Showing posts with label Kraft process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kraft process. Show all posts

Process Refractometers in The Kraft Pulping Process

Process Refractometers in The Kraft Pulping Process

Process refractometers are optical instruments that measure the refractive index of a substance to determine its concentration. They are widely used in the pulp and paper industry, particularly in the Kraft pulping process, to measure the concentration of essential chemicals in white, green, brown and black liquors.

The kraft process, which employs sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and sodium sulfide (Na2S) to convert wood into pulp, is the predominant pulping technique in the pulp and paper sector. This method is responsible for an annual production of approximately 130 million tons of kraft pulp worldwide, contributing to two-thirds of global virgin pulp output and over 90% of chemical pulp. Kraft pulp's superior strength, the process's compatibility with nearly all types of softwood and hardwood, and its economic benefits stemming from a high chemical recovery efficiency of about 97% make the kraft process more favorable than alternative pulping methods.

Process refractometers apply in the following steps of the Kraft pulping process:
  • Green Liquor Control: After burning the black liquor, the resulting green liquor contains sodium carbonate (Na2CO3) and sodium sulfide (Na2S). Refractometers measure the green liquor's concentration, which helps optimize the causticizing process. This process involves converting sodium carbonate to sodium hydroxide by adding lime (calcium oxide, CaO). Accurate measurement of green liquor concentration ensures the right amount of lime is added, thus optimizing the efficiency of the causticizing process and reducing waste.
  • Brown Liquor Control: After the causticizing process, the remaining liquor, called "brown liquor," primarily contains sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and sodium sulfide (Na2S). The concentration of brown liquor is critical for achieving the desired pulp quality and yield. Refractometers help maintain the correct concentration of brown liquor, ensuring consistent pulp quality and minimizing chemical waste.
  • Black Liquor Evaporation: Black liquor is concentrated through evaporation to increase its solids content before being burned in the recovery boiler. Process refractometers monitor the concentration of the black liquor, ensuring optimal evaporation rates and preventing potential issues in the recovery boiler.
  • White Liquor Quality Control: Refractometers can also be used to monitor the concentration of white liquor, helping maintain the desired alkalinity and sulfide levels, directly affecting the cooking process and pulp quality.
  • Recirculation and Monitoring: Process refractometers can be installed at various points in the Kraft pulping process, such as in recirculation lines, to monitor liquor concentrations continuously and adjust process parameters accordingly.
Process refractometers play a crucial role in Kraft pulping by monitoring and controlling the concentrations of green, brown, and black liquors. Their accurate measurements ensure the efficient use of chemicals, minimize waste and help maintain consistent pulp quality.

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Industrial Refractometers and Green Liquor Scale Mitigation

Green Liquor
Green liquor, a by-product of the kraft process, is the dissolved concentration of sodium sulfide, sodium carbonate, and other compounds in solution. Keeping track of its component concentration is important to the pulp processing cycle. Green liquor scaling, which includes calcite, sodium aluminosilicates, and pirssonite,  is a problem in most kraft process mills and can cause huge maintenance problems and slow production. Understanding the formation of, and potential ways to control, these formations scale is critical for optimal safety and performance.

Industrial inline process refractometers, such as Electron Machine's MPR E-Scan, are used to measure the green liquor dissolved density, or TTA, at two stages in the process: after the green liquor dissolving tank and after the green liquor clarifier. The inline measurement, with the refractometer sensing head mounted directly in the main process lines, allows real-time control of green liquor dilution to meet target TTA set-points. The measurement is also used to indicate (and prevent) excessive green liquor density and the resulting dangerous impending crystallization within the dissolving tank, and lower the potential for scaling.

Refractometer Optical Sensor Cleaning System
Refractometer Optical Sensor Cleaning System 
Refractometer operating conditions must be optimized for close monitoring and control of green liquor density. Consideration of scale and coating build-up on the optical sensor on the refractometer sensing head is a primary area of concern. A clean sensing head will allow maximum accuracy of the refractometer,  maintaining tight density control, minimize scaling, and increasing kraft process quality.

With overall quality and safety in mind, the use of a refractometer sensing head cleaning system is compulsory. The use of ancillary inline cleaning systems, such as Electron Machine's HPC-2 High Pressure Cleaner, that use pressurized water heated to the process temperature, will clean the refractometer optical components and therefore mitigate scaling issues and the related quality, safety, and production problems in the kraft process.

Paper Manufacturing: Kraft (Sulfate) Pulping

Abstracted from Washington State Air Toxic Sources
and Emission Estimation Methods

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.

The Kraft process was developed in Germany in 1879 and was first applied to a Swedish mill in 1885. The resulting paper was much stronger than any paper previously made, and therefore the process was named “Kraft”, (German and Swedish for “strength”). Kraft pulping creates dark brown paper which is used for boxes, paper bags, and wrapping paper. Kraft pulp can also be used for writing paper and paperboard when bleached, and for diapers when fluffed.

The three main steps involved in Kraft pulping are:
  1. Digestion: wood chips are cooked
  2. Washing: black liquor is separated from the pulp
  3. Chemical recovery: chemicals are recovered from the black liquor for reuse
Description of Process
  • Digestion 
The first step in pulping wood is to “cook” the wood chips. A digester, heated by steam, “cooks” the wood chips in white liquor (a mix of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and sodium sulfide (Na2S)) until done. The cooking process dissolves most of the lignin and only some of the hemicellulose , leaving mostly cellulose to hold the fibers together. The digester system may be a batch or a continuous process.

Relief gases are vented continuously from the digester, which helps remove air and other non- condensable gases and reduce the pressure at blow, when the pulp is discharged to the blow tank. After the cooking process, the pulp and black liquor (the chemical mix left after the cooking process) are discharged to a blow tank.

By-products can be recovered from the digestion process. For example, turpentine distills with water out of the blow tank and the evaporators and is separated to be used. The resin acids and fatty acids dissolved from the wood form sodium soaps which are skimmed off the black liquor from storage tanks, evaporators, and black liquor oxidation tanks, and then acidified with sulfuric acid to form tall oil.

Before the washing process, the pulp is usually sent to deknotters, screens used to remove knots (large pieces of fiber not completely broken down in the digester).
  • Brownstock Washing 
Pulp from the blow tank and deknotter is washed with water in a process commonly called brownstock washing. Washing removes weak black liquor from the pulp which is sent to the chemical recovery process. This also prevents contamination during subsequent processing steps. Types of washers used include rotary vacuum washer (most common type of washer), diffusion washers, rotary pressure washers, horizontal belt washers, wash press, and dilution/extraction.

All the washer types use water (fresh or recycled) and are usually placed in series to achieve higher removal efficiency.

The rinsed pulp is screened for oversize particles and then excess water is removed. This is done in a gravity thickener (more commonly known as a decker).
  • Chemical Recovery 
The reason Kraft pulping is economically successful is that the used cooking liquor can be recovered and reused in the chemical recovery process.

The first step in recovering the chemicals from the black liquor is evaporation. This removes excess water from the black liquor and maximizes the fuel value for the recovery furnace.

There are two types of evaporators generally used in the chemical recovery process: direct (DCE) and indirect (NDCE) contact evaporators. Some types of DCE include the multiple-effect evaporator (most common), flash evaporation and thermocompressor evaporation. DCE use heat from direct contact with the recovery furnace flue gases, while NDCE uses indirect contact.

Black liquor oxidation is needed after DCE, but not after NDCE. After DCE, the black liquor is normally oxidized with air to control the sulfide level and prevent the release of odorous compounds. This is done by countercurrently passing the black liquor through an air stream using a porous diffuser, sieve tray tower, packed tower or agitated air sparge. The oxidation reaction converts sodium sulfide to sodium thiosulfate.

After NDCE or black liquor oxidation, the black liquor is then forced through spray nozzles into the recovery furnace, where it is burned providing heat to generate steam. This also conserves the inorganic chemicals, which create a molten smelt on the floor of the furnace.

The molten smelt, composed of sodium sulfide and sodium carbonate, is drained from the recovery furnace hearth through smelt spouts. In a smelt dissolving tank, the smelt is quenched with water, producing green liquor.

Sodium carbonate from the smelt is then converted to sodium hydroxide in the causticizer by adding calcium hydroxide. The calcium carbonate resulting from the reaction precipitates from the solution and is collected and sent to the lime kiln where it is converted to lime (calcium oxide). The calcium oxide is then slaked to produce calcium hydroxide for reuse in the causticizer.

Overview of Chemical Recovery Processes in Pulp & Paper Mills

Chemical Recovery Processes in Pulp & Paper Mills
Figure 1
The kraft process is the dominant pulping process in the United States, accounting for approximately 85 percent of all domestic pulp production. The soda pulping process is similar to the kraft process, except that soda pulping is a non-sulfur process. One reason why the kraft process dominates the paper industry is because of the ability of the kraft chemical recovery process to recover approximately 95 percent of the pulping chemicals and at the same time produce energy in the form of steam. Other reasons for the dominance of the kraft process include its ability to handle a wide variety of wood species and the superior strength of its pulp.

The production of kraft and soda paper products from wood can be divided into three process areas:
  1. Pulping of wood chips
  2. Chemical recovery
  3. Product forming (includes bleaching)
Chemical Recovery Processes in Pulp & Paper Mills
Figure 2
The relationship of the chemical recovery cycle to the pulping and product forming processes is shown in Figure 1. Process flow diagrams of the chemical recovery area at kraft and soda pulp mills are shown in Figures 1 and 2, respectively.

The purpose of the chemical recovery cycle is to recover cooking liquor chemicals from spent
cooking liquor. The process involves concentrating black liquor, combusting organic compounds, reducing inorganic compounds, and reconstituting cooking liquor.

Cooking liquor, which is referred to as "white liquor, is an aqueous solution of sodium hydroxide (Na01) and sodium sulfide (Na2S) that is used in the pulping area of the mill. In the pulping process, white liquor is introduced with wood chips into digesters, where the wood chips are "cooked" under pressure. The contents of the digester are then discharged to a blow tank, where the softened chips are disintegrated into fibers or "pulp. The pulp and spent cooking liquor are subsequently separated in a series of brown stock washers: Spent cooking liquor, referred to as "weak black liquor, from the brown stock washers is routed to the chemical recovery area. Weak black liquor is a dilute solution (approximately 12 to 15 percent solids) of wood lignins, organic materials, oxidized inorganic compounds (sodium sulfate (Na2SO4), sodium carbonate (Na2003)), and white liquor (Na2S and Na0H).

In the chemical recovery cycle, weak black liquor is first directed through a series of multiple-effect evaporators (MEE's) to increase the solids content to about 50 percent. The "strong. (or "heavy") black liquor from the MEE's is then either oxidized in the BLO system if it is further concentrated in a DCE or routed directly to a concentrator (NDCE). Oxidation of the black liquor prior to evaporation in a DCE reduces emissions of TRS compounds, which are stripped from the black liquor in the DCE when it contacts hot flue gases from the recovery furnace. The solids content of the black liquor following the final evaporator/concentrator typically averages 65 to 68 percent.

Concentrated black liquor is sprayed into the recovery furnace, where organic compounds are combusted, and the Na2SO4 is reduced to Na2S. The black liquor burned in the recovery furnace has a high energy content (13,500 to 15,400 kilojoules per kilogram (kJ/kg) of dry solids (5,800 to 6,600 British thermal units per pound {Btu/lb} of dry solids)), which is recovered as steam for process requirements, such as cooking wood chips, heating and evaporating black liquor, preheating combustion air, and drying the pulp or paper products. Particulate matter (PM) (primarily Na2SO4) exiting the furnace with the hot flue gases is collected in an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) and added to the black liquor to be fired in the recovery furnace. Additional makeup Na2SO4, or "saltcake," may also be added to the black liquor prior to firing.

Molten inorganic salts, referred to as "smelt," collect in a char bed at the bottom of the furnace. Smelt is drawn off and  dissolved in weak wash water in the SDT to form a solution of carbonate salts called "green liquor," which is primarily Na2S and Na2CO3. Green liquor also contains insoluble unburned carbon and inorganic Impurities, called dregs, which are removed in a series of clarification tanks.

Decanted green liquor is transferred to the causticizing area, where the Na2CO3 is converted to NaOH by the addition of lime (calcium oxide [Ca0]). The green liquor is first transferred to a slaker tank, where Ca0 from the lime kiln reacts with water to form calcium hydroxide (Ca(OH)2). From the slake, liquor flows through a series of agitated tanks, referred to as causticizers, that allow the causticizing reaction to go to completion (i.e., Ca(OH)2 reacts with Na2CO3 to form NaOH and CaCO3).

The causticizing product is then routed to the white liquor clarifier, which removes CaCO3 precipitate, referred to as "lime mud." The lime mud, along with dregs from the green liquor clarifier, is washed in the mud washer to remove the last traces of sodium. The mud from the mud washer is then dried and calcined in a lime kiln to produce "reburned" lime, which is reintroduced to the slaker. The mud washer filtrate, known as weak wash, is used in the SDT to dissolve recovery furnace smelt. The white liquor (NaOH and Na2S) from the clarifier is recycled to the digesters in the pulping area of the mill.

At about 7 percent of kraft mills, neutral sulfite semi-chemical (NSSC) pulping is also practiced. The NSSC process involves pulping wood chips in a solution of sodium sulfite and sodium bicarbonate, followed by mechanical de-fibrating. The NSSC and kraft processes often overlap in the chemical recovery loop, when the spent NSSC liquor, referred to as "pink liquor," is mixed with kraft black liquor and burned in the recovery furnace. In such cases, the NSSC chemicals replace most or all of the makeup chemicals. For Federal regulatory purposes, if the weight percentage of pink liquor solids exceeds 7 percent of the total mixture of solids fired and the sulfidity of the resultant green liquor exceeds 28 percent, the recovery furnace is classified as a "cross-recovery furnace.'" Because the pink liquor adds additional sulfur to the black liquor, TRS emissions from cross recovery furnaces tend to be higher than from straight kraft black liquor recovery furnaces.