Sappi reduces its carbon footprint

25 June 2008

South African paper and pulp company Sappi is increasingly using biomass recovered from wood and bark waste instead of coal to generate thermal energy and steam to power operations at several of its mills.

The move has allowed the company, which is one of the leading producers of coated fine paper in the world, to cut down on industrial coal usage – South Africa’s main source for carbon emissions – as renewable resources now provide just over 40% of the company’s energy requirements.

“As responsible corporate citizens in an energy-intensive industry, one of our primary goals is to reduce our carbon footprint by decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Sappi CEO Ralph Boettger in a company statement earlier this month.

Despite South Africa’s overall contribution to world carbon emissions only standing at 1.6%, the company points out that by ranking as the 11th highest carbon emitter in the world, the country has to take the impact of its industries on the environment seriously.

In addition, Sappi adds that South Africa’s overall emissions had increased by 30% over the last decade.

“Sappi’s consumption of electricity and the nature of its manufacturing make addressing its energy use essential,” the statement read. “Through the use of alternative production methods, the company is on its way to a more eco-friendly and sustainable business.”

Clean Development Mechanism

In 2007, Sappi stepped up it replacing of coal with biomass recovered from the wood and bark waste that results from the debarking and chipping in the operations at several of its mills.

In the same year, the company registered South Africa’s sixth Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project with the United Nations. The project involved converting the number 10 boiler at Sappi Tugela Mill to enable co-firing of bark as biomass with coal to generate thermal energy and steam.

The project has resulted in a net reduction of fossil fuel greenhouse gas from coal firing, a reduction on landfill usage and resulting methane emissions and also a reduction in the impact of transporting coal from Mpumalanga to KwaZulu-Natal by road and rail.

By making use of resources readily available to them, Sappi is able to save 53 000 tons of coal that would have been used in place of the biomass per year.

‘Kicking the habit’

“With the AmaKhulu project upgrade at the Sappi Saiccor Mill, we have also increased the rate of recovery of wood solids for use of steam-run power at this mill,” said Boettger. “All these initiatives will contribute in reducing greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.”

The company said it was essential that as a developing country, South Africa was able to kick the CO2 habit through its industrial production, by developing more environmentally friendly processes that would allow for a better future for Africa in which its delicate eco-systems were unaffected by human waste products.

“Developing these sustainable methods is not only up to one or two organisations, but also up to each individual and company to make the overall difference,” the statement reads. “After all, the more we preserve the resources we have now, the less likely we’ll be to run out of them in future.”

SAinfo reporter

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