A steadily smaller load on the environment: Metsä Fibre's Äänekoski bioproduct mill
Tom Nickull, Vice President in charge of technical customer service, Metsä Fibre

The new business logic demands a comprehensive cost-effective audit of high-quality raw materials, base paper furnishes, advanced production processes and a steadily smaller load on the environment. By Tom Nickull, Vice President in charge of technical customer service, Metsä Fibre

Sustainability, high-quality and raw material savings – these are the crucial principles needed to help customers adopt cleaner, more sustainable and more cost-effective production processes.

Metsä Fibre’s strategic objective is to produce high-quality products sustainably and to form partnerships that produce significant value to customers. The goal is to ensure that customers can use pulp as efficiently and sustainably as possible.

This means high-quality raw materials, base paper furnishes that are as cost-effective as possible, advanced production processes and a steadily smaller load on the environment. Business logic has taken on a whole new direction over the years. In the past, the only goal was to maximise the volume of pulp sold, but now customers are helped to achieve cost, resource and energy efficiency. ‘Less is more’ really is an apt catchphrase in this respect. To fulfil our aims, we must provide a lot more than just raw material deliveries – customers are now seeking to save as much water, energy and raw materials as possible.”

Higher quality with fibre comparisons and simulation

Pulp comparisons and base paper structural simulations are the first steps in technical added-value services. They are based on databases and simulation software used to compare different fibre pulp grades and their properties, as well as to assess the impact of changes on the properties of end products.

Tissue customers often look for softness, smoothness or strength for their products, such as kitchen towels. Based on these criteria, we work with the customer to find the best possible fibre combination. Simulation is usually followed by pulp refining audits and they provide a deeper analysis of fibre grades, resource efficiency and processes that save raw materials.

Simulations indicate the starting point for changes. Refining audits show everything that needs to be adjusted in the processes before the changes can be implemented on the production line. For example, an inefficient refining process that consumes a lot of energy can easily cause problems in other parts of the production process. This reduces the efficiency of machines, as well as material efficiency. Each fibre type requires a different kind of processing, and when this has been sorted out, everything else will also fall into place. Customers no longer have time for long test runs or unnecessary shutdowns.

Wet pulp: Each fibre type requires a different kind of processing

Pulp refining is a process stage that rarely receives enough attention. Maximising the performance of pulp fibre is one of the basic tasks for Metsä Fibre.

For example, if refiner fillings are not replaced frequently enough or if the filling is not suitable for the fibre type, this has a direct impact on the resource and energy efficiency of production. It can lead to extra costs of as much as half a million euros annually.

Audits shape the entire production process

The Fines Management Audit is the latest addition to Metsä Fibre’s customer service range. It goes even deeper into the customers’ production processes. In this service, we study water fractions and pulp fractions to determine how different fibres and fibre processing affect the customer’s water balance and water quality. They have a very great impact on the entire process, material loss, emissions and even safety at work.

If the management of fines on a tissue paper machine is inadequate, for example, dust and impurities will accumulate in the production process. This can cause various productivity problems and even dust explosions in the worst case. Fines also load wastewater.

Detailed report with improvement proposals

Pulp and water balances are surveyed with extensive sampling. When these data are combined with simulation and refining data, fibre treatment and costs can be optimised more accurately and comprehensively.

The changes that are proposed are based on elaborate analyses. The customer receives a detailed report on the present state of its paper or paperboard machine along with proposals for improving it. Typical development proposals include enhancing the use of retention agents, improving the management of extractives, assessing or modifying the refining method or changing the type of fibre.

The potential savings are also important. For example, if the retention of fines can be enhanced by 20%, this leads to annual savings running into hundreds of thousands of euros. When customers are in better control of the production process, efficiency also improves as a result of fewer disruptions and longer maintenance intervals. This is a service that other pulp producers do not offer. Audits and development projects have been eye-opening to customers. Closed-loop machines call for an improved retention of fines.

Customers benefit from the fibre supplier’s expertise

Technical customer service has given Metsä Fibre a more consultative role. It is not only the machines, chemicals and raw materials that must work well. We also need good personal chemistry because the customer ultimately decides whether to follow our recommendations. A responsible company image is really important in a consumer market such as tissue paper.

When should one consider expanding cooperation? Recurring downtime, as well as problems related to the efficiency, cleanliness and dust of machine lines are often good reasons. Customers can also turn to us if they want to develop new products or if the strength of their end product is not satisfactory, for whatever reason.

This article was written for TWM by Tom Nickull, Vice President in charge of technical customer service, Metsä Fibre.