Exposures to numerous substances designated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as known, probable and possible carcinogens may occur in pulp and paper operations. Asbestos, known to cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, is used to insulate pipes and boilers. Talc is used extensively as a paper additive, and can be contaminated with asbestos. Other paper additives, including benzidine-based dyes, formaldehyde and epichlorohydrin, are considered probable human carcinogens. Hexavalent chromium and nickel compounds, generated in stainless-steel welding, are known lung and nasal carcinogens. Wood dust has recently been classified by IARC as a known carcinogen, based mainly on evidence of nasal cancer among workers exposed to hardwood dust (IARC, 1995). Diesel exhaust, hydrazine, styrene, mineral oils, chlorinated phenols and dioxins, and ionizing radiation are other probable or possible carcinogens which may be present in mill operations.
Noise is a significant hazard throughout the pulp and paper industry. The US Department of Labor estimated that noise levels over 85 dBA were found in over 75% of plants in the paper and allied products industries, compared to 49% of plants in manufacturing in general, and that over 40% of workers were exposed regularly to noise levels over 85 dBA (US Department of Commerce 1983). Noise levels around paper machines, chippers and recovery boilers tend to be well over 90 dBA. Conversion operations also tend to generate high noise levels. Reduction in worker exposure around paper machines is usually attempted by the use of enclosed control rooms. In converting, where the operator is usually stationed next to the machine, this type of control measure is seldom used. However where converting machines have been enclosed, this has resulted in decreased exposure to both paper dust and noise.
Some special exposures may also occur among employees in other mill-support operations. Power boiler workers handle bark, waste wood and sludge from the effluent treatment system. In older mills, workers remove ash from the bottom of the boilers and then reseal the boilers by applying a mixture of asbestos and cement around the boiler grate. In modern power boilers, this process is automated. When material is fed into the boiler at too high a moisture level, workers may be exposed to blow-backs of incomplete combustion products. Workers responsible for water treatment may be exposed to chemicals such as chlorine, hydrazine and various resins. Because of the reactivity of ClO2, the ClO2 generator is usually located in a restricted area and the operator is stationed in a remote control room with excursions to collect samples and service the saltcake filter. Sodium chlorate (a strong oxidizer) used to generate ClO2 can become dangerously flammable if it is allowed to spill on any organic or combustible material and then dry. All spills should be wetted down before any maintenance work may proceed, and all equipment should be thoroughly cleaned afterward. Wet clothing should be kept wet and separate from street clothing, until washed.
In chemical recovery areas, acidic and alkaline process chemicals and their by-products may be present at temperatures in excess of 800°C. Job responsibilities may require workers to come into direct contact with these chemicals, making heavy duty clothing a necessity. For example, workers rake the spattering molten smelt that collects at the base of the boilers, thereby risking chemical and thermal burns. Workers may be exposed to dust when sodium sulphate is added to concentrated black liquor, and any leak or opening will release noxious (and potentially fatal) reduced sulphur gases. The potential for a smelt water explosion always exists around the recovery boiler. Water leaks in the tube walls of the boiler have resulted in several fatal explosions. Recovery boilers should be shut down at any indication of a leak, and special procedures should be implemented for transferring the smelt. Loading of lime and other caustic materials should be done with enclosed and ventilated conveyors, elevators and storage bins.
Chemical pulping operations present the opportunity for exposures to digestion chemicals as well as gaseous by-products of the cooking process, including reduced (kraft pulping) and oxidized (sulphite pulping) sulphur compounds and volatile organics. Gas formation may be influenced by a number of operating conditions: the wood species used; the quantity of wood pulped; the amount and concentration of white liquor applied; the amount of time required for pulping; and maximum temperature attained. In addition to automatic digester capping valves and operator control rooms, other controls for these areas include local exhaust ventilation at batch digesters and blow tanks, capable of venting at the rate the vessels gases are released; negative pressure in recovery boilers and sulphite-SO2 acid towers to prevent gas leaks; ventilated full or partial enclosures over post-digestion washers; continuous gas monitors with alarms where leaks may occur; and emergency response planning and training. Operators taking samples and conducting tests should be aware of the potential for acid and caustic exposure in process and waste streams, and the possibility of side reactions such as hydrogen sulphide gas (H2S) production if black liquor from kraft pulping comes into contact with acids (e.g., in sewers).
The results show that the boiler in a heating system should be controlled according to the heating load in order to achieve the highest long-term energy efficiency while maintaining desired comfort.
The cooking mixture (white liquor) is sodium hydroxide (NaOH, caustic) and sodium sulphide (Na2S). Modern kraft pulping is usually carried out in continuous digesters often lined with stainless steel (). The temperature of the digester is raised slowly to approximately 170°C and held at that level for approximately 3 to 4 hours. The pulp (called brown stock because of its colour) is screened to remove uncooked wood, washed to remove the spent cooking mixture (now black liquor), and sent either to the bleach plant or to the pulp machine room. Uncooked wood is either returned to the digester or sent to the power boiler to be burned.
The scientific credibility of these control techniques relies on a good understanding on how the energy efficiency of boilers is influenced and can be optimized in both short-term and long-term.
The black liquor collected from the digester and brown stock washers contains dissolved organic material whose exact chemical composition depends on the wood species pulped and the cooking conditions. The liquor is concentrated in evaporators until it contains less than 40% water, then sprayed into the recovery boiler. The organic component is consumed as fuel, generating heat which is recovered in the upper section of the furnace as high-temperature steam. The unburned inorganic component collects at the bottom of the boiler as a molten smelt. The smelt flows out of the furnace and is dissolved in a weak caustic solution, producing green liquor containing primarily dissolved Na2S and sodium carbonate (Na2CO3). This liquor is pumped to a recausticizing plant, where it is clarified, then reacted with slaked lime (Ca(OH)2), forming NaOH and calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The white liquor is filtered and stored for subsequent use. CaCO3 is sent to a lime kiln, where it is heated to regenerate lime (CaO).
One of energy saving strategies employed by these boiler controllers is to maximize the energy efficiency of the boilers through varying water temperature according to load or optimizing the mixture of oxygen and fuel, in additional to minimizing the heat loss throughout the heat distribution system and avoiding the overheating in the controlled spaces.
The spent digestion mixture, called red liquor, can be used for heat and chemical recovery for all but calcium-bisulphite-base operations. For ammonia-base sulphite pulping, the dilute red liquor is first stripped to remove residual SO2, then concentrated and burned. The flue gas containing SO2 is cooled and passed through an absorption tower where fresh ammonia combines with it to regenerate the cooking liquor. Finally, the liquor is filtered, fortified with fresh SO2 and stored. The ammonia cannot be recovered because it is converted into nitrogen and water in the recovery boiler.
Liao and Dexter developed a novel boiler controller, referred to as Inferential Control Scheme (ICS), that varies the water temperature according to an estimate of the average air temperature in the building