Industry changing technologies are at the forefront of topics that will be discussed at Specialty Papers Europe. Smithers Pira recently spoke with Per Svending, Commercial Director of FiberLean and 2016 Specialty Papers Europe speaker to learn more about microfibrillated cellulose and its road to commerical use.
Smithers Pira: What challenges have you encountered, while creating micro-fibrillated cellulose?
Per Svending: Our process for producing MFC is simple and elegant. However, given the high viscosity and other unique properties of MFC it was certainly time consuming to scale up our process to be able to produce industrially relevant quantities in the 1 000´s of tonnes per year. In parallel we have worked with the commercial introduction of our concept. Given that our process is tailored for on-site operation in paper mills we need the customers committed before we can build the plants. The time needed to go through the required target customer introduction steps, concept introduction, lab evaluations, sometimes pilot trials, initial runnability trials, longer fine tuning trials and finally agreeing a contract, has proven to take a lot of time. It is time consuming to introduce any new technology to the paper industry even if you offer quite substantial cost saving potential.
Smithers Pira: How do you see the future for the deployment, adopton and commericalisation of micro-fibrillated cellulose?
Per Svending: We are confident that the use of MFC in papermaking will spread and become common practice. Once the first few references are there the more conservative mills will feel more confident to move forward. At the same time we see substantial opportunities outside of graphic papers and even beyond the paper and packaging industry and have started pursuing those.
Smithers Pira: How does the ability to commercially produce micro-fibrillated cellulose affect the paper industry?
Per Svending: It will be good news overall. However I can see two types of users. The majority of the interest so far has been around using the new technology to be able to produce the same grade of paper at lower cost. This is to be expected in todays very competitive and declining market for P&W papers. The more exciting development is for mills that want to use MFC to be able to produce new grades of paper. Just as an example we have made a paper at 48 g/m2 with 21% filler and MFC that has exactly the same strength, brightness and opacity as the reference paper at 63 g/m2 and 8% filler. Availability of MFC does open up entirely new possibilities.
Smithers Pira: What are you most looking forward to hearing at Specialty Papers EU 2016?
Per Svending: We find the Specialty Papers conference very exciting as it allows direct interaction with paper companies on the kind of development opportunities we are looking for. We will make sure we bring our latest MFC developments to the party. Our experience from previous Specialty Papers conferences is that this will lead to interesting and fruitful cooperation's.
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