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The technology platforms of Agenda 2020.

On November 22, 1994, a Compact was signed calling for the development of a partnership between the forest products industry and the Department of Energy (DOE). The signing of this Compact commenced the industry-government partnership called Agenda 2020 that exists today. Although the DOE provided the encouragement and has been the largest funding source, strong and growing partnerships with the U. S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation and the entire wood products community have also developed.

The current Agenda 2020 program--which has grown in funding from less than US$ 5 million per year in 1994 to more than US$ 60 million in fiscal year 2003--is recognized as an important contributor to providing a common vision for communication with and the education of stakeholders and the public. Agenda 2020 is enhancing the industry's ability to conduct research and implement new technology, which in turn provides leverage for individual companies' internal development efforts and improves their competitiveness through easy and early access to new technology.

Consolidation and cost pressures on the forest, wood and paper industry over the last two decades have steadily eroded individual company research, development and demonstration (RD & D) expenditures. Companies are now focusing on incremental technology advancements rather than the breakthrough technologies likely needed to bring the industry back to robust performance.

The Agenda 2020 partnership with government is enabling the industry to significantly leverage the industry's limited RD & D funds for technologies such as biotechnologies, modeling, computing, separation technologies, nano-technology and many others. These technologies, which are expanding faster than at any time in our history, can have meaningful and sustainable impact on shared industry and national goals. Figure 1 graphically shows how this model is working to advance both industry and societal values using the environmental area as an example. This model has been used to focus the Agenda 2020 portfolio of projects on those areas that will yield the largest impact on positively changing the industry while benefiting society.


A very successful Forest, Wood and Paper Industry Technology Summit was held in Peachtree City, Georgia, USA in May 2001, where leading scientists, educators, technology leaders and policymakers provided significant input to a Business Plan for Agenda 2020. The Board of Directors of the American Forest and Paper Association (AF & PA) approved the plan in October 2003.

During the last year, the AF & PA's Chief Technology Officers Committee, which oversees Agenda 2020, has worked with the U.S. DOE and a professional portfolio management company (The GenSight Group) to prioritize and focus the industry's collaborative portfolio of technology projects. The result has led to an emphasis on six technology platforms. Application of the portfolio management analysis tool shows that full implementation of these platforms throughout the U.S. industry has the potential for a US$ 33 billion positive impact on the industry's net cash flow. While full achievement of the potential is not likely, technologies already emerging from the program indicate that 25% to 30% of the potential is reasonable. This amount alone would double the industry's average yearly net cash flow over the last five years.

Details on the technology platforms are as follows:

ADVANCING THE FOREST BIOREFINERY includes the areas of "Sustainable Forest Productivity", "Extracting Value Prior to Pulping" and "New Value from Residuals and Spent Pulping Liquors." The last item includes an effort focused on biomass and black liquor gasification.

The annual harvest from private forests in the United States is about 250 million dry tons of wood and bark. About 40% of this material is used for energy. Estimated 1990 energy yield from wood residues in the forest products industry alone was 1.8 quads, or the equivalent of about 300 million barrels of oil worth 8.8 billion dollars at a price of approximately US $29 per barrel. The value of forest bio-energy could grow by a factor of two by 2030 with systematic improvements in forest productivity and biomass conversion technologies, coupled with policies that allow growth in domestic production of wood and paper co-products.

The preceding analysis understates the potential economic and environmental benefits of the forestry research being designed and conducted through public-private partnerships enabled by Agenda 2020. In addition to forest productivity gains, Agenda 2020 is targeting genetic improvements in wood quality that will reduce manufacturing costs and improve product quality, thus enhancing the competitiveness of U.S. forest products industries. For example, increasing the ratio of cellulose to lignin in pulpwood through tree breeding and forest biotechnology could reduce the energy use per ton of bleached pulp by 10%. Additional gains could be anticipated in the linerboard industry, which is twice as large as the bleached pulp industry.

Moreover, increases in productivity and wood quality will help sustain high rates of carbon sequestration in the U.S. forest sector. Current rates of sequestration in U.S. forests and harvested wood are greater than 700 million metric tons of C[O.sub.2] per year-or about 10 times greater than fossil C[O.sub.2] emissions from forest products manufacturing. The net carbon sequestration rate in the U.S. forest sector is equivalent to conserving more than 1 billion barrels of oil per year.

The biomass and black liquor gasification (BLG) program has the goal of fully integrating sustainable forestry with manufacturing and transforming chemical pulp mills into forest bio-refineries that produce new forest-based products and export substantial amounts of renewable energy, while continuing to meet growing demand for traditional pulp and paper products. The production of 25 gigawatts of electric power is projected for the application of BLG in conjunction with wood residual gasification by the year 2020. Alternatively, if these technologies were applied to synthetic gas production to be used for liquid fuel production, they could displace more than 282 million barrels of oil per year- or over 7% of the U.S. imports of oil (assuming imports of 11,046,000 barrels/day).


During the past year, a landmark study entitled "A Cost-Benefit Assessment of Biomass Gasification Power Generation in the Pulp and Paper Industry" was completed. This study--led by Eric Larson, Princeton University: Ryan Katofsky, Navigant Consulting, and Stefano Consonni, Dipartimento di Energetica Politecenico di Milano--clearly showed the significant positive societal impact of transitioning to black liquor gasification combined cycle power generation in the U.S. over the next several years. It also identified the needed areas of technology development and policy that, when addressed, will move the economics of this technology from interesting to exciting.

NEXT GENERATION FIBER RECOVERY AND UTILIZATION has the goal of making recycled fiber interchangeable with virgin fiber with respect to product quality and economics, allowing competition with virgin fiber on all metrics: availability, strength potential, quality, processing, performance and cost.

BREAKTHROUGH MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES includes the areas of "Major Manufacturing Cost/Capital Reduction" and "Significant Enhancement in Product Properties with Existing Assets." The goals in this area are to achieve a 35% reduction in manufacturing costs through a focus on significant process change, a 50% reduction in capital intensity through a focus on simplifying or eliminating process steps, and a 50% increase in fiber/product properties through a better understanding of chemistry, biochemistry and physics.

Energy self sufficiency is achievable in most operations with significant improvements in just two areas, both associated with water removal: 1) product drying and 2) water removal from spent pulping liquors. When this part of the "Breakthrough" platform is coupled with gasification technologies, the industry will be able to achieve self sufficiency and, beyond that, significant export of power and/or gaseous or liquid fuels.

POSITIVELY IMPACTING THE ENVIRONMENT has as its objective significantly expanding the carbon cycle benefits of the forest products industry and significantly decreasing the industry's site and activity footprint. This includes harvesting more trees from less land with higher value and reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing and the final product.

The forest, wood and paper industry is unique in its ability to offer the world a multiplicity of products that improve the quality of life, all manufactured from a renewable, sustainable and indigenous raw material. Through the environmental focus of Agenda 2020, scientifically based metrics and measurement methods are being created. These metrics and methods will clearly verify that existing and emerging technologies used by the industry in the process of manufacturing its products are positively impacting the quality of jobs, the emission of greenhouse gases, and the production of "green" energy while continuing the industry's record of continuously reducing the discharge of solid, liquid and gaseous wastes.

The TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED WORKFORCE platform has the goal of providing the training and education to ensure that the new and existing technologies chosen to create the forest products industry of the future are operated and managed by a technically superior workforce.

ADVANCING THE WOOD PRODUCTS REVOLUTION is focused on revolutionizing housing and construction by creating superior, low cost, high-value sustainable wood products and systems.

The technology platforms of Agenda 2020 discussed above are delivering significant results. A few results are summarized here:

* Clonal propagation of softwoods is arguably the most important currently emerging forest technology, with initial benefits of more than 10% reduction in energy required to produce chemical pulp (an impact of ~0.2 quads of energy per year) and a 10% reduction in wood production costs.

* In the recycling arena, H. B. Fuller and Boise will commercialize a screenable, environmentally benign pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) label product within the year.

* Breakthrough manufacturing technologies have been a very fruitful area to date. A new, innovative, retrofitable paper drying technology with greater than seven times more heat transfer capability is nearing demonstration. Several companies are considering a green liquor pre-treatment technology with potential savings of 20 trillion BTUs and 14 million green tons of wood per year with very low capital investment. Borate autocausticizing trials are underway at several mills, with initial calculations for IRR of greater than 200%.

* In the area of what might be called "Beyond Energy Self Sufficiency," commercial demonstrations of both high and low temperature black liquor gasification will occur in the United States before the end of 2004. The low temperature technology is now being constructed at a Georgia Pacific mill in Big Island, Virginia. The high temperature technology is already operating at a Weyerhaeuser mill in New Bern, North Carolina.

* As an example in the environmental area, low temperature plasma destruction of volatile organic carbon (VOC) emissions will soon be demonstrated at the Georgia Pacific Port Hudson mill. Application of a different VOC technology to wood products facilities promises to save 34 trillion BTUs of fossil energy and 2 million megawatt hours of power.

* With respect to the technologically advanced workforce, a "National Network for Pulp and Paper Technology Training" consisting of regional government-industry-university-college partnerships has been established and is being supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The Agenda 2020 program has been sowing many seeds through basic, fundamental work since 1994. Much of this work has grown to deliver significant results already; with the new focus, great things are expected in the future. The industry in the U.S. has not performed well during the last few years and funding of RD & D in this environment is difficult. The Agenda 2020 leadership is aggressively pursuing growth in future funding through an alliance/consortia approach that was launched at Technology Summit II, held at the end of March 2004.


* Agenda 2020's goals and research vision.

* Definitions of the six "technology platforms" for Agenda 2020.

* Current and potential benefits from research projects.


* Initial results from Technology Summit II:

* "Technology Summit II targets 'The Challenge of Deployment," Solutions!, June 2004. Product Code: 04JUNSO49. (Enter product code in search engine on

* "Setting the Industry's Technology Agenda," edited by Gerard Closset. Product Code: 0101R307.

(Editor's Note: For more information on Technology Summit II, see "Technology Summit II targets The Challenge of Deployment," Solutions!, June 2004, page 49.)


Del Raymond (left) and Ben Thorp are closely involved in the Agenda 2020 process and were leaders of the recent Technology Summit II Conference. Raymond is director of strategic energy alternatives for Weyerhaeuser Co., Federal Way, Washington, USA. Contact him by email at Thorp is the former director of pulp & paper engineering for Georgia-Pacific Corp. and is now a consultant to the pulp and paper industry. Contact him by email at


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Title Annotation:Agenda 2020
Author:Thorp, Ben
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Jul 1, 2004
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