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Seeking throughs in environmental performance: a group of experts met at the 2001 Technology Summit to refocus the Agenda 2020 Environmental Performance Research Program.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a continuing series of exclusive reports from the Forest, Wood and Paper Industry Technology Summit, held May 21 23, 2001 in Peachtree City, Georgia, USA.

How do you reconcile a holistic view of environmental performance with the need to focus resources on tangible and cost effective reductions in releases to the environment? This was the question facing an eclectic group of industry experts that met at the technology Summit. Their goal was to chart the course of environmental performance research to be pursued under the American Forest & Paper Association's Agenda 2020 program.

The question was not easy to answer. Environmental performance can be characterized in different ways, but any simple measure will ultimately be flawed. A broad view of environmental performance--the combined result of many discrete activities--is essential for the forest products industry because, among all industries, it is perhaps the most environmentally sustainable. After two days of working through the various facets of this question, the group settled on several key challenges facing the industry.

First, there was unanimous agreement that, to a distressing extent, the industry's stakeholders fail to appreciate the industry's sustainability. The group recommended that the industry explore new ways to characterize its sustainability and communicate this important information to its many stakeholders.

Second, the group agreed that additional information was needed to ensure that emission and discharge limits were focused on appropriate environmental and human health endpoints and grounded in good science. The group recognized, however, that the Agenda 2020 program is a technology focused research program. Questions about potential human and environmental health impacts must be addressed through research in the biological sciences, research the industry is supporting through NCASI and AF&PA.

Finally, the group articulated specific research needs in four areas:

* Cost effective alternatives for controlling emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)

* Methods for eliminating odor

* Improved understanding of minimum in-mill water quality requirements and means to provide recycled water meeting those requirements

* Beneficial uses for solid wastes from forest products manufacturing.

BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGIES

In advance of the Technology Summit, AF&'PA's Agenda 2020 Environmental Performance Task Group had drafted four goals for new "breakthrough technologies" with the knowledge that they would be very different than the industry's environmental performance goals. The proposed goals were refined by Technology Summit participants to read as follows:

* Eliminate effluent without increasing costs or impacting product quality.

* Eliminate odor without increasing costs or impacting product quality.

* Reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutant (HAP) control costs by 50% without impacting product quality.

* Eliminate the landfilling of manufacturing-derived solid wastes without increasing costs or impacting product quality.

Obviously, these goals represent enormous--perhaps impossible--challenges for a breakthrough technology. They were chosen, however, to drive "out-of-the-box" thinking about the types of advances sought under the Agenda 2020 program--advances that will only come by moving beyond incremental improvements and imagining the unimaginable.

GAPS TO BE FILLED

In exploring these four extremely ambitious breakthrough goals, the Technology Summit Environmental Session participants identified seven key gaps to be filled prior to progress toward the goals:

* Major improvements in environmental performance will be driven by new or greatly improved manufacturing processes with much better environmental profiles.

* Advances in water reuse are stymied by an inadequate understanding of reused water quality's impact on process chemistry, materials, and product quality.

* Current technologies designed to reduce or eliminate the contaminants that inhibit water reuse are too expensive, ineffective, or both.

* Dramatic reductions in mill odor are limited by the lack of cost-effective odor identification, prevention, and treatment technologies.

* Current methods for controlling HAPs, VOCs, and particulate matter from wood products facilities and pulp and paper mills are too expensive and energy intensive and often create new environmental burdens.

* To reduce landfilling, new, inexpensive ways are needed to reduce solids losses from the manufacturing process.

* There appear to be several exciting opportunities for cost-effective, low-risk, beneficial uses for solid waste, but additional work is required to gain their widespread acceptance.

TECHNOLOGIES AND KNOWLEDGE

To fill the gaps, Environmental Performance Session participants identified 11 technologies or bodies of knowledge that must be developed:

* An improved understanding of how to match in-process water quality requirements with process effluent characteristics

* Methods to deliver all deleterious materials to recovery

* Separation technologies that can be economically integrated into the mill

* Sulfur-free pulping that produces high quality pulp without increasing costs

* Now cost-effective odor concentration and treatments

* Low energy technologies for producing wood products

* In-process capture, extraction, and fixation of VOCs, HAPs, and particulate matter (PM) from wood products manufacturing

* Novel wood modification technologies (physical, chemical, biological)

* Breakthrough VOC, HAP, and PM abatement technologies for wood products facilities

* Approaches to generating residuals as products manufactured to customer specifications

* Inventory management that preserves and enhances value of residuals as products

The organizers of the environmental discussions selected three areas particularly suited for targeting under Agenda 2020. These areas encompass many of the information needs articulated in all eleven information and technology gaps.

1. Technologies are needed to reduce the cost of controlling VOC and HAP emissions.

Current methods for controlling VOC and HAP emissions from pulp, paper, paperboard, and wood products manufacturing are expensive and resource intensive. Breakthroughs should be pursued in several areas to allow more cost-effective and resource efficient VOC and HAP control. Among these areas are the following:

* Trees with significantly reduced amounts of VOC and HAP precursors

* Production technologies that minimize the conversion of VOC and HAP precursors, or which use less VOC- and HAP-generating materials

* New methods of capturing VOCs and HAPs to yield useful, competitively priced by-products or fuels

* High efficiency VOC and HAP destruction technologies that are less costly and more resource efficient than thermal oxidation technologies.

2. Develop an understanding of water quality requirements at points in the pulp and paper manufacturing process where reused water might be applied.

Several new tools could use information that defines the relationship between water quality and the onset or severity of operating problems. For example, mass exchange networks/water pinch analysis is a process integration tool that can use such information. Application of these tools in the water reuse field is currently limited by a lack of understanding of the relationships among water quality parameters, mill operations and product quality.

3. Commercialize promising opportunities for beneficial uses of solid wastes.

While new ideas for beneficial use of industry residuals are plentiful, more effort is needed to overcome the commercialization hurdles facing the most premising opportunities. Some of the most pressing needs include:

* Adopting an operating philosophy that views solid residuals as products, not wastes

* Methods to improve residuals quality control

* Quality control targets for specific beneficial uses

* Intensified outreach efforts aimed at regulators and our most promising customers.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS

In the 1990s, the pulp and paper industry earned an average net profit after taxes of less than US$ 5 billion annually while spending about US$ 2 billion annually in operating costs for pollution abatement. During those years, the industry's annual capital outlays for environmental protection exceeded US$ 1 billion on several occasions. Clearly, the industry has much to gain by finding more cost-effective ways to maintain and enhance its environmental protection efforts.

The benefits of these new approaches extend well beyond profitability, however. The technologies being sought could, ill many cases, provide integrated breakthroughs in raw material production and utilization, process efficiency, product quality, and environmental protection.

Conventional approaches to reducing environmental releases are increasingly costly while the benefits of continued reductions are hotly debated. While the public may fail to grasp the nuances of these debates, it understands and has come to expect continued progress in reducing environmental releases. The only win-win outcome is to be found in technologies that offer opportunities to demonstrate continuous improvement in environmental performance while enhancing the industry's competitiveness.

FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES

The most dramatic environmental performance breakthroughs will be driven by fundamental process technology changes. Accordingly, the forest product industry must continue to address the environmental implications of newly developed technologies to improve the industry's competitiveness and build in environmental improvement as a key benefit of process and product improvements.

The Technology Summit identified seven information gaps that could lead to improved and more cost effective environmental performance. Three were selected for further consideration in Agenda 2020:

* More cost effective methods for controlling HAP/VOC emissions

* Improved understanding of in-mill water quality requirements so that reused water can be substituted for fresh water

* Commercialization of the most promising new beneficial uses for mill residuals.

The Agenda 2020 program offers the industry an opportunity to explore technologies to greatly reduce the environmental footprint of its manufacturing operations. These improvements, however, must be viewed in the context of the industry's overall sustainability--a concept that encompasses much more than trends in environmental releases. The forest products industry is among the world's most sustainable. Unfortunately, this "good news story" is not widely appreciated. The industry must help its stakeholders develop a better understanding of the industry's sustainability and its long-term future.

ENVIRONMENTAL SESSION MEMBERSHIP

Participants in the Environmental Session were:

Edward Bechberger, Sterling Pulp Chemicals

Keith Bentley, Georgia-Pacific

Mike Cawthray, Holnam

Fredrick M. Clark, Eke Chemicals

Victor Dallons, Weyerhaeuser

Spencer Eachus, Herty Foundation

Peter Gleadow, AMEC

Stuart Harper, Kvaerner Chemetics

Mike Hittmeir, Georgia-Pacific

Gary Josephson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Joe Laubenstein, Allied Waste

Gerry Maples, Independent Consultant

Stuart McCormick, Weyerhaeuser

Reid Miner, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI)

Tarun Naik, University of Wisconsin

Doug Reeve, University of Toronto

Dan Sjolseth, Weyerhaeuser

David Word, NCASI

About the authors: Reid Minor is vice president of NCASI, Durham, North Carolina; Dan Sjolseth is corporate director, environmental and analytical services for Weyerhaeoser Corp., Tacoma, Washington; and Keith Bentley is director, environmental affairs and technical support for Georgia-Pacific Corp., Atlanta, Georgia. Send email to: rminer@ncasi.org
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Title Annotation:Technology Summit
Author:Bentley, Keith
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:1632
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