Kuantum Papers has always believed in innovations for the growth of the company and to keep edge over its competitors. Sensing that major modifications in the process and the product profile were required to reduce the cost of inputs and to enhance profits, a full fledged Research Laboratory has been set up.
In the year 2003, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a Charter on Corporate Responsibility for Environmental Protection (CREP) and made it mandatory for all the paper mills to either install a chemical recovery system or alternate option of removal of black liquor to achieve discharge norms within a period of three years. Unlike other paper mills which go in for conventional chemical recovery systems, a unique process of Lignin Precipitation was identified and a joint venture company, Greencone Environs Pvt. Ltd., was established with a Swiss Company, Granit S.A., for implementation of full scale Lignin Precipitation System (LPS) Plant, which is the first of its kind in the world, for recovery of lignin powder which is used for high value applications in various consumer applications such as adhesives, concrete admixtures etc. with 100% buy-back guarantee of the final product from Granit S.A. This innovative approach has not only increased revenue of the company, besides fulfilling the CREP Guidelines, but at the same time offered a viable option of environmental pollution control to entire agro-based Paper Industry.
The high energy consumption was another concern and therefore special attention was given in this area with the involvement of DSCL, New Delhi, various projects for energy conservation were identified & implemented as a result of which, the power consumption was reduced from 1312 units/ton of paper in 1996-97 to 1050 units/ton of paper in 2003-2004.This approach not only resulted in the reduced production cost but was also appreciated by the Govt. of India by selecting the Company for National Energy Conservation Award. The power cost was further reduced by installing a small co-generation plant followed by captive power plant thus making the unit non - dependent on State Electricity Board. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi has also rated the company Best for specific energy consumption in the pulp mill based on amongst the Indian agro-based paper mills.The alkaline cooking process was modified to alkaline sulphite process and since the cost of sulphite was low at that time in comparison to caustic, the cost of pulping was reduced substantially with improvement in the brightness of the pulp, thereby enhancing the quality of pulp.
Reduction in water consumption was another area focused on during last two years. The water consumption per ton of paper has been reduced from 175 m3 in 1996-97 to 100m3 in 2005-2006 by taking suitable measures and thereby optimizing the usage of water. This has been further reduced, and in 2010-2011, we are consuming only 60 m3 of water per MT of paper produced.
With an aim to improve the productivity and profitability, various project such as reduction in steam consumption under TQM (total Quality Management) System have been successfully implemented. The TQM Project implemented by the mill on reduction in steam consumption on paper machine has been awarded prestigious North-West Qualtech Award in 2004. The Company has started implementation of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) process in the plant with the view to further improve the plant & machinery reliability and also increase the employee involvement in decision making.
A two fold increase in the cost of cooking and bleaching chemicals during last two years was another limiting factor in competing with other paper mills having chemical recovery system. Keeping in view the same, the Research and Development Laboratory was upgraded to explore the possibility of by-product recovery from paper mill waste and application of enzymes in the bleaching of pulp, which was recognized by Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla for research in the Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology in Paper Industry on the recommendation of Institute of Paper Technology (IPT), Saharanpur Campus, IIT Roorkee. Subsequently, a joint R&D project was financed by the mill to the Department of Biotechnology, H.P. University, Shimla for by-product from black liquor for application in concrete industry and also for production of xylanase enzymes for application in the pre-bleaching of pulp. Under the same project,hyper enzyme producing microbial strains have also been isolated and the upgradation of the process to pilot scale is under way. Keeping in view the results of enzymatic pre-bleaching in reducing the consumption of elemental chlorine and pollution load as well, the mill implemented the enzymatic pre-bleaching process thus changing the bleaching sequence to XCEpH (Xylanase-Elemental Chlorine-Alkali extractionperoxide-Hypochlorite Hypochlorite) which was further modified to XCEpHH (Xylanase-Elemental Chlorine-Alkali extractionperoxide-Hypochlorite-Hypochlorite) thus reducing the elemental chlorine usage to around 15-17%. According to study carried out under the Green Rating Project (GRP) by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, the consumption of Elemental Chlorine is the lowest in Kuantum Papers amongst the Indian paper Industry.
ALKALINE SULPHITE PROCESS
The treatability of Alkaline sulphite effluent was low compared to alkaline effluent and hence the upgradation in the existing conventional effluent treatment plant was required which led to the introduction of an independent Environmental Research Laboratory in the mill. Research was carried out on the biological treatment of alkaline sulphite black liquor and finally a process was developed for the biomethanation of alkaline sulphite black liquor.Subsequently, a full scale UASB (Upflow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket ) Reactor was installed which not only resulted in achievement of environmental norms but at the same time has been generating biogas for use in the boiler from the effluent thus reducing the cost of fuel by around 15%. This was the first UASB reactor of its kind in the world working successfully on alkaline sulphite black liquor and played an important role in winning the National Energy Conservation Award in the year 1993.