As more and more people vote with their wallets for sustainability, wood-based fibre materials are resurging. They are soft, affordable, breathable, absorbent, renewable, and biodegrade in just a few weeks as opposed to synthetic fabrics, some of which never decompose at all. This is where AV Group NB, a member of the India-based Aditya Birla Group which has production sites around the world, come in. The company has produced dissolving grade pulp exclusively for viscose staple fibre manufacturing for 25 years. Their mission? To be a world leader in their industry by adhering to the highest standards of safety, quality, and responsible sustainability.
AV Group NB believes that stewardship for sustainability through biodiversity, conservation and responsible harvesting is an ongoing and shared responsibility. This is why they exceed forest management performance standards and are supported by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Certification. It was during production costs optimization efforts that they discovered their Atholville mill had unusually high energy consumption costs compared to their other facility. Wanting to remain true to their sustainability standards, the regional team at AV Cell rolled up their sleeves and ran an initial assessment of the proposed projects with help from efficiency team members at NB Power. The assessment provided AV Cell with information about program incentives and projections of increased return on these large capital investment initiatives.
In the end, ten initiatives were put in place with the goal of reducing steam consumption and leakage, maximizing heat recovery at multiple production points, reducing heat loss, making pulp recycling less energy-intensive, replacing energy-hungry pumps, and increasing power generation.
Steam consumption was reduced by replacing the conventional vacuum box with a Super Steam Vac, while steam leakage was reduced through installing new steam heating coils. Power generation was improved with the installation of a new low-pressure steam venting system, which uses steam to power a generator that will serve as an emergency energy source. Meanwhile, power consumption has been reduced by replacing outdated Clove Rotor pumps with advanced Sulzer Medium-Consistency pumps and by improving the operational stability of the pulp recycling machine.
A number of initiatives were undertaken to improve heat recovery. In one area, the heat exchanger was modified with extra plates to increase heat transfer. Another initiative consisted of adding a bypass line with both flow and temperature control loops to maintain the required temperature. The tube bundle in the old heat exchanger was also replaced so it could be put back in service and recover heat again. Finally, high-temperature surfaces were insulated to maximize heat efficiency, which also has the benefit of increasing workplace safety.
In total, NB Power rebated over 25% of the total project costs, for a total of $673,000. As result of these latest upgrades at AV Cell, the facility’s projected annual energy savings are 75,000GJ of thermal energy and 3GWh of electricity, resulting in over $2,000,000 in energy savings. While the major impacts of the initiatives were on energy efficiency and sustainability, they also had the benefit of improving workplace safety, enhancing productivity and quality as well as increasing energy awareness for the entire team. Pritesh Rao, Senior Process Engineer at AV Cell NB, says “Overall energy and GHG reduction are key components to the AV Group and Aditya Birla sustainability roadmap and goals. The upgrades we achieved through this program are a major contributor to achieving our ultimate goal of net-zero carbon by 2050.”
AV Group NB knows that it takes more than material investments to be a true steward for sustainability, which is why they also trained their staff to work and monitor the upgrades and created an Energy Team to cultivate an energy-conscious culture that encourages staff to improve energy performance every day. “All industries, big or small, must take advantage of this wonderful program that not only helps us reduce energy consumption and make our operation more sustainable but also contributes to address one of the biggest challenges humanity is facing today: climate change.” - Pritesh Rao, Senior Process Engineer.