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Management Side
Technical Side

The future of US pulp mills

Heavy, heavy response:

Last week we asked: Do you think virgin pulp will still be produced in the United States in 2043?

75% YES

25% NO

Comments:

>The wild card is the dissolving pulp industry. high grade specialty pulps will still be produced here although there will be stiff competition from China and Brazil.

>But not very much. Your comments reflect my thoughts on the recent announcement about IP shutting down Courtland, AL. Seems like some use could be made of a permitted kraft mill.

>Too much fiber resource available to ignore. The pulping process may be the same, or it may be quite different, with some components of lignin being siphoned off for use at higher value than boiler fuel. That 1990 mill will be 53 years old. One the first pulp mills I worked with is almost 60 years old now, and still making fluff & dissolving grades at capacity. I don't think the pulp fiber market will grow much, but I think there'll be upgrades and mill replacements over time. It will be tougher to have a pulp industry career than it was for someone starting in the 70's, but not impossible.

>WITH GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PLANTS, PLANTED ON AN ANNUAL BASIS WHICH MATURE IN 12 TO 24 MONTHS, PULP WILL BE PRODUCED IN A VERY ACCEPTABLE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AND RENEWABLE WAY.

>If we have moved away from chemical break-down of lignin to biological, enzyme or other there is a future. The only way otherwise is true closed cycle. Both are possible now. With declining demand and tenacious holding on to old technology, the incentives are not there yet. Perhaps if the US were to start to purchase from abroad only from countries with similar environmental standards we would all benefit with our descendants

>Fluff pulp; 90% of the world's fluff pulp is produced in the southeast US. The key reason seems to be southern slash and longleaf pine grown in the coastal areas...so far, it has been difficult to match these fiber characteristics elsewhere in the world. It could be argued that these logs could be transported elsewhere...the counterweight is transportation costs and capacity.

>There will be some, but probably much less than today

>The U.S. has the trees, transportation, water, and energy to be the "wood basket" or "pulp basket" of the world. The METHOD of pulping may be different, but pulping is - I believe - here to stay. The industry has continued to upgrade itself with time and is radically different than when the last mill was permitted in 1989. I'm thinking ClO2 for Cl2, O2 delig systems, and medium consistency bleaching for example. Even re-causticizing and kilns have been improved. However, we WILL NOT be pulping in 2043 if salaries & wages continue to spiral down. There will be no incentive to stay in the industry. To me, this is a MUCH bigger problem than the technology.

This week's quiz is here.

Want to get a jump on the surveys? Follow me on twitter, where they are posted early. You can do this here. (note: all respondents are confidential; the software is programmed in such a way that neither we nor anyone else can determine who responded)

 

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Want to be heard on other subjects? Be sure to watch for "Paperitalo Second Tuesday Surveys."

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