In early January, the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) hosted a meeting between industry associations and renewable heating experts in Brussels. The objective of this half-day workshop, co-organised by Solar Heat Europe (SHE) and the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA), was to bridge the knowledge gap between technology suppliers and users. “We have been satisfied with this first meeting. It allowed both sides to understand what each of them needs and has to offer, and it was very insightful and productive,” said Pedro Dias, Secretary General of Solar Heat Europe.
Photo: Solar Heat Europe
“The paper industry is the fourth-largest industrial consumer of energy in Europe and is expected to keep growing,” said Sylvain Lhôte, CEPI’s Director General. “We are looking for solutions to meet our energy needs; investing in efficiency is not enough.”
The pulp and paper industry is the fourth-largest industrial energy consumer in Europe, behind iron and steel, chemicals and petroleum refining.
Lhôte confirmed that there are pilot solar thermal and heat pump projects being implemented in the pulp and paper industry at different sites, saying that “the workshop was extremely helpful to discuss how we can ensure that the solutions offered by solar thermal and heat pump businesses become a mainstay in the paper industry.” Hence, more work lay ahead to adapt solar thermal to meet the very special needs of paper mills and to scale up systems, he added. He recommended that solar thermal and heat pump experts tour paper mills and take a thorough look at their requirements.
Set of solutions for broad decarbonisation
Natural gas provided 87 % of the fossil fuel energy consumed in the pulp and paper industry in 2017, totalling 11.13 billion m3. Coal was at 9 %, whereas fuel oil and other fossil energy sources amounted to 3 % each. Lhôte made clear that not one idea but a set of solutions would be required to solve the challenges of decarbonisation. They would include a switch in fuels, improved energy efficiency and new production methods.
Usually, papermaking involves bleaching, drying paper webs and recovering the chemicals used. All of these manufacturing processes, and more, need temperatures above 100 °C, which is well within the reach of solar thermal. “There are opportunities to build some demonstration solar fields, especially for preheating boiler feed water to up to 130 °C,” said Guglielmo Cioni, Vice President of Business Development at Swiss-based collector manufacturer TVP Solar and one of the attendees at the workshop. Still, paper manufacturers’ demand for heat was quite high and it would require large parcels of land to see solar collectors have a discernible impact on fuel consumption. According to Cioni, areas of that size were barely available in the European Union, but there might be better chances in non-EU countries such as South Africa and Mexico.
CEPI is representing Europe’s wood fibre and paper industry. According to its website, 495 businesses are members of one of its 18 national associations. Together, they run over 900 pulp and paper mills on the continent and produce paper, cardboard, pulp and other bio-products. They account for 22 % of global paper production, generate a yearly turnover of EUR 82 billion and employ more than 177,000 people.
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