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Paper refining from reused materials: how to stabilize quality and reduce costs with online freeness analyzer

ABB helps FPC Papeles Chile to break production records by stabilizing process and quality with L&W Freeness Online

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The Situation
  • Mill works with a wide variation in the properties of incoming fibers, which they acquire from 27 cities and five customer
  • Long delay between lab freeness measurements
  • Wanted to reduce variability

 

The Solution
  • Mill defined a fiber-to-fiber refining strategy (achieving consistency in a cost-effective way without compromising quality)
  • Purchased L&W Freeness Online system with two samplers to reduce time for lab feedback

Benefits
  • Increased production 
  • Faster process optimization
  • Reduced grade change time 
  • Lower energy consumption 
  • Improved and uniform pulp production 
  • Faster and accurate measurement

 

Near Concepción on the heavily forested Pacific coast of Chile, FORESTAL Y PAPELERA CONCEPCIÓN S.A (FPC Papeles) transforms post-use Old Corrugated Cardboard and Double Lined Kraft (DLK) into new test-liner and fluting papers for the Chilean packaging industry.

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As an industry leader clearly committed to sustainability and recycling, FPC Papeles is dedicated to reusing raw materials. However, to ensure output of the highest quality, the company must face the challenge of working with a wide variation in the properties of incoming fibers, which they acquire from 27 cities and five customers.

“All papermakers know that variation in raw materials significantly affects process stability and product quality,” explained FPC’s Technical Director, Eduardo Izquierdo. “To overcome this, we sought a way of adapting our processes to the naturally variable incoming fibers to both stabilize quality and reduce costs.”

Ultimately, they looked to refine incoming fiber only as much as necessary to achieve consistency in
a cost-effective way without compromising quality. This is sometimes referred to as fiber-to-fiber (F2FR) refining.

“Starting in 2017, we became laser focused on finding the perfect balance in refining,” said Izquierdo.
“Thus began our quest to implement an F2FR strategy.”

"The company must face the challenge of working with a wide variation in the properties of incoming fibers, which they acquire from 27 cities and five customers."


Challenge: fiber variation

Originally, FPC’s mill operators had responded to variations in incoming fiber quality by manually modifying the refining load based on lab  measurements of pre- and post-refiner freeness taken every two hours. Combining these results with final paper properties every 45 minutes usually  led to increasing the refiners’ load. If that was not successful, other methods were tried, such as adding more chemicals, enriching the blend with more DLK or finally, downgrading the product resulting in an ineffective cost cycle.

Having previously upgraded their refiners to enable automatic modification of their disk gap based on fiber mass flow, FPC needed a way to determine when to open and close the gaps to provide the required refinement load, avoiding the delays between lab measurements of freeness.

“It was rapidly becoming clear that the long delay between lab freeness measurements was masking fiber variations, making it impossible to implement our F2FR strategy. Our tests indicated that an online freeness measurement system was crucial to help expedite the time between measured process variation and process control actions,” explained Izquierdo.

"The long delay between lab freeness measurements was masking fiber variations, making it impossible to implement our F2FR strategy."

Solution: Online measurement system for stabilization and consistency

To meet this requirement, in early 2018, FPC Papeles installed an ABB L&W Freeness Online system equipped with two samplers. This enabled operators to measure freeness efficiently at the output of the mill’s two refining circuits and more closely modify the refining process based on the properties of the incoming fibers.

“Following a two-month validation period, during which L&W Freeness Online and lab readings were regularly compared and correlated, operators placed their full trust in the new system and began to manually adjust the refiners’ load based on the L&W Freeness Online readings,” said Izquierdo. “This enabled us to adapt our refining process to changes in the incoming fibers, helping to stabilize
the overall process.”

Not only did this help confirm measurement reliability and stabilize operations, it also builds confidence in future improvements. A natural next     step would be to close the control loop to automatically run refiners from online freeness measurement with Advanced Process Controls (APC). For example, Refiner Control, an APC solution based on Freeness, could save 10-15% on energy and make the process even more stable than it is today.

Eduardo Izquierdo, Technical Director at FPC Papeles

“Before L&W Freeness Online was installed, it would take the mill six to eight hours to achieve a pulp consistency for uniform paper production to meet the required specs. Now it takes less than an hour.”

Towards Fiber-to-Fiber-Refining (F2FR): using on-line freeness measurements

For FPC Papeles, L&W Freeness Online has provided a fast, reliable and cost-effective online system for measuring, monitoring and controlling key quality variables of incoming fiber. Moreover, it’s helped FPC attain a new level of process stability, reducing production costs through lower energy consumption by eliminating over refining. It has also contributed to creating the best possible continuous and uniform pulp furnish.

Following installation, and with other improvements at the mill, FPC twice exceeded its monthly production record during 2018. This in turn contributed to an annual output of more than 100,000 tons for the first time in the mill’s history. The system’s combination of simple and sturdy design with almost no moving parts and outstanding after sales support from ABB and FCP instrumentation staff, is a further advantage and the company reports that their machine still looked like new over a year after start-up.

 

Eduardo Izquierdo, Technical Director at FPC Papeles

“We are delighted with the L&W Freeness Online solution and the support we have received from ABB and MX-Chile, an ABB distributor who helped with installation and support. We look forward to continue working with them in the future to achieve higher levels of process stability, savings and final product quality."

L&W Freeness Online

L&W Freeness Online is a reliable, repeatable and cost-effective online system for measuring, monitoring and controlling key quality variables - Canadian Standard Freeness (CSF) and Schopper-Riegler (SR) - in paper stock preparation. The greatest impact for papermakers is how quickly operators can make changes to the process. This is due to the automatic and complete measurement cycle that expedites results and improves accuracy. The system also allows for multiple low-cost sampling points with a single instrument, reducing initial investment cost and ongoing maintenance costs. 

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