Sustainable Industry

Brazilian pulp titan works towards a low carbon economy

Klabin reduced its specific greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60% in 2003-2019

Sustainability is a concern underlying all actions by Klabin, one of the largest producers and exporters of paper for paper packaging in Brazil. Klabin is a leading player in the corrugated cardboard and industrial bag markets, and is proud to be so far the only Brazilian company in the pulp and paper industry to be listed in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. This indicator identifies the companies with the best global performance based on long-term economic, environmental and social criteria.

In addition, Klabin was invited to join the group of leaders of the United Nations 2021 Conference on Climate Change (COP-26), held in Glasgow, to help fast-track the private sector’s commitment to undertake practical actions to reduce specific carbon emissions and achieve climate science-based targets.

Klabin has been around for more than 120 years and relies on 23 sites (22 in Brazil and one in Argentina). It has been working toward a low carbon economy for a few years now, and reduced its specific greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60% in 2003-2019.

According to Francisco Razzolini, Director of Industrial Technology, Innovation, Sustainability and Projects at Klabin, the scientific basis for setting GHG reduction targets is an important assumption, which is part of the recommendations of the United Nations (UN) and of COP-26 for the topic – and, therefore, that should be taken into account by companies.

“The business journey toward decarbonizing the economy is long and requires initiatives that have a positive impact on production chains. Companies need to accelerate their emission reduction processes in order to ensure that only those emissions that cannot be avoided will be offset,” says Francisco.

To promote the cause in the private sector, Klabin – in collaboration with the United Nations Global Compact’s Network in Brazil – launched the ImPacto NetZero initiative, which invites companies to consider adopting science-based greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and citizens to stand up for the cause for a more sustainable planet.

“We believe that sharing experiences on the benefits of mainstreaming sustainability as an essential part of business strategies helps to engage more actors in the cause, thereby contributing to the sustainable future that we all want for the planet,” says Razzolini.

Ambition – In line with the objectives of its 2030 Agenda, Klabin sought support from science to implement its actions to tackle climate change. As such, in 2021 Klabin became one of the first Brazilian companies to have its GHG reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which establishes methods and tools based on climate science.

It is an ambitious commitment – it includes the reduction of specific CO2 emissions (Scope 1 – direct emissions – and Scope 2 – indirect emissions) per ton of pulp, paper and packaging, by 25% by 2025, and by 49% by 2035, with 2019 as the base year. In order to achieve these goals, Klabin is funding projects with unique solutions involving low carbon technologies, which will be implemented in the short and medium terms. They consider both emissions reduction and resource efficiency.

Strategy – To ensure it achieves its goals, the company adopts a strategic plan. It reconciles operational growth with opportunities to implement technologies that support the generation and use of renewable energies, such as forest biomass. The aim is to cut GHG emissions by reducing fossil energy consumption. Klabin focuses on considering more efficient and innovative technological solutions that also bring a competitive advantage to the business.

These technologies are evaluated against the marginal abatement cost curve (MACC). This framework helps identify which technologies are most effective, thus applying an integrated analysis to the gains in GHG reduction and the avoided costs/economic benefits of implementing a low carbon technology.

A good example of avoided cost is the payment of a fee or purchase of emission permits – which should take place in the next few years, considering a potential regulated carbon market in Brazil and in the world. Among the recently implemented technologies that are based on an evaluation of the MACC curve, three stand out: generation of synthesis gas by biomass gasification and a tall oil production plant – both at the Puma site, in Ortigueira (PR); and a biomass boiler at the Piracicaba (SP) site. These technologies account for a total investment in excess of BRL 200 million.

Tall oil – The Puma site has a process in place for extracting and using tall oil (pine oil) as an additional source of renewable energy for the site. Tall oil is a by-product of the long fiber pulp production process, which originates from the resins contained in pine wood used in the production of this pulp. It can be used in substitution of fossil fuels and it helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Klabin believes that the initiative was one of those that received funding raised via green bonds by the company.

Gasification – As part of Klabin’s plans to branch into the packaging paper segment, the Biomass Gasification Plant at the Puma site will be responsible for supplying renewable fuel to the Lime Furnace 2 (lime kilns are part of the integrated circular process for the recovery of chemical products in pulp production plants), thereby replacing fossil fuel oil by around 21,000 ton/y.

The site uses biomass that is converted into renewable fuel – Syngas (synthesis gas) – through a rapid pyrolysis process in a circulating fluidized bed reactor. As a result, the plant’s carbon footprint is reduced.

In the lime kilns at the Puma site, Klabin also uses hydrogen combustion, which is generated in the integrated production of a chemical used in the bleached pulp production process. In the Puma II Project, a turbogenerator 3 (TG-3) was also installed, which transforms the thermal energy in the steam (produced under high pressure and temperature conditions in the recovery and power boilers based on biomass) into electrical energy. The energy generated by the three turbines combined at the Puma site is used to meet the demand of the current site and the new paper machines – and it also generates sufficient surplus to sustain the average consumption of 250,000 homes; this surplus is sold.

Boiler – Klabin says that it is committed to increasing the use of renewable energy sources in all of its operations. Thus, the new biomass boiler at the Piracicaba site, in São Paulo, is already in operation and has also replaced the burning of fossil fuels, thus contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

At present, the renewable energy sources used by Klabin are part of three main pillars: burning of black liquor (a by-product generated in the wood cooking process, which contains wood constituents other than cellulose), biomass-powered boilers (which use bark, twigs, chips, and waste from the wood chipping process that are not used in the pulp production process), and the site’s own electric energy from hydraulic generation.