Articles & Case Studies

Business up, energy consumption down

Posted: Monday 17th June 2013

How environmental permitting allowed Union Papertech to expand.

In 1966, a young graduate in mathematics arrived in the UK from the Punjab. By 1983, after training as a consulting engineer, Professor Nathu Ram Puri had established the beginnings of the Purico Group. Now one of the most diverse and successful private enterprises in the UK, it employs over 3,000 people worldwide with a turnover exceeding US$650 million.

Around the same time as Nat Puri came to the UK, Simpson Clough Paper Mill was converting the first of its machines to produce tea bag filter papers in Heywood near Manchester. Originally founded two centuries earlier to make Bible paper, the site started to move into the production of high quality, long fibred speciality filter papers for tea and coffee filtration. It was acquired by Purico in June 2006 and began trading as Union Papertech Ltd.

Under Purico’s ownership and direction, the Union Papertech business flourished and grew both domestically and internationally. The site gained BS5750 Part1 accreditation in 1994 and currently has accreditation to ISO9001:2008.

But the ability of the site to expand to meet growing demand had hit a legal limit. In order to be allowed to increase daily output to more than twenty tonnes, the company needed a bespoke environmental permit from the Environment Agency. With increasing legislation from Europe and ever more demanding standards to be met, this looked like being a long-winded and time-consuming process with no guarantee of success – especially in view of the age of the mill, its water-intensive processes and relatively high energy use.

So in June 2011 Purico called in engineering and environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong to help prepare the application for the permit. They were hoping that the consultancy would be able to repeat previous successes in environmental risk management and remediation at other Purico UK sites.

“The energy policy of the Purico Group was already clearly committed to control energy consumption and improve energy efficiency,” said Jed Kirkham, principal environmental scientist at Wardell Armstrong’s Leigh office. “For example, the total energy used at the plant per gross tonne of paper had been significantly reduced over the four years to 2011. So we were building on an existing proactive management programme to reduce energy through investment in new equipment.”

An early step for Wardell Armstrong was to carry out fact-finding site visits at the Heywood mill to look at all environmental aspects and make sure that the site was operating to best available techniques (BAT) under the Environment Agency’s BREF guidance. This initial assessment covered energy, the use of raw materials and water, waste, noise, and the control of emissions to water and air. The consultancy also helped to put the right control techniques in place and provided the framework for an environmental management system.

Paper-making operations by nature have to use large volumes of water. In Union Papertech’s case, they have a licence to abstract up to 6,219 cubic metres a day from the nearby Naden and Cheesden Brooks. The water is filtered, treated, stored and gravity fed to the paper-making machines and other parts of the plant.

In order to build on existing water recycling processes, a number of new water-saving initiatives are being put in place. A new waste water biological treatment plant will potentially have the largest effect, allowing the planned increase in production to take place with substantial savings in water use. When the plant starts operation in early 2013, it will allow Union Papertech to meet increasingly stringent consent standards for water emissions. Various other modifications have been made to the paper making process. These have reduced the overall use of water by some 1500 cubic metres per day. Further reductions are planned once the biological treatment plant is installed.

A gas-fired boiler at the site generates heat in the form of steam for the paper-making machines. Energy efficiency has been enhanced here too with the installation of an economiser unit which is now saving around 8% of the gas burn.

Having provided expert guidance to help Union Papertech to improve further their use of resources and reduce consumption of water and energy, Wardell Armstrong prepared the

bespoke environmental permit for submission to the Environment Agency. It was granted quickly and first time, within a three month period that included a site visit by the agency.

The result is that Union Papertech is now free to expand its production volumes to meet the rising demand for its specialist hot beverage filter papers. Better still, the company is able to achieve a corresponding pro rata reduction in environmental impact and use of resources thanks to increasing economies of scale.

“The service provided by Wardell Armstrong more than met our expectations,” said Union Papertech director and general manager Alastair Hume. “A quick and efficient process resulted in a successful permit application. If the need arises we would be pleased to use their services again.”

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