One of the concerns at International Paper is reducing environmental impacts, which is why the company is constantly working to improve industrial processes, with a focus on sustainability and on the rational use of resources to manufacture pulp and paper. Among the company’s countless initiatives is the use of eucalyptus biomass to generate energy for some of its units. Bianca Brício, a Sustainability Coordinator at IP, explains a little more about this process and about day-to-day applications for eucalyptus.
A chemical engineer, Bianca has been with International Paper since 2010. As a trainee, she worked in the Forestry areas and at the corporate office in São Paulo before moving to the Mogi Guaçu unit, where she currently works. In this interview, she provides some details on the step-by-step of generating energy from biomass and also talks about what is done with the eucalyptus “scraps,” which are reused to plant new seedlings.
What is the process for using eucalyptus biomass for energy generation?
Eucalyptus biomass has been used as a fuel source for pulp and paper factories in Brazil at various units. Recently, this process migrated to using bark and wood waste and began to burn whole trunks. Burning of biomass creates energy used to heat water, which moves through pipes inside of the boiler. The hot water creates steam, which is used to power turbines, producing electricity. The conditions for burning biomass, as well as the temperature and steam pressure, are controlled for maximum efficiency. The gasses resulting from burning also go through environmental control equipment to minimize any impacts on the environment.
Is the energy generated by eucalyptus biomass capable of making the industry self-sufficient? How much of this energy is accounted for by industrial consumption?
In the case of IP units, renewable energy sources are responsible for approximately half of the energy used.
Do all IP, Paper and Packaging units used biomass?
Actually, the units that use energy from eucalyptus biomass are Luiz Antônio, Mogi Guaçu and Nova Campina, since they use wood as an input in pulp production. At units where we don’t have this integrated process, that is, that do not produce pulp, energy comes from other sources.
What advantages does the industry have with the use of eucalyptus biomass, from an environmental standpoint?
Eucalyptus has enormous potential to be used to generate energy, since it is a renewable fuel source and it grows very quickly in tropical regions like Brazil, where it is harvested after an average of 7 years. IP has approximately 72,000 hectares of certified eucalyptus plantations. It is worth underscoring that International Paper’s planted forest areas are certified with the FSC/PEFC and Cerflor seals. In addition to growing eucalyptus, IP maintains 26 hectares for conservation of biodiversity and preservation of native forests.
In addition to the competitive advantages of eucalyptus, from a forestry standpoint, using biomass as an energy source means our factories do not consume fossil fuels. This replacement makes the energy mix cleaner and reduces Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
Is the biomass produced by IP just used at the company, or is it sold? And what about the electricity produced? Does the industry absorb it or is it sold to power concessionaires?
Biomass produced by IP is only used by IP, as is electricity. IP also purchases some electricity from the national grid.
Can you tell us what is used from the eucalyptus plant? What does it create, in addition to wood, paper, pulp and energy? Is there any other by-product you would like to mention?
There are countless possibilities in the use of eucalyptus, but in addition to the raw material for producing pulp and the biomass that creates energy, the most common products are pallets, charcoal, boxes for packaging of products, furniture and floors, such as wood flooring and laminates.
In the field, sticks and leaves from harvested eucalyptus remain on the ground to protect it. At IP factories, parts of the eucalyptus that cannot be used to make wood or generate energy, such as bark with lots of embedded dirt or sand, are used to make organic compost, which is used to fertilize forest trees.