Sulfite Pulping

Pulping is the term used for the process which separates wood fibers. Chemical pulping, dissolving the lignin in the wood to create a pulp, is the most commonly used pulping process. Chemical pulping creates higher sheet strength than mechanical pulping; however, yields 40 to 50 percent pulp, where mechanical pulping yields 95 percent pulp.

The two main types of chemical pulping are the more common sulfate pulping (most commonly known as Kraft pulping) and sulfite pulping. Kraft pulping accommodates a variety of tree species, recovers and reuses all pulping chemicals, and creates a paper with a higher sheet strength. Sulfite pulp, however, is easier to bleach, yields more bleached pulp, and is easier to refine for papermaking. The major difference between the two types of chemical pulping is the types of chemicals used to dissolve the lignin.

Sulfite Pulping

The concept of sulfite pulping was created in the United States in 1867, however it was not used in a mill until 1874 by a Swedish chemist who was probably unaware of the U.S. Patent (MacDonald, 277). Sulfite pulping produces a lighter pulp than Kraft pulping. It can be used for newsprint, and when bleached can be used for writing papers and for the manufacture of viscose rayon, acetate filaments and films, and cellophane.

Description of Process 

Sulfite pulping follows many of the same steps as Kraft pulping. The major difference in sulfite pulping is that the digester “cooks” with a mixture of H2SO3 (sulfurous acid) and HSO3 ion in the form of calcium, magnesium, sodium, or ammonium bisulfate). The pulp continues on through the same processes as in the Kraft pulping process.

However, the chemicals separated from the pulp in the washers may or may not go into a recovery process. Chemical recovery in sulfite pulping is practiced only if it is economical. If chemical recovery does occur the liquor goes through an evaporator and then to a recovery furnace. Here, smelt is not formed, but ash and SO2 are formed.

Abstracted from Washington State
Air Toxic Sources and Emission
Estimation Methods