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Agenda 2020: delivering value, improving industry economics.

Nearly 10 years ago, U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary challenged the forest products industry to find ways to make its mills more energy efficient. That challenge became Agenda 2020, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the American Forest & Paper Association. The program--still focused on improving the industry's economics--now also involves the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation.

The process began with company Chief Technology Officers (CTO) determining the desired characteristics of a mill in 2020. Through six task groups, CTO assessed current technology, identified future technology needs, and crafted a pathway for research and development to close the gaps. DOE and CTO chose the most promising avenues for R & D. The research proposals required matching industry funds of 20% for research to 50% for demonstration projects.

After five years, total funding was US$ 30 million, and the research showed promise in closing small gaps between current technology and future technology needs. Then, in 2000, during an Agenda 2020 status review, industry CEOs issued a challenge. They asked the program to focus on achieving breakthroughs that no single company could do on its own. In essence, they asked Agenda 2020 to reinvent the forest products industry.

The first step in meeting the new challenge was to convene a Technology Summit at which 150 scientists, visionary thinkers, builders and operators, suppliers and service providers, and policymakers identified major breakthrough possibilities. Program task groups were restructured and expanded, a portfolio of existing projects was aligned, a new project management process developed, and a project/portfolio evaluation tool was customized to Agenda 2020 needs. All this was foundational work that gave the program better tools to identify and evaluate opportunities. And it's paying off. Six new breakthrough platforms have been identified:

* Fiber Recovery and Utilization

* Manufacturing Technologies

* Positively Impacting the Environment

* Advancing the Forest "Bio-Refinery"

* Advancing the Wood Products Revolution

* Technologically Advanced Workforce

The platforms were chosen for their high value and low risk. If Agenda 2020 is successful in commercializing 25% of these breakthrough technologies, annual industry net cash flow would increase by around US$ 9 billion. Average industry net cash flow for the past five years has been US$ 9 billion.

One such technology is Black Liquor Gasification, a replacement recovery technology that could result in an additional 30 gigawatts of power and an increased cash flow of US$ 2 to US$ 6 billion a year. A high-temperature gasifier is operational at Weyerhaeuser's New Bern facility, and a low-temperature unit will begin operation in 2004 at Georgia-Pacific's Big Island mill. This technology replaces Tomlinson furnaces that produce only steam and recovered pulping chemicals. Gasification provides a hydrogen-rich gas that can be used to generate steam, power, liquid fuel, and even certain chemicals currently manufactured from petroleum.

Another project that would require almost no capital investment is Screenable Pressure Sensitive Adhesives--a PSA that can be removed in recycling facilities. This could save 10 trillion BTUs, boosting cash flow by US$ 107 million per year. Boise Corp. and H.B. Fuller are pursuing commercialization.

Hemicellulose Extraction and Use is another breakthrough in which chips go through a water extraction stage before pulping. This "light liquor" is processed to produce ethanol, thus boosting by 25% the product value from wood with a potential annual revenue increase of US$ 1 billion.

A project called "green liquor pretreatment" is another breakthrough with small projected capital costs. Green liquor from pulpwood possesses increased penetration and lignin removal capabilities. Injecting it into continuous digesters early in the process increases yield and lowers heat requirements for pulping. This technology could save 20 trillion BTUs for a cash flow increase of US$ 440 million per year.

The Gas Technology Institute (GTI). Boise Corp., Detroit-Stoker Co., Reaction Engineering, and Sargent & Lundy are developing a boiler retrofit technology that saves energy, increases boiler capacity and reduces gaseous emissions. Broad application in the forest products industry could save more than US$ 134 million in energy and landfill costs, reduce industry energy consumption by 32 trillion BTUs per year and reduce NOx emissions by more than 44,000 tons/yr.

Learn more about the Agenda 2020 program at or send email to


Del Raymond (left) is chairman of AF & PA's Chief Technology Officers Committee, and director of strategic energy alternatives with Weyerhaeuser; Benjamin Thorp is deployment director, Agenda 2020 for Georgia-Pacific Corp.


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Title Annotation:Manager's Notebook
Author:Thorp, Benjamin
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Feb 1, 2004
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