January 4, 2024 / All Stories, Featured, Innovations, Mercer Stendal Engineering the Future of Pulp: Inside Mercer Stendal’s Innovative Fiber Center Mercer Stendal’s company history began on a greenfield site on the Elbe, a major river in Central Europe, paving the way for the expansion of the Altmark Industrial and Business Park in Arneburg, Germany. In this business park, one of Saxony-Anhalt’s most promising locations for the future, tradition and progress merge into one. The large area is intended to provide space for start-ups, established companies, research facilities, and creative centers. Mercer operates one of Europe’s most modern pulp mills in this environment and implements a biorefinery concept where wood is used extensively for pulp, bioenergy, and biochemicals such as tall oil, turpentine and methanol. In 2018, the Mercer Stendal set up the Mercer Fiber Center to offer customers the best possible support in overcoming future challenges, led by Imanuel Kriesten since April 2022. In the following interview, Imanuel provides an insight into the exciting world of pulp processing and the many application-oriented possibilities of the modern technical center. Q: Mr Kriesten, what exactly is a Fiber Center? Our Fiber Center is a special laboratory in which we can simulate the industrial processing of pulp and precisely analyze the associated changes in fiber properties. The focus is particularly on refining, the most important process step in paper production. The internal and external structure of the pulp is changed by the refining process, which can be adjusted in many different ways – this is the basis, for example, for the strength of a paper, whether it carries pigment layers well or how it sounds and feels. Q: Presumably, this requires special laboratory equipment? Our center has state-of-the-art equipment for the preparation and analysis of pulp and paper. The fully automated LR40 laboratory refiner from Frank PTI is our centerpiece. It consists of a pulper, mono pump, the refiner itself, a sampling station, and the control unit. This enables us to simulate the industrial low consistency refiningprocess accurately and reproducibly. The operating principle of our refiner is based on refining intensity and specificrefiningenergy and, therefore, offers a high degree of versatility and flexibility for carrying out tests. The refiner can be operated as a single-disc or cone refiner, and we are always up to date with the latest technology from market-relevant suppliers in terms of fillings. We have measuring devices for dewatering resistance, water retention capacity, and fiber morphology available for testing the pulp suspension. We can test the hand sheets produced in static or dynamic sheet formers under standard climatic conditions for the relevant properties in the paper, board and tissue sectors. The Mercer Fibre Centre – video Q: That all sounds very specific. What specifically requires analyses? Like all of us, our customers are also facing major challenges – rising energy costs, the transformation to climate neutrality and the shortage of skilled workers are just a few of them. We see ourselves as a partner with our customers, and with the Fiber Center, we offer a tool for dealing with a wide range of tasks. Our focus is on strategic and long-term cooperation with our customers. We offer technical expertise and practical experience to help paper manufacturers exploit the full potential of fibers in their manufacturing processes. Q: Are there any other tasks of the Fiber Center? In addition to customer-specific work, we support all Mercer pulp mills with internal quality improvement projects, such as application engineering testing of the effects of reduced bleaching. Thanks to the very high reproducibility of our refining, we can also compare the pulps of all mills with each other and thus develop product profiles for the respective grades. As a partner in a large international network of universities, institutes, and research facilities, we are involved in a wide variety of projects to find new applications for our pulp, like in the construction sector or as a substitute for plastics. In cooperation with colleges and universities, we offer students and doctoral candidates a practical scientific working environment for project work and dissertations. Q: Who are the customers? 35 percent of our pulp is used in printing and writing paper, 50 percent for producing into tissue papers, and the remainder of our pulp is used for specialty papers. The packaging sector is still a relatively small part of our sales market. Q: Why does Mercer need a Fiber Center? Know-how and technological knowledge are becoming increasingly scarce within the processing industry. Our analyses are a great support for our customers. We can tell them how they can achieve the optimum result with the pulp. Each customer has individual requirements for our product. Our analyses and the simulation of their refining process in the Fiber Center make it possible to make recommendations for the optimal treatment of our pulps. The ecological aspect plays a major role here, and the economic aspect, for example, optimizes the pulp yield and reduces energy consumption. Our work in the Fiber Center is a service that we provide to our customers free of charge, a service that very few competitors can offer. It complements our range of pulp products and offers added value that contributes to customer acquisition and retention.