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Martin MacLeod

The top ten factors in kraft pulp yield

Kraft pulp yield depends on a plethora of factors: the nature of the wood and the quality of the chips, the cooking recipe (especially the key independent variables alkali charge, sulphidity, temperature, and kappa target), the pulping equipment, and so on. Here, the factors have been assembled into a top ten list, and are assessed in terms of relative importance, potential to influence yield values, and contribution to practical knowledge of how pulp yields can be improved. The ten factors can be re-ordered at will, to rank the magnitude of the yield changes they can produce, for example, or to see which factors have the highest potential for yield improvement at modest cost.

Wood species (chemical composition)


Wood anatomy (proportion of fibres)


Chip size distribution


Chip quality (other than size)


Pulping chemistry (conventional)


Kraft Pulp Yield from Wood, %

0 20 40 60 80 100

Modified/advanced pulping chemistry


Mill digester systems


Beyond pulping

Yield/kappa relationship

H a rd wo ods

Wish list

So ft wo ods

Fig. 1. These top ten factors in kraft pulp yield are addressed in terms of their relative importance, their potential magnitude, and their reliability.

Fig. 2. On a global basis, bleachable-grade kraft pulp yields from hardwoods and softwoods fall into these ranges. The softwood range can be extended to 60% by including unbleached kraft paper and linerboard grades.


Wood species
Wood, an organic raw material, consists of polysaccharides (cellulose and hemicelluloses), lignin, and extractives. Their concentrations vary substantially among commercial wood species /2,3/: cellulose, approximately

Pulp Yield from Wood, %

the principal factors affecting pulp yields in kraft mills? How comprehensive is our understanding of them? Are there practical ways to use existing knowledge to improve yields? To address these questions, here is a Top Ten list (Fig. 1) of the key factors to consider, followed by brief descriptions of why each is important, what the size of the yield gain might be, and how substantial and reliable the information base is. The focus is on practical opportunities for yield gains in kraft mill operations, tying them to scientic knowledge of cause-and-effect relationships. The broad perspective is two-fold: how wood and chemistry interact in the kraft pulping process, and why uniformity of treatment (whether chemical or mechanical) matters. An anthology of papers on the subject of kraft pulp yield is also available /1/. The ten factors have been assembled in the same order as brelines, i.e., from chips through pulping to bleaching. The order can be changed for different purposes, as will be obvious later when they are ranked for magnitude of potential yield gain and also for what is practical to do at modest cost.

4050% of wood; hemicelluloses, 2535%; to determine the gross chemical composilignin, 1530%; extractives, 210%. The tion of the wood in use. higher the polysaccharide content (especialThe chemical composition of wood is ly cellulose) and the lower the amounts of probably the primary variable in kraft pulp lignin and extractives, the higher will be the yield. Fig. 3 shows normal yields in convenyield of pulp from wood. Aspen is a leading tional research-scale kraft pulping of speexample with lignin content often below cies-pure chips to bleachable-grade kappa 20% and (acetone) extractives below 3%, numbers versus their typical lignin contents it cooks rapidly to the highest bleachable- in the wood. This relationship makes reagrade kraft pulp yield in industrial practice, sonable sense: the higher the lignin content typically about 55% at kappa 12. Western which will be mostly removed in pulping red cedar, with an unusually high extractives the lower the pulp yield. It is remarkably content, is at the low end of the spectrum, accurate over a yield range of 4255%: Pulp providing a bleachable-grade pulp yield in yield = - 0.69[Lignin] + 65.8 (r2 = 0.95). the low 40s at kappa 30 /4/. North American wood species are illustratIn commercial kraft pulping prac- ed in Fig. 3, but major commercial species tice worldwide, the typical yield range elsewhere in the world will conform to this (unbleached pulp, in percent from wood) general picture. is about mid-40s to mid-50s for bleachable-grade hardwood pulps, At 15 kappa/HW 1 or 30 kappa/SW and about 4050 with softwoods 6 0 (Fig. 2). We can widen the softAspen wood range to about 60% by in55 cluding linerboard basestock, the Birch Beech high-kappa end of the kraft pulpMaple 50 Spruce ing spectrum. It is also possible to Jack Pine extend the lower limits of these Balsam Fir Loblolly Pine 45 E Hemlock ranges by invoking the use of sawE Larch E Cedar dust or nes (or decayed wood of 40 any particle size). 15 20 25 30 35 Surprisingly for a worldwide Lignin Content in Wood, % industry which has been in business for many decades, there is Fig. 3. There is a linear relationship between lignin content of no simple, fast, and cheap way wood and probable yield of bleachable-grade kraft pulp.
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Wood anatomy
The physical nature of wood also plays an important role in yield. Large differences exist among wood species, especially in percentage of fibres (the preferred cell type for papermaking) versus that of less desirable cells (e.g., ray parenchyma in softwoods, vessel elements in hardwoods) /5/. This is compounded by large ranges in the principal wood bre dimensions: length, diameter, and cell wall thickness /6/. For example, loblolly pine kraft pulp fibres can be ve times longer than sugar maple bres. Further, there are dimensional differences between earlywood and latewood, and between juvenile and mature wood. Of all of these, only bre length distribution is routinely measured in the kraft pulping world. From a papermakers perspective, a more appropriate concept might be the yield of papermaking bres from wood. In this sense, different wood species offer very different potential yields. If only long, narrow bres are sought, for example, then softwoods have a large advantage over hardwoods, in which wood anatomy is much more diverse (Fig. 4). But by acknowledging that hardwoods inevitably contain significant amounts of vessel elements, we can add them back since they are part of the pulp yield, bringing the hardwood cases much closer to the softwood ones. Still, there is a substantial amount of cell material in all woods that is not ideal from a papermaking standpoint. We can generalize with the following observations: The higher the percentage of long, narrow bres (as opposed to any other cell types) in the wood raw material, the more uniform will be the pulping, en-

hancing the yield of pulp which is ideal for papermaking. The greater the range of wood cell types, the wider will be the dimensional ranges of length, width, and cell wall thickness in the raw material before pulping, and hence in the kraft pulp which is produced. The anatomy of hardwoods is much more complex and in some papermaking ways adverse than that of softwoods.

Chip size distribution

In chip size, two things are clear thickness is the principal dimension of concern in kraft pulping, and 28 mm thick chips are ideal /7/. Thickness distributions are routinely measured in chip classiers, and modern chip thickness screening systems in mills are capable of controlling the thickness range reasonably well. Sadly, they often dont. Greater precision in chip making would help, whether during sawmilling operations or in log chipping. Undersized chips, although they pulp rapidly, carry a substantial yield penalty. With oversized chips, the danger is in generating rejects, inherently a penalty in mills producing bleachable-grade pulp whether the rejects are re-processed or are removed from the breline. If small wood particles can go to a dedicated, separate production line, and overthick chips are processed mechanically to make them more amenable to pulping, signicant yield gains can be obtained when pulping only the properly-sized chips, on the order of 12%. Fig. 5 illustrates two thickness distributions of same-species softwood chips on final delivery to two kraft digesters. The mill on the left achieves excellent control from a chip thickness screening plant with

disc screens and slicers. From pilot-plant pulping, these chips gave 46% pulp yield at 25 kappa when only the 28 mm fraction (containing 95% of the total mass) was cooked. Using mass fractions and reasonable assumptions to calculate the fractional yields shown in Fig. 5, the actual total yield from this chip furnish was 45.8%. The older mill on the right had rudimentary chip screening and therefore a much broader thickness distribution. At 25 kappa, the penalties with the undersized and oversized fractions were more serious, bringing the total yield down to 45.1%. Note that with signicantly less 28 mm material present, its fractional yield was ten percentage points lower. A yield difference of 0.7% may seem rather small, but at a pulp production rate of 1000 tpd the older mill requires 12,000 t more wood (on an oven-dry basis) annually. That can easily translate into a cost increase of a million dollars or more a year. The penalty will be worse when accounting for wasted volume in the digester occupied by overthick chips, higher alkali consumption, greater knotter rejects recycling costs, more shives going forward, less uniform pulp, and higher bleaching costs. A chip thickness screening plant is a necessary part of a modern kraft pulp mill. But simply buying and installing such a plant is not enough it must also be maintained, tested periodically, adjusted, and improved.

Chip quality (other than chip size)

Papermaking Fibres, % of wood content

0 20 40 60 80
Spruces D Fir, Pines Fibres only White birch Aspen Sweetgum Fibres and vessel elements


Fig. 4. If yield is defined on the basis of suitable papermaking fibres, softwoods have an advantage due to wood anatomy. Whether vessel elements are considered suitable makes a large difference in the hardwood results. 2

Many yield-related considerations fall into this category. In mixed-species chip furnishes, the proportions of the species, each with its own yield potential, will affect overall pulp yield. Moisture content can inuence yield values if green wood (rather than dry wood) is the basis for calculation; it can also affect the 3 Chip Thickness, % of total mass efficiency of pulping if the recipe changes (e.g., an unintentional 100 100 change in alkali charge due to an un80 80 seen change in wood moisture might 60 60 penalize pulp yield). Mechanical 40 40 damage to wood fibres can make 20 20 them more susceptible to chemi0 0 cal attack during pulping, lowering >8mm <2mm <2mm 2-8mm >8mm 2-8mm yield. Biological decay, bark, or the 43.7 0.9 1.2 5.7 6.3 33.1 Total Yield presence of biological knots and 45.8 45.1 % overthick chips in chip furnishes all Yield = 0.7% = ~ 12,000 t/y more wood = ~ $1.2 million/y impair pulp yield relative to fresh, sound wood of suitable thickness Fig. 5. Maximizing the 28 mm fraction of a chip Any of these factors may represent thickness distribution can significantly improve only a small yield penalty; togethpulp yield. er, they may reduce pulp yield by 24%.

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not a practical thing to do, but decreasing the overthick fraction substantially White Birch 55 would help. Since the trial, 53.8 + 5 . 5 Wood Species +0.5 chip thickness screening and 53.3 53 Pilot-Plant Pulping +1.5 overthick chip crushing have 51.8 Best Mill Chips +0.5 51.3 been installed on the hard51 wood side at Espanola. Reference Chips +3.0 49 Pilot-Plant Pulping: Due 48.3 to good chip pre-steaming PS-AQ Process Chemistry +1.5 47 practice, ideal temperature 46.8 KRAFT BASELINE (Hanging baskets, mill chips) control, and homogeneity of 45 impregnation and cooking in small research digesters, Fig. 6. Many aspects of chip quality and pulping greater uniformity of pulping practice offer substantial yield benefits, resulted in a signicant yield including original wood quality, removal of advantage (1.5%) regardless fines and oversized particles, and uniformity of of whether reference chips or impregnation and cooking. mill chips were cooked. 5 Wood Species : Species analysis of basket pulps from Effect of Alkali Charge on Pulp Yield mill birch chips showed 60 60 Mixed Southern that they actually contained Hardwoods Pi n e 24% maple on average. 55 55 Taking maple as one-quarEA, % 50 EA, % 50 5 . 1 0 ter of the mass, and assign15.0 17.5 17.5 45 45 20.0 ing this fraction a 2% yield 20.0 penalty from wood relative to 40 120 60 80 100 20 70 10 50 30 90 110 white birch /4/, a 0.5% yield Kappa Number Kappa Number decit was calculated. Overall, the four factors Fig. 7. Alkali charge plays a major role in pulp yield illustrated here added up to a the higher the charge, the lower the yield, due to potential yield gain of 5.5%, increased susceptibility of the polysaccharides to whether associated with the alkaline degradation. kraft baseline yield or with A comprehensive examination of pulp the PS-AQ yield. Achieving best performyield with respect to chip quality was part ance in all of these factors signicantly imof hanging basket experiments in a mill proves pulp yield. trial to implement Paprilox polysulphideanthraquinone pulping of hardwood in Conventional pulping chemistry conventional batch digesters at Domtars Among the primary independent variables Espanola, ON, kraft mill /8/: Four aspects of kraft pulping, high alkali charge, low suldity, high maximum temperature, and were measured (Fig. 6): Reference Chips: The removal of all bark, high lignin content in the wood are the knots, decayed wood, and heartwood most dangerous for inferior yield, potenprovided ideal chips for kraft pilot-plant tially reducing the value by several perpulping, accounting for a 3% yield ad- centage points. By contrast, the higher the vantage over the mills normal chips. cellulose-to-hemicellulose ratio in the wood, The reference chips were made from the the better. Lower extractives content is also stemwood of middle-aged white birch desirable. Liquor-to-wood ratio can affect logs of uniform growth chosen at the yield in that it has a strong inuence on Espanola mill, and their thickness range pulping rate, and therefore the time during which the polysaccharides (especially was 26 mm. Best Mill Chips: When only the 26 mm hemicelluloses) are degraded by alkaline thick fraction of mill chips was used in attack. Hardwood lignin is chemically difpilot-plant experiments, a 0.5% yield ferent from softwood lignin, and accounts gain was measured relative to whole mill for part of the reason why hardwoods often chips, whether in kraft or PS-AQ pulp- have higher pulp yields (and faster deligniing. The mill chips had an average thick- cation rates). How the main independent variables of ness classication of 11% < 2 mm, 59% 2-6 mm, and 30% >6 mm. Obviously, kraft pulping affect kraft pulp yield is clearly removing 41% of the raw material is explained in Kleppes classic paper Kraft

Components of Pulp Yield Gain

Pulping /9/. Higher alkali charge decreases pulp yield at a given kappa number, all other factors held constant, both with softwoods and hardwoods (Fig. 7). For every 1% increase in effective alkali charge (NaOH basis) with softwoods, there is a 0.15% penalty in yield. The problem is three times worse with hardwoods, due mainly to the higher proportion of hemicelluloses (especially xylans) and their susceptibility to alkaline attack. An independent example with kraft pulping of aspen to 15 kappa showed these results: total yield of 55.6% at 11% effective alkali, 54.4 % yield at 13.5% EA, and 52.8% yield at 17% EA. Thus, an increase of 6% effective alkali led to a yield loss of 2.7%, just as predicted (i.e., 6 x 0.45%). Although not particularly important in industrial kraft pulping (the majority of which is done at or above 30% sulphidity), how sulphidity affects yield is informative. Again from Kleppe /9/, with birch (at a kappa target of 25), the yield plateau at 54% comes at 30% sulphidity. At 0% sulphidity, pulp yield is about 50% instead, a decit of 4%; note that pulping rate is much slower as well. With pine at 55 kappa number, the 51% pulp yield plateau is at ~40% sulphid5

Screened Yield, %

Total Yield, %

Total Yield, %

Effect of Sulphidity on Pulp Yield


54 1h 52 2h 3h

Birch (kappa 25)

Pine (kappa 55)

1h 2h

50 3h 48 0 10





Sulphidity, %

Fig. 8. Sulphidity has a minor effect, providing that it is at the plateau level of 30% or above (this is true for the majority of kraft mills).

Effect of Temperature on Pulp Yield

Digester A Total yield, % Difference in TY, % Ascribed to chips Ascribed to EA Yield Loss due to Tmax, % 45.4 2 .1 - 0.3 - 0.1 1 .7 Digester B 43.3

Fig. 9. Maximum temperature of cooking has a major effect on pulp yield although it speeds up the delignification rate, it accelerates polysaccharides degradation even more. 3

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ity. At 0% sulphidity, pulp yield is 48%, a decit of 3%. Again, the pulping rate decreases signicantly with lower sulphidity. In both cases, then, pulp yield is directly related to sulphidity, but not in a linear manner. Sulphidity needs to be at or above 30% for optimum yield and rate reasons. The maximum temperature of pulping is also important for yield. In the case shown in Fig. 9, two chip furnishes from the same wood species were being delivered to two continuous digesters. They were pulped in a pilot-plant digester at process conditions taken from the two mill digesters (A: 18.5% effective alkali, 163C maximum; B: 19.1% EA, 175C max.). Case A had 86% 2-8 mm chips and 7% > 8 mm chips; Case B, 79% 28 mm chips and 14% > 8 mm chips. The difference in total yield at kappa number 30 was 2.1%. When adjusted for the differences attributable to chip thickness distribution and applied effective alkali, the yield decit due to the 12C higher maximum temperature in Digester B was 1.7%.

of about 2% whether measured by hanging baskets in the mill or in pilot-plant pulping using the chips and cooking liquors from the mill /8/ (see also Fig. 6). Occasionally, an astonishing possibility emerges, such as alkali sulphite-AQ pulping /14,15/. Although not in use industrially because of its slow delignication rate and complex chemical recovery issues, AS-AQ pulping can provide yield gains of 510% (Fig. 11), depending on the scenario. No other industrially-feasible process chemistry change can do better.

Yield Gain with Anthraquinone

1 2 Add AQ Reduce H 3 Add AQ Reduce AA

Mixed SW
Total Yield

Kraft baseline

Kappa AA, % AQ, % H-factor Yield, % Yi el d Gain , % 17.1 0 2350 42.6 0




17.1 0.10 2000 43.5 0.9

15.8 0.10 2350 44.8 2 .2

Fig. 10. Optimal anthraquinones effectiveness as a kraft pulping additive depends on the strategy of use vis--vis other primary variables such as alkali charge and sulphidity.

Mill digester systems

Modified pulping chemistry

The era of modied kraft pulping (originally called extended delignication) which began in the 1980s was founded on chemical principles intended to make kraft pulping more selective for delignication over polysaccharide degradation. Combined with appropriate changes in mill digesters, some yield benets have accrued. Liquor displacement batch systems can improve yield over conventional batch systems (as measured by hanging baskets) by 12% /10/. Continuous digesters with multiple white liquor inputs and black liquor extractions appear to offer a yield advantage particularly with hardwoods of up to 4% /11/. In general, however, evidence for a universal yield benet with modied kraft pulping equipment is scanty. Modifying kraft pulping with additives (e.g., anthraquinone, or polysulde, or both) can improve pulp yields by about 13%. The research knowledge is extensive and deep /12/, and both additives have been used for the past 30 years in mills scattered around the world. An obvious advantage with AQ is that it can work in all types of kraft digesters no equipment changes are required. To achieve maximum benets with AQ, its strategy of use needs to be based on optimizing all the key factors in kraft delignication, including alkali charge, sulphidity, and kappa target. Fig. 10 shows an example /13/. A recent implementation of PS-AQ pulping of hardwoods demonstrated that the change from kraft resulted in a yield gain

Yield Gain with Alkaline Sulphite-AQ Digester equipment considerations can have a big inuence on yield in kraft pulping. Especially HW SW 6 10* important are the chip pre-steam- Yield gain (brownstock), % Kappa number +10 +6 ing and liquor impregnation steps. Yield gain (bleached), % 5 6 Advanced batch and continuous Unbleached brightness 35 gain, % I SO 20 digesters do an effective job of chip Bleaching chemical pre-steaming by providing enough consumption increase, % ~20 ~30 contact time with atmospheric steam (15+ minutes), but most di- * From aspen: total yield of 65% at kappa 18 a world record? gester systems have either no delib- Fig. 11. Alkaline sulphite-AQ pulping offers erate pre-steaming or not enough, astounding yield gains over kraft, but the even when it is a combination process is burdened by slow a delignification of atmospheric and low-pressure rate and chemical recovery is complex. regimes. When air removal and water saturation of the inner void spaces pregnation conditions can carry a signicant in wood chips are inadequate, the result is yield penalty. a less-than-perfect liquid environment for Pilot-plant experiments have also shown pulping, leading to more heterogeneous that if chips are thoroughly pre-steamed and delignication and inferior yield. impregnation with white liquor is done with Good impregnation is always a key to good temperature control, then bulk liquor good kraft pulping. It needs to be long circulation through the cooking chip colenough (usually 30+ minutes) and at a low umn inside a steam-jacketed 20L digester enough temperature (120 5C) to ensure is not vital in producing kraft pulp of high that the liquid-phase chemistry is ready to yield and quality. Forced liquor circulation begin everywhere inside the chips when they in mill digesters is a means to try to overare taken to delignication temperature. Fig. come temperature and chemical concen12 illustrates results from kraft pilot-plant tration gradients created during lling and experiments on two softwood sawdust fur- impregnation. It is no surprise that the best nishes from a mill operating M&D digesters liquor displacement batch digesters have /16/. The M&D operations were simulated the lowest measured kappa variability inby combining the sawdust and cooking liq- side them /10/. uor in bombs and driving the temperature The era of modied kraft pulping has to 185C as fast as possible (~ 10 minutes). fostered longer and slower delignication Even when starting with tiny sawdust-sized in continuous digesters and more effective wood particles, plenty of rejects were gener- impregnation in liquor displacement batch ated. But when we used conventional kraft digesters. Both provide an inherent advanconditions designed for chips, including tage in selectivity (although the main benet a 90-minute ramp of 1C/min to cook- seems to be better preservation of cellulose ing temperature for graceful impregnation, integrity). the rejects decreased by about two-thirds, Together, all of these factors can improve meaning that the screened pulp yield rose pulp yields by several percentage points. by 2%. This case shows that extreme im-

Paperi ja Puu Paper and Timber Vol.89/No. 4/2007

terials need to be minimized Yield/kappa relationship they are proof of inadequate The typical yield/kappa relationship for kraft upstream process conditions, pulping (as illustrated in Fig. 13) requires 4.0 they add to processing costs, some caveats. There is, of course, a yield inSW sawdust 3.5 and they make the pulp less tercept which is strongly related to wood spe3.0 uniform. Common examples cies, chip size, and pulping conditions. The 2.5 are knotter rejects (especially straight line represents the bulk delignica2.0 +1.8% SY +2.0% SY from biological knots) being tion phase, which covers almost the whole 1.5 A B recycled to digesters /17/, and kappa range of commercial kraft pulping 1.0 0.5 final screen rejects being re- from high-kappa linerboard base stock to 0 ned and recycled in bleach- bleachable-grades. Kraft-AQ Kraft Kraft Kraft-AQ Conventional M&D Conventional M&D able-grade mills. Fig. 14 amplies the meaning of a speVersion Version Version Version It is instructive to examine cific yield/kappa relationship. This is a the yield/kappa relationships spruce/pine/fir case in which pilot-plant Fig. 12. Even with sawdust-sized wood particles, of pulping, oxygen deligni- kraft pulping of 28 mm thick chips was inferior impregnation conditions lead to fication, and ECF bleaching done at ve H-factors (the highest one was excessive rejects; good pre-steaming and together. Fig. 13 provides a duplicated). Because the fibre liberation conventional impregnation significantly reduce generic softwood case. point with softwoods is at about kappa 40, rejects generation, translating it into higher For kraft pulping, the slope screened yield equals total yield at all but the pulp yield. of a softwood line to ~30 ka- highest kappa level. Three linear regressions ppa is 0.15 ~0.05; for hard- can be calculated: 8 woods to ~15 kappa, the slope For all six total yield values, total yield = Yield/Kappa Relationship Beyond Pulping is the same. Both are straight 0.12(kappa) + 41.3 r2 = 0.95 50 Theoretical (lignin only) lines. With softwoods, the line For the highest four yields, total yield = LR for 5 points TY=0.06kappa + 45.2 r =0.99 represents the bulk delignica0.11(kappa) + 42.0 r2 = 0.94 48 tion phase starting from about For the lowest three yields, total yield = 46 100 kappa (the high-yield end 0.22(kappa) + 38.9 r2 = 0.98 Kraft Pulping of kraft pulping), and is a fact This demonstrates that where you stop 44 LR for highest 4 points TY=0.23kappa + 40.1 r =0.99 which cant be changed eas- kraft pulping has a signicant effect on pulp Oxygen Delignification 42 ily. The kraft case in Figure 13 yield. For bleachable grades, the idea is to LR for highest 5 points TY=0.09kappa + 44.2 r =0.99 is for a softwood with a pulp aim for the end of the bulk delignication 40 yield of 47% at kappa 30. phase without falling into the residual phase. 30 40 20 10 With oxygen delignifica- Being seduced by ever lower kappa numbers Kappa Number tion, the slope is about 0.10, prior to oxygen delignication or bleaching and extends down to perhaps kappa 15 be- has its price! Fig. 13. The yield/kappa lines of kraft fore beginning a steeper fall /18/. With nal With hardwoods, only bleachable-grade pulping, oxygen delignification, and ECF lignin removal, in theory the slope is about pulp is made, and the entire kappa range is bleaching have progressively lower slopes, 0.05; this is chemically close to what ECF about 1218, so there is much less room hence greater selectivity for lignin removal bleaching actually does. In all three cases, for unintentional overpulping. The use of over polysaccharide degradation. The kraft lower slope means better selectivity during an excessive alkali charge is the greater risk. pulping and oxygen delignification lines enter lignin removal, the right direction for yield At the low-kappa end, the onset of the danger zones below about kappa 20 and 15, enhancement. residual delignication phase will begin to respectively. Several aspects of yield/kappa relation- increase the slope rapidly, sacricing yield ships need to be remembered: Yield beyond pulping There are non-linear conse9 Slope of Yield/Kappa Line quences for yield when either Three main considerations apply here: the pulping or oxygen delignichemical selectivity of oxygen delignication LR for highest 4 points 50 T Y = 0 . 1 1 k a p p a + 4 2 . 0 r 2 = 0 .9 4 cation is taken below its pracand chlorine dioxide bleaching, the uniLR for lowest 3 points tical kappa limit where the formity of the brous pulp passing through T Y = 0 . 2 2 k a p p a + 3 8 . 9 r 2 = 0 .9 8 48 selectivity for lignin removal the chemical operations, and any physical 46 is lost. losses of bres in the progression of operaTotal The yield gap widens in fations along a breline. Screened Yield 44 Yield vour of oxygen delignificaThe yield losses accompanying oxygen LR for all 6 TY points tion over pulping as kappa delignication and ECF bleaching are much 42 T Y = 0 . 1 2 k a p p a + 4 1 . 3 r 2 = 0 .9 5 number decreases. smaller than those in pulping, offering less 40 opportunity to improve yield substantially Raising the kappa target of 15 25 35 45 55 pulping lifts the whole picby process changes. But attention is required Kappa Number ture to higher yield, notwithto avoid unnecessary mechanical degradastanding the higher cost of Fig. 14. When a typical yield/kappa line for kraft pulping of tion of pulp bres through these areas of a removing residual lignin later a softwood is separated into parts, it becomes clear that mills breline so as not to lose yield solely in the process line. due to leakage of fibrous debris. Also, seeking kappa targets below the high 20s inevitably sacrifices any recycles of unacceptable fibrous mayield by entering the residual delignification phase.

Lower Rejects with Better Impregnation

Screen Rejects, %

Pulp Yield, %

Pulp Yield, %

Paperi ja Puu Paper and Timber Vol.89/No. 4/2007


A Short Wish List

Lignin-free trees Extractives-free trees Hardwoods with no vessel elements CTS plants which perform to specifications (and receive regular audits) Practical working knowledge of kraft pulping chemistry a qualification for digester operators

Fig. 15. Substantial yield improvements would come from all of these items. While the first three remain intractable, the last two are possible today.
Magnitude of Change
Wood species SW to HW S W to SW H W t o HW AS-AQ vs. conventional kraft SW HW PS-AQ vs. conventional kraft SW HW A dd o xy ge n de l ign ifi c ati on Improve impregnation a n d c ook ing uni for mi ty 14% 8% 7%

1 2

6% 10%

3% 3% 2% 2%

Fig. 16. When ranked according to magnitude of potential yield gain, the top ten factors emerge in this order. Very few options offer individual gains above 3%.

despite the further slow decrease in kappa number. Because the residual lignin is more resistant to delignication while the polysaccharides continue to degrade, the selectivity of kraft pulping becomes progressively worse the slope of the line becomes steeper. This relationship is a crucial aspect of every kraft pulping scenario, and it should be known for every mill operation. Often, that is not the case. To obtain accurate numbers, such information is determined in research-scale pulping. It should be done routinely when any signicant changes are made in chip furnishes and cooking recipes, including any proposed use of pulping additives.

Wish list
Although industrial kraft pulping practice has changed slowly and incrementally over the years, it is always useful to imagine how it could be made better, and by how much. Figure 15 lists some possibilities, from the far-fetched to the practical: Lignin-free trees: In Factor 1, Fig. 3, the linear regression suggests that the lignin-free case has a Y-intercept of 66%,

far higher than any kraft pulp yield cur- are a lot of opportunities which can derently obtained commercially. liver 13% yield gains: additives such as Extractives-free trees: The same general anthraquinone and polysulphide, moving argument applies. Because there is no to advanced modes of digester operation, great business in by-products from ex- oxygen delignification (especially with a tractives any more, it would be nice to higher kappa target after pulping), and close avoid dealing with extractives at all. attention to the quality of chips being fed Hardwoods without vessel elements: to a digester. It is also good to have a strong The wood would be denser, providing command of existing knowledge and apply higher pulp yield per unit volume of it to the technical details of good kraft pulpdigester space, and the pulp would be ing practice. more uniform, allowing improvements Enhanced yields can also come from betin stock rening, papermaking, coating, ter chip making and dimensional control, and printing. improved pre-steaming and impregnation Chip thickness screening: Most CTS practices, cooking at lower temperatures plants dont come close to their origi- for longer times wherever possible, mininal specifications for segregating and mization of rejects from pulping (and the controlling chip dimensions, nor work re-processing of them), efcient bre spill consistently well in cold-weather loca- collection, and tight process control of oxytions. Overthick chip processing spans gen delignication and bleaching. Research the range from very good to abysmal demonstrates that impressive, cumulative /17/. yield gains are possible. Working knowledge: Training of digester Finally, Fig. 17 is an attempt at reality operators is not as good as it should be what can you do in a kraft mill to improve (especially in North America). There pulp yield at modest cost with the equipis usually no certification of personal ment you have today? The items are listed knowledge of the chemistry of pulping, in order of increasing cost: so digesters tend to be treated foremost Get out and stay out of the residual as mechanical entities. Is this satisfactory delignication phase. for the operation of chemically complex Make your CTS plant perform to maxisystems worth upwards of $100 million mize the 28 (or 9 or 10) mm thick that produce tens of billions of dollars fraction. Minimize the fines going to worth of pulp per year? Standards are pulping, and deal effectively with the much stricter in many other lines of (small) fraction of overthick material. work, including regular continuing edBuy or make chips with a narrower disucation plus re-testing. Why not in our tribution of thickness. business? Push continually to increase your best Having assembled this Top Ten list for species for yield. Know the real numkraft pulping yield, it is possible to rank bers by species from R&D work done the factors in a variety of ways. Fig. 16 does on your wood sources. this based on magnitude of yield gain. For Make sure that your alkali charge and example, a bleachable-grade kraft swing maximum temperature of cooking dont mill could gain 14% going from the lowest creep too high, or your suldity too low. softwood yield to the highest hardwood one Process creep can occur over the long (Figs. 2 and 3). No mill has the wood basket term, and current process targets may to do this. But in the northern boreal forlose their connections to the original est zone, a 78% yield gain is routine when reasons for change. going from spruces to aspen. The same Practical To Do At Modest Cost is true in hardwood mills going from Factors maples to aspen. 9 Alkaline sulphite-AQ pulping has Stay out of residual delignification phase been done industrially, but only briey Get full performance from CTS plant 3 and conned to two mills. In the right 1 2 circumstances, its use in linerboard pro- Optimize for best species in a mixture duction could be interesting from a yield Optimize pulping recipe for EA, S, Tmax 5 perspective. Unfortunately, slow pulping 6 rate and complex chemical recovery are Add AQ serious hurdles to overcome. 7 Improve pre-steaming, impregnation regimes Most of the opportunities in Fig. 16 provide yield gains of 3% or less not Fig. 17. When ranked according to what is practical so exciting, perhaps, but feasible and to do at a modest cost, the top ten factors offer operating in some mills. In fact, there plenty of opportunities for improvement.

Paperi ja Puu Paper and Timber Vol.89/No. 4/2007

Anthraquinone? It is probably the simplest quick x for yield gain if you can afford it. Dont waste it by adding too much, losing some of it in an early black liquor extraction, or failing to recognize trade-offs with other primary factors such as alkali charge, sulphidity, and kappa target. Do anything you can to improve chip pre-steaming. Optimize impregnation by ensuring that the ingredients you put in your digester are the best you can provide. Dont exceed what the chemistry can actually do. And if the opportunity comes, go to an advanced batch or continuous digester system and advanced oxygen delignication. Happy kraft pulping!

1. Kraft Pulp Yield Anthology (CD-ROM), 100 published papers, 19902001, TAPPI, Atlanta, GA. 2. Gullichsen, J.: Fiber Line Operations, in Chemical Pulping, Volume 6A, Papermaking Science and Technology, J. Gullichsen and H. Paulapuro, eds., TAPPI/Finnish Paper Engineers Association, Atlanta/Helsinki, 1999, Chapter 2, p. A2728. 3. Process Variables, in Alkaline Pulping, Volume 5, Pulp & Paper Manufacture Series, 3rd edition,

Grace, T.M., Leopold, B., and Malcolm, E.W., eds., Joint Textbook Committee of the Paper Industry, CPPA-TAPPI, Montreal/Atlanta, 1989, Chapter 5, p. 82. 4. MacLeod, J.M.: Kraft Pulping: Connecting Theory to Industrial Practice, Notes of PAPTAC Kraft Pulping Course, Session 1, Pointe-Claire, QC, October 2325, 2006 (Typical Yields of Kraft Pulps). 5. Hakkila, P.: Structure and Properties of Wood and Woody Biomass, Volume 2, Papermaking Science and Technology, J. Gullichsen and H. Paulapuro, eds., TAPPI/Finnish Paper Engineers Association, Atlanta/Helsinki, 1998, Chapter 4, p.143. 6. ibid., p.141150. 7. Process Variables, in Alkaline Pulping, Volume 5, Pulp & Paper Manufacture Series, 3rd edition, Grace, T.M., Leopold, B., and Malcolm, E.W., eds., Joint Textbook Committee of the Paper Industry, CPPA-TAPPI, Montreal/Atlanta, 1989, Chapter 5, p. 9096. 8. MacLeod, J.M., Radiotis, T., Uloth, V.C., Munro, F.C., Tench, L.: Basket cases IV: Higher yield with Paprilox polysulphide-AQ pulping of hardwoods, new Tappi J 1(8):3 (2002). 9. Kleppe, P.J .: Kraft Pulping, Tappi J 53(1):35 (1970). 10. Tikka, P.O., Kovasin, K.K.: Displacement vs. conventional batch kraft pulping: delignification patterns and pulp strength delivery, Paperi ja Puu 72(8):773 (1990). 11. Lebel, D.J.: Continuous Digester Operations, Notes of PAPTAC Kraft Pulping Course, Session 3, Pointe-Claire, QC, October 23-25, 2006 (LoSolids Pulping). 12. Anthraquinone Pulping: a TAPPI PRESS Anthol-

ogy of Published Papers, G. Goyal, ed., TAPPI, Atlanta, GA, 1997, 600 pages. 13. MacLeod, J.M.: Improving kraft pulp yield with anthraquinone and polysulphide: science and strategy, 2002 Kraft Pulp Yield Workshop Preprints, TAPPI, Atlanta, GA, Session 6, Paper 6-1. 14. MacLeod, J.M.: Alkaline Sulphite-Anthraquinone Pulps from Softwoods, J Pulp Paper Sci 13(2):J44 (1987). 15. MacLeod, J.M.: Alkaline sulphite-anthraquinone pulps from aspen, Tappi J 69(8):106 (1986). 16. MacLeod, J.M., Kingsland, K.A.: Kraft-AQ pulping of sawdust, Tappi J 73(1):191 (1990). 17. MacLeod, J.M., Dort, A., Young, J., Smith, D., Kreft, K., Tremblay, M.-A., Bissette, P.-A.: Crushing: Is this any way to treat overthick softwood chips for kraft pulping? Pulp Paper Can 106(2):44 (2005). 18. Gullichsen, J.: Fibre Line Operations, in Chemical Pulping, Volume 6A, Papermaking Science and Technology, J. Gullichsen and H. Paulapuro, eds., TAPPI/Finnish Paper Engineers Association, Atlanta/Helsinki, 1999, Chapter 2, p. A146.

Martin MacLeod is a teacher, writer, and technical consultant on kraft pulping. He can be reached at: 150 Sawmill Private, Ottawa, ON K1V 2E1 Canada; phone + 1 613 5264798; e-mail This paper was adapted from a presentation at the TAPPI Growing Pulp Yield from the Ground Up Symposium, Atlanta, GA, May 17, 2006.


Paperi ja Puu Paper and Timber Vol.89/No. 4/2007