogeneration objectives of the European Union. It offers extremely long exploitation time, constant heat demand, minimum distribution losses of the electricity and heat produced, maximum exploitation of heat, increased security of supply, and a higher degree of net stability. However, this contribution can only happen provided some economic and structural conditions are considered and/or met. CEPI has therefore asked EU institutions to consider the following:

  • The combined use of heat and electricity should be recognized and supported. In its Biomass Action Plan released in December 2005, the European Commission wrote: ‘In combined heat and power plants, biomass can provide heat and electricity at the same time. The Commission encourages Member States to take this double dividend into account in their support systems’. This is a good start but logically, referring to a double dividend, this should also be the case for other fuels (such as gas) used within CHP.
  • Investments in new CHP units and in the operation of existing units should be supported. In general, all good-quality cogeneration (both existing and new units) should be supported via stable state support schemes over a longer period (15-20 years) and with financial compensation.
  • The amount of financial support should be based on the efficient production of process heat and the resulting optimal generation of electricity.
  • Competition between sustainable energy should be non-discriminatory. The most cost-effective technology (€/tonne CO2 saved) should be granted special support.
  • Industrial and municipal cogeneration should not be discriminated against.
  • EU policies should aim at ensuring that industrial heat demand is satisfied through good quality CHP.
  • Partnership between industry and construction/generation partners should be facilitated so as to share the cost of high investments (e.g. the repowering of existing CHP units).
  • Access to the electricity grid/sales networks should be facilitated and the grid access conditions and response times from the grid operators should be better defined.
  • The availability of the necessary commercial and technical infrastructure to enable the surplus electricity to enter national grids should be ensured.
  • Liberalized market mechanisms should not penalizecogeneration (better liberalization of the gas market).
  • The value of the emissions avoided (the so-called carbon value) by cogeneration should be recognized in all policies and measures, including in the Emissions Trading Directive (in National Allocation Plans). The Directive recognizes the value of CHP but without calling for a strong recognition of its carbon value. The risk is that emissions trading acts as a disincentive to CHP. CHP units should at least be considered as separate entities whose carbon value is recognized according to their heat and electrical efficiency and, as such, by primary energy savings or GHG emissions saving potential. Furthermore, when allocating allowances, pulp and paper mills should be considered as large producers and users of CHP electricity even though they do not always own the CHP units on their sites (or outside their plants) for various reasons (their core business is not energy production). But without the mills, which use the heat, the CHP units would not exist.

Room for Development

There is definitely further room for the development of CHP within the EU’s pulp and paper industry provided some economic and structural conditions are considered and/or met. EU policies should recognize the value of CHP technologies in general. They should also allow for subsidiarity (national or even local approaches), as there are differences in the populations that use CHP and differing potential in the various Member States.

Danny Croon is Environment and Process Manager at the Confederation of European Paper Industries, Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 646 81 37
e-mail: d.croon@cepi.org

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