Filed under: Specialty Cellulose Production

What Is Dissolving Pulp?

by on Jun 24th, 2010

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When Fortress Specialty Cellulose Inc. (FSC) resumed pulp production ahead of schedule at it’s newly acquired mill in Thurso, Quebec in May, the Vancouver-based company put the wheels in motion to transition the mill into a world-class dissolving pulp manufacturer by mid-2011.

Dissolving pulp is a major source of natural cellulose, a key ingredient used for the production of rayon. And with the demand for rayon at a tipping point around the world (largely due to lowered outputs of cotton) FSC is poised to enter an industry with a product tailored to meet that very demand.

So what exactly is dissolving pulp?

Dissolving pulp and “regular” pulp are two different things, though they stem from the same substance – wood. At the beginning of the pulping process, however, there is no difference.

Wood chips are boiled for several hours at a temperature of 130 to 180°C (266 to 356°F) producing a kind of sludge-like substance. This substance is then pressurized and put through a screening process where large shives, knots, dirt and other debris is removed. Once the rejected materials are removed, what remains is pulp.

In order to create dissolving pulp, an extra chemical process (called the sulfite process) is carried out in the production line that removes hemicellulose – a weaker polysaccharide inside the biological composition of the individual pulp cells. By removing these weaker elements, this process ensures that the pulp has a higher cellulose content – usually around 92 per cent – so much so that it is regarded in the pulp and paper industry as “specialty cellulose.”

Because its biological structure is stronger than that of “regular” pulp, dissolving pulp has a high level of brightness and a uniform molecular-weight distribution.

Once the dissolving pulp has been created, it is rolled or baled in the form of sheets and shipped to factories around the world.

Though it is used for the production of rayon, dissolving pulp is also a key component in the creation of products such as acetate textile fibers, cellophane, photographic film, medical surgery products, and tire cords among others.

In May, FSC announced a purchase and sale agreement with Massachusetts’ International Forest Products (IFP) for the initial pulp produced at the Thurso Mill until they begin the production of dissolving pulp next year.

IFP is a leader in international forest products trade and specializes in the sales and marketing, transportation and
logistics, and finance for suppliers and converters in the forest product industry.

Whether FSC and IFP will continue their purchase/sale agreement once the Thurso Mill begins the output of dissolving pulp has not been announced, but IFP does provides buyers and sellers access to dissolving pulp products.

SOURCES:
Dissolving Pulp Industry: “Market Trends”
Fortress Specialty Cellulose: “From Wood To Wearable: How Rayon Is Made”
RISI Info: “Pulp Growth Ain’t Pulp Fiction”
Fortress Specialty Cellulose: “Fortress Paper Announces Pulp Purchase and Sale Agreement for Fortress Specialty Cellulose”
International Forest Products

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