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Trends in World Bleached Chemical Pulp Production 1990-1997


Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) pulp, bleached with chlorine dioxide, continues to dominate the world bleached chemical pulp (BCP) market. In 1997, ECF production will be 38 million tonnes, totaling 50% of the world market share.

Market data show a widening gap between ECF and TCF (Totally Chlorine-Free) production. ECF continues to grow, with an additional 4 million tonnes entering the market in 1997. The growth of TCF remains steady at 6% of the world market. No production increase is expected for TCF in 1997.

Market Response

Seeking high quality, cost-competitive pulps with a superior environmental track record, consumers have spurred the growth of ECF production. Conversely, the higher bleaching cost, lower quality at market brightness, and absence of additional environmental benefits are limiting the growth of TCF markets. Recent proceedings at the 1997 International Emerging Technologies Conference confirm the shortcomings of TCF:

"The results show that it [relative bleaching cost] is 60% more expensive at full brightness (>88% ISO) and 16% more at 86% ISO brightness, respectively with TCF compared to ECF [1]."

While a small market for TCF still exists in Western Europe, the rest of the world continues to support the growth of ECF. ECF's product quality, coupled with its unrivaled environmental performance, has propelled production in 1997 to levels that for the first time will surpass all other bleaching processes.

World BCP Production Profile

In 1997, ECF will command the highest worldwide market share at 50%, totaling 38 million tonnes. This marks a 12% production increase from 1996. ECF market share continues to grow in all pulp producing regions including Canada, the U.S., Chile, Brazil, Japan, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

* Other is pulp bleached with chlorine or a mixture of chlorine and chlorine dioxide.

In the Pacific rim -- a strong and vital newcomer in the international marketplace, demand for ECF continues to expand, as new mills, especially those planned for Indonesia, will enter the market as ECF mills [2]. Total pulp production in Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand will grow to more than 6 million tonnes in 1997, with ECF production holding 44% of the market, versus TCF's projected one percent market share.


In Scandinavia, ECF demand remains strong, accounting for 75% of bleached chemical pulp production -- triple that of TCF. The demand for TCF has stalled, and some producers are responding by shifting a greater percentage of their production to ECF. Signaling a turning point in Scandinavian pulp production, one of the largest TCF producers will increase production of ECF in 1997 [3].

North America

In North America, ECF production will increase in 1997 by 16% to represent 55% of bleached chemical pulp production. In contrast, no growth in TCF production was seen in 1996, nor is any projected for 1997.

Separately, in 1997, Canadian BCP production of ECF will grow by 7% to 8.7 million tonnes, holding more than 70% of the market. TCF production will remain at 40,000 tonnes, showing no growth during the last three years. In the United States, ECF continues to grow rapidly, with an additional 2.4 million tonnes entering the market in 1997, growing by 23% to nearly 13 million tonnes, or 47% of the U.S. bleached chemical pulp production.

Environmental Performance and Eco-System Response

Numerous studies have recently examined the relative environmental quality of waste waters from mills operating with ECF and TCF bleaching processes. The London-based International Institute of Environment and Development examined this question and concluded:

"There is no appreciable environmental difference between TCF and ECF [4]."

Similar conclusions were reached in a joint report from the Swedish Forest Industry Water and Air Pollution Research Foundation (SSVL) and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency [5].

Support for ECF was further strengthened in July of 1996 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized ECF as the 'best available technology' for the pulp and paper Cluster Rule, expected to be promulgated by the end of 1997. In the Cluster Rule, the U.S. EPA has identified two options for bleached paper grade kraft and soda mills, both of which are based on ECF, or 100 percent substitution of chlorine dioxide for chlorine [6].

Beyond regulatory initiatives, ECF is gaining recognition with end-users who have high environmental standards and rely on top-quality paper. Influential publishers such as the U.S. magazine industry studied the environmental performance of both ECF and TCF, concluding that:

"... little research has been done on the effects of the chemicals in non-chlorine bleach systems that TCF proponents advocate. Therefore, forcing a transition to TCF systems at this time does not seem warranted or wise [8]."

The recovery of coastal fisheries in British Columbia are a documented example of the progress made by the pulp and paper industry after the implementation of chlorine dioxide. The Chlorinated Substances Action Plan: Progress Report, issued in October of 1996, states that:

"Contamination of fisheries by dioxin/furan releases in pulp mill effluents has stopped and significant environmental improvements achieved. Approximately 46 percent of commercial fisheries previously closed as a result of dioxin contamination in coastal British Columbia are now open again [9]."

The waterbodies of the United States also showcase this broader eco-system recovery. Since 1990, 13 states have lifted a total of 17 fish consumption advisories for dioxin downstream of pulp mills -- a decline of more than 50% [10].

Building on its previous success, the industry is advancing its pollution prevention goals further, by exploring the concept of the minimum-impact mill.

"The industry's environmental progress over the last 30 years, while maintaining economic viability, bodes well for the next 30 years and provides confidence that the minimum-impact mill of the future will be realized... [11]."

Looking Ahead

The vision of the minimum-impact mill is attracting increasing attention from industry experts, governing bodies, and interest groups and is viewed as the industry's next step. Minimum-impact mills will reduce water use, minimize raw materials, maximize energy production and produce high quality products while striving for aesthetic appeal. As research progresses, preliminary conclusions and operating experience show that ECF is compatible with -- and may become the cornerstone of -- the minimum-impact mill of the future.


    The Alliance for Environmental Technology, "Trends in World Bleached Chemical Pulp Production: 1990-1996," March 1996.

    1997 AET International Pulp Production Survey.

    Pryke, D.C., and Reeve, D.W., "Substitution of Chlorine Dioxide for Chlorine in Canadian Bleached Chemical Pulp Mills," Bleaching Committee, Technical Section, CPPA, April 1996.


  1. Moldenius, S., "Mill Experience with ECF and TCF Bleaching Facts vs. Fiction," Proceedings, 1997 International Emerging Technologies Conference, Orlando, Florida, March 1997.

  2. Cikaliuk, J., "Mill Communities: What is Being Installed and Why," Panel Presentation, 1997 International Emerging Technologies Conference, Orlando, Florida, March 1997.

  3. Moldenius, S., "Mill Experience with ECF and TCF Bleaching Facts vs. Fiction," Proceedings, 1997 International Emerging Technologies Conference, Orlando, Florida, March 1997.

  4. International Institute for Environment and Development, "A Changing Future for Paper," commissioned by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 1996, p. 7.

  5. Rapport 4695, "Miljöpåverkan av skogindustriella utsläpp" SSVL and Naturvårdsverket Förlag, February 1997.

  6. "Environmental Protection Agency Notice of Availability," Federal Register, July 15, 1996.

  7. Commoner et al., "Dioxin Fallout in the Great Lakes: Where it Comes From; How to Prevent it; At What Cost (Summary)," Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, June 1996.

  8. Magazine Publishers of America/American Society of Magazine Editors, "The Magazine Industry and the Environment," Task Force Report, September 1996, p. 10.

  9. Environment Canada and Health Canada, "Chlorinated Substances Action Plan: Progress Report," October 1996.

  10. Alliance for Environmental Technology, "Eco-System Recovery: Liftings of Fish Consumption Advisories for Dioxin Downstream of U.S. Pulp Mills," September 1996, p. 1.

  11. Axegård, P., Carey, J., Folke, J., Gleadow, P., Gullichsen, J., Pryke, D.C., Reeve, D.W., Swan, B., and Uloth, V., "Minimum-Impact Mills: Issues and Challenges," In press, Proceedings 1997 TAPPI International Environmental Conference, May 1997.

Appendix (All Data in Millions of Tonnes*)

1990 3.5 0.1 62.7
1991 8.2 0.4 58.2
1992 15.0 1.2 51.8
1993 20.0 2.6 46.9
1994 25.8 4.1 40.8
1995 31.2 4.7 36.8
1996 34.0 4.5 35.0
1997 38.0 4.5 33.5
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 0.2 23.0
1994 6.0 0.2 21.0
1995 9.1 0.3 17.9
1996 10.4 0.2 16.6
1997 12.8 0.2 14.2


(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 8.3 2.8 0.0
1996 7.6 2.6 0.0
1997 7.6 2.5 0.0

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
1997 8.7 0.04 3.4

Rest of World

(Includes Western Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand)
1990 0.0 0.0 19.2
1991 1.4 0.1 18.2
1992 2.9 0.6 17.0
1993 4.4 1.1 15.7
1994 5.8 1.6 14.3
1995 6.4 1.6 14.7
1996 7.9 1.7 14.4
1997 8.8 1.8 15.9

* All data rounded to the nearest tenth