WASTE/ENERGY: Paper-Derived Fuels Prove A Cleaner Burn

To supplement traditional fuel methods, some companies have discovered fuels derived from pa-pers. By using paper to supplement coal or wood waste, the process produces a cleaner-burning fuel and may be less expensive than traditional methods.

"Paper-derived fuels represent fuels that compare to coal in terms of Btu values and have fewer emission problems," said Charlie Hood, Georgia-Pacific's director of government affairs in Atlanta. Hood said Georgia-Pa-cific is looking into us-ing paper since recycling has its limits.

Chesapeake Paper Products, West Point, Va., runs on several different types of fuel, said Tom Davidson, manager of public affairs. The plant takes about 75 percent of its energy from renewable fuels while the rest is taken from oil and coal, ac-cording to Davidson. "We have been trying to increase our use of re-newable, non-fossil fuel for years," he said.

Although the company's use of paper-de-rived fuel is still in the early testing stages, Chesapeake Paper Pro-ducts is seeking to find less expensive alternatives to fossil fuel. "[Pa-per-derived fuel] may be used in our waste wood boiler," said Davidson. "It may be useful as a backup because there are certain mechanisms that this boiler uses to carry sawdust and bark to the system, and those mechanisms could use this type of fuel pellet without retooling. So it's a possible fuel for that boiler and even for future boilers."

Cemtech LP, Westchester, Ill., has created a paper-pellet fuel which offers 8,500 Btus per pound. The paper fuel, manufactured in plants in Richmond, Va., and Menasha, Wisc., is made from non-marketable waste paper, including wax-coated, corrugated or laminated paper products. The paper, sourced from paper converters, manufacturers and packagers, is shredded, then mixed and either extruded through a cubing device or pelletized. A patent is pending on the addition of waste-paper sludge, which will be used to densify the fuel pellet.

Paper-derived fuels cannot completely replace traditional fuels, said Gordon Kenna, Cemtech's director of public affairs. "In perspective, approximately 1.1 billion tons of coal is mined, with about 900 million tons burned and the rest exported," he said. "If you took all the paper that is currently going to landfills, even with as much as 50 million tons of paper each year, the fiber fuel would make up only five percent of the total amount of fuel."

The pellet also increases the performance level of coal, according to Kenna. "This fuel has the tendency to whip water out of coal and pick up coal fines in the feeding chute. It improves the combustion efficiency of coal and reduces maintenance required on feeding mechanisms by picking up these coal fines."

The paper, which would normally be landfilled, is taken from a variety of locations. "We are diverting paper from landfills in the local communities," said Kenna. The Richmond, Va., plant is expected to produce 60,000 tons of fuel pellets annually, he said. A plant in Me-nasha, Wisc., has been sourcing materials from the high concentration of paper mills and converters in the area. It sells fiber fuel to the University of Wisconsin, local hospitals and a state prison.

"One customer that we take waste from sends us wet rejects and trim from their manufacturing processes," said Kenna. "They squeeze as much water out as they can and bring it to us. The waste consists of fabric chips and fabric laminate. It has a good Btu value and the moisture fraction helps densify the product."

The fiber fuel burns cleaner than coal, emitting only 2 percent sulfur and lower carbon dioxide, said Kenna (see chart). "If you supplement 20 percent of your fuel with paper, you would have a corresponding reduction of sulfur and nitrous oxide emissions. This would let a plant meet clean air act goals without scrubbers or other pollution control equipment," he said.