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Trends in World Bleached Chemical Pulp Production 1990-1996


Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) pulp, bleached with chlorine dioxide, continues to be the fastest growing segment in the world bleached chemical pulp (BCP) market. By the end of 1996, ECF production will top 34 million tonnes per year. World market share continues to grow -- approaching 50% in 1996. New science, a proven environmental track record, and increasing market demand assure ECF's place as the industry standard.

The debate surrounding the environmental benefits of Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) versus ECF is over. While TCF continues to hold a minor market niche in Northern Europe, primarily Scandinavia, it has failed to create a significant presence elsewhere. Its current world market share has stalled at 7%.

Driven by market demand, environmental and regulatory pressures, and its promise to be the cornerstone of the "minimum-impact mill" of the future, ECF will continue to grow rapidly in all but a few of the world's pulp producing regions.

The Market's Choice

Study after study shows that there is no significant environmental difference between a TCF and an ECF process. Even Södra Cell, the world's largest producer of TCF pulp, acknowledges in recent studies that:

"... it may be concluded that no clear cut differences in biological effect-inducing potential were found between effluents from production of ECF pulp and those from production of TCF pulp...[1]"
With the facts now well established in the marketplace, signs of TCF's weakening market position are now clearly emerging:

"Paper producers and converters are abandoning TCF, using ECF instead [2]."

"We respond to the demands of the customers, and the customers aren't demanding
TCF [3]."

World BCP Production Profile

With the environmental debate resolved, the market has now shifted focus to quality and price. As a result, ECF worldwide production has grown 6 times faster than TCF. By the end of 1996, ECF production is expected to exceed 34 million tonnes, capturing more than 45% of the world BCP market. This overall trend applies in almost every pulp producing region of the world, including the relatively new regions of Latin America and Southeast Asia.


The Nordic countries were the first to react to the European market demand and, since 1994, have produced only ECF and TCF. As the graph shows, production of ECF still outpaces TCF by a wide margin. In fact, ECF dominates the market even in this, the largest TCF-producing region, accounting for more than 70% of production. While TCF is growing, it continues to lag far behind.

North America

North American production trends paint a clear picture of ECF's emergence as the industry standard.

In Canada, ECF production is expected to total more than 8 million tonnes in 1996, representing two-thirds of all Canadian BCP production. In contrast, the small TCF production is actually declining. Significantly, in 1995 no TCF bleached kraft pulp was produced in Canada, and no production is expected in 1996. TCF sulfite pulp accounts for less than 1% of Canadian BCP production.

In the US, ECF is growing dramatically, and has increased by almost 2,000% since 1990. The US is now the largest ECF-producing region in the world. By the end of 1996, ECF production will total more than 10 million tonnes, for a US market share of almost 40%. The upcoming US EPA Cluster Rules, which are based on ECF as Best Available Technology (BAT), will continue to fuel the growth of ECF in the US.

TCF production in the US, however, is negligible, amounting to less than one-half of 1% of total US BCP production.

Environmental Performance and Eco-System Response

International experts from both the scientific and technical communities agree that ECF bleaching is a pollution prevention process.

Increased use of chlorine dioxide and conversion to ECF processes contributes to eco-system recovery. In the US, for example, 13 states have lifted a total of 17 fish consumption advisories for dioxin from waterbodies downstream of US pulp mills since 1990 [4]. These results are not limited to the US, however. In Canada, the federal government recently announced that shellfish harvesting would resume in select waters along the British Columbia coast. The re-openings came as a direct result of an 85% decline in dioxin and furans in just a three year period [5].

Documented environmental performance and eco-system response have been widely recognized, further fueling the demand for ECF. For example, the EDF Paper Task Force had this to say:

"Purchasers should give preference to paper manufactured by suppliers who demonstrate continuous improvement toward minimum-impact mills by installing pollution prevention technologies such as the substitution of chlorine dioxide for elemental chlorine...[6]"

In addition to the substitution of chlorine dioxide, the Task Force also recommended extended cooking, oxygen delignification, and the recirculation of bleach plant filtrate.

The Future

With the environmental performance of ECF firmly established, the debate is turning away from ECF and TCF to a discussion of "closed-loop" and "minimum-impact mills" that will recover the bleach plant effluent.

Experts agree that developing successful "closed-loop" systems poses many challenges. However, as research progresses, the industry is finding that ECF not only yields a superior product, but holds promise as the cornerstone of the "minimum-impact mill" of the future. One of the industry's leading innovators, and one of the mills pioneering these "closed-loop" processes, say:

"...the evolution toward the minimum-impact mill is likely to be slow and involve chlorine dioxide for a long time ahead [7]."

"...a certain amount of chlorine dioxide ensures a high pulp quality, and a cost for wood and chemicals that is significantly lower as compared to Totally Chlorine-Free sequences. The results so far show that a fully closed ECF sequence can be less expensive than an open TCF sequence [8]."

As the industry sets its sights on the "minimum-impact mill" of the future, one thing is certain: ECF will be a key component of its success.


  1. Responze from Södra Cell, Autumn, 1995.

  2. Responze from Södra Cell, Autumn, 1995.

  3. Williamson, R., "NDP Chlorine Ban Ignites Pulp Fricton," The Globe and Mail, February 22, 1996.

  4. US Environmental Protection Agency, National Listing of Fish Consumption Advisories, and state environmental and health authority data, August 1995.

  5. "Crab Bans Getting Lifted Around BC Pulp Mills," Papermaker Magazine, October 1995.

  6. "Paper Task Force Recommendations for Purchasing and Using Environmentally Preferable Paper," The EDF Paper Task Force, Project Synopsis, December 1995.

  7. Johan Gullichsen, Helsinki University of Technology, "The Changing Kraft Pulping Process," Proceedings, International Chemical Recovery Conference, April 1995.

  8. Ahlenius, L., Liden, J., Lindeberg, O., and Svensson, G., "MoDo's Experiences in Closed Loop Bleaching," TAPPI Minimum Effluent Mills Symposium, January 1996.


    The Alliance for Environmental Technology, "Trends in World Bleached Chemical Pulp Production: 1990-1995," April 1995.

    1996 AET International Pulp Production Survey.

    Pryke, D.C., "A Survey of Chlorine Dioxide Substitution in Bleached Kraft Pulp Mills," CPPA Bleaching Committee. (In progress)

    1996 Pulp & Paper Directory, Miller Freeman, Inc., November 1995.

Appendix (All Data in Millions of Tonnes)

1990 3.5 0.1 60.3
1991 7.9 0.4 55.7
1992 14.4 1.2 49.1
1993 19.2 2.4 44.1
1994 25.0 3.9 38.1
1995 31.5 4.3 36.7
1996 34.4 5.1 35.2
United States
1990 0.5 0.0 26.8
1991 1.6 0.01 25.6
1992 2.8 0.01 24.4
1993 4.0 0.02 23.2
1994 6.0 0.06 21.1
1995 9.1 0.1 19.0
1996 10.4 0.1 16.7

Brazil and Chile
1990 0.0 0.0 4.4
1991 0.3 0.0 4.1
1992 0.8 0.03 3.9
1993 1.2 0.05 3.8
1994 1.6 0.1 3.5
1995 1.8 0.1 3.7
1996 2.3 0.1 3.4

1990 0.7 0.0 10.3
1991 1.3 0.0 9.7
1992 2.6 0.04 8.4
1993 3.9 0.05 7.0
1994 5.5 0.05 5.5
1995 7.3 0.04 4.2
1996 8.1 0.04 4.0


(Includes Sweden, Finland, and Norway)
1990 2.3 0.1 6.5
1991 4.0 0.3 4.7
1992 6.6 0.6 2.0
1993 7.7 1.3 1.1
1994 8.5 2.2 0.0
1995 8.5 2.5 0.0
1996 8.1 3.3 0.0

Rest of World

(Includes Western Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia,Africa, Australia)
1990 0.04 0.03 12.4
1991 0.08 0.1 11.7
1992 1.5 0.5 10.4
1993 2.4 1.0 9.0
1994 3.3 1.5 8.2
1995 4.8 1.6 11.1
1996 5.6 1.6 11.1


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