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Water is the critical element

Projects at the Kemira Centre for Water Research (KCWR) cover virtually all pulp and paper manufacturing processes, with a focus on long-term work concentrating on future products and strategic expertise. Other research work focuses on day-to-day problem-solving for customers.

Projects at the Kemira Centre for Water Research (KCWR) cover virtually all pulp and paper manufacturing processes, with a focus on long-term work concentrating on future products and strategic expertise. Other research work focuses on day-to-day problem-solving for customers.

The Centre for Water Research finances and organises various long-term development projects dealing with water circulation and treatment. About a quarter of these are aimed directly at the pulp and paper industry.

Almost all the work done at KCWR, however, including research dealing with municipal water treatment and basic research in the physical sciences, produces expertise and benefits for industrial customers as well.

Interrelated projects

Water is the basic element running through pulp- and papermaking. Containing both fibres and chemicals, water has an indirect effect on everything. The cleaner the water you use, the cleaner and the better quality the pulp and paper you produce.

“Controlling harmful matter is more and more important as the speeds of paper machines increase,” according to Mari Zahibian (left) and Riitta Laitinen of the Kemira Centre for Water Research. “Deposit control has also become more crucial as the quality of paper improves. Grade changes are becoming more frequent, and new pigments are needed to improve runnability.”

More than a dozen research projects funded by KCWR are under way currently.

As water research touches upon virtually every aspect of the entire pulp and paper manufacturing process, KCWR work is linked to many projects carried out by its sister organisation, the Kemira Competence Centre for Fibre Line.

Research projects are carried out with funding from either business units or KCWR itself, with the latter focusing on projects lasting between one and three years. The overall aim is to increase expertise, bring new products to customers, and build concepts.

Researchers at the Centre draw on input from Kemira's business units, customers, technology strategies, and partners at universities. Legislation, particularly environmental regulations, which are getting tighter all the time, is also an important input.

Understanding processes better

Ideas are grouped into project portfolios, which are monitored by Kemira's corporatelevel Board of Directors.

Central research areas at the moment include the treatment and pitch removal systems used in internal water circulation in mechanical pulping; water purification in recycled fibre production; and developing water analysis from the pulp and paper production water standpoint.

Kemira has developed functional tools for identifying the organic and inorganic matter contained in treatment water more accurately, for example, giving the company a better understanding of why something works or does not work in practice. In many cases, the chemicals themselves are largely the same. In differentiating a chemicals supplier from its competitors, what counts often lies in how they are used.

One of Kemira's ultimate goals is to increase its understanding of process stability. Better control over undesirable matter results in more stable processes. Although the main focus of work at the Centre for Water Research is on pulp processes, its research results have also been used in wet end chemistry, such as deposit control and retention.

Identifying the harmful and useful matter dissolved in water provides more opportunities for developing methods for their prevention, handling, or reuse. Useful matter, such as hemicellulose, can be retrieved, while preventing harmful matter from dissolving into the water.

Better water treatment

Supporting biological water treatment plants with chemical solutions that combine the best features of both treatment methods is a new field of study for KCWR.

As mill production capacities keep increasing, wastewater treatment plants needs to keep up. Mills are using less water, which results in high impurity levels in wastewater. Chemical treatment systems that used to work effectively before cannot always cope with this, or stop working altogether.

The alternatives are either to invest heavily in biological treatment, or increase the performance of biological treatment plants by chemical means. Not surprisingly, current trends favour the second option.

> Kaj Jansson
(Published in High Technology Finland )