Biomass boiler to reduce environmental impact

20th September 2013 By: Zandile Mavuso - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features

To reduce the environmental impact of the printing process, a new biomass boiler will be installed at printing company Paarl Media’s Cape Town plant in December.

“Increasing electricity and fuel prices, coupled with a growing demand for green business practices, have steered many companies towards alternative energy sources. At a time when the environment and its sustainability are at the top of business agendas, it is vital that companies adopt ways of reducing their carbon footprints,” says Paarl Media Western Cape executive director Christoff Botha.

He notes that the new boiler works on the principle of combustion and is fuelled by sustainable biomass that burns at intense heat to generate the steam required to drive the gravure process.

This production process is a type of intaglio printing process, which involves etching the actual image onto the surface of a plate or metal cylinder. The image consists of tiny cells, or wells, engraved into the cylinder. There may be as many as 22 500 ink wells per square inch.

After the etched plate cylinder is rotated in a fountain of ink, the excess ink in the nonimage area is removed by a thin piece of stainless steel, called a doctor blade. The size and depth of each ink well determines how much ink will be deposited on the substrate. When paper is passed between the plate cylinder and rubber impression roller, it acts like a blotter and absorbs the remaining ink in the microscopic wells, to produce the printed page.

Paarl Media’s gravure presses include the Cape Town plant’s newly acquired Cerutti Aurora press, which is also arguably the most energy efficient press in the world, says Botha.

The company mentions that there are several ways to generate steam, the traditional methods being electricity, oil or coal. However, the biomass boiler is a significant development, as it will also reduce production costs in the long run and create a buffer against electricity inflation.

The biomass boiler creates steam energy by burning wood chips produced from alien vegetation such as Port Jackson willow and black wattle.

“Despite the biomass boiler using large amounts of alien vegetation wood chips and the significant capital cost of buying the boiler, the overall running costs of the boiler are markedly lower than that of an electric boiler. “We will continually evaluate extensions to this project to further drive the reduction of the impact on our environment and positively change the environment in which we operate,” says Paarl Media Western Cape operations director Johan von Wielligh.

Botha adds that, in the long term, the installation of the boiler will reduce the company’s carbon footprint and its operation will create jobs through the harvesting of alien species, extending the benefits of the biomass boiler beyond Paarl Media to the community in which the company operates.

In so doing, the company is reinforcing its commitment to raising awareness of environment-friendly practices and its dedication of instilling a culture of personal responsibility in its employees and the community members.

Paarl Media client-support staff are trained to recommend optimal designs and formats that decrease ink and paper waste on press and during binding. “For instance, paper for presses comes in standard reel widths or sheets, which are most efficiently used for particular product sizes. Nonstandard formats can result in higher amounts of waste.

“As an initiative to improve sustainability within the printing industry, the company also plays a significant role in inspiring other printers, sup- pliers, customers and employees to work towards environ- mentally sound production methods,” highlights Botha.

Paarl Media has invested more than R100-million in environmentally responsible practices to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure the lowest possible impact on natural resources without compromising on the quality of printing.

“At our plant, we have a national network with digital proofing and a complete in-house service, which reduces transport requirements and our carbon footprint. “For example, by implementing bulk ink storage and deliveries, we reduce waste, transport requirements and the impact on landfills.

“Also, the Megtec’s Dual-Dry TNV regenerative thermal oxidisers (RTO) on our heatset, offset presses and eliminate emissions in line with stringent international standards. “The RTO technology ensures that the air released is free of odour, smoke and pollutants. “The energy recovered from the oxidisation process is reused in the dying process, which significantly reduces the gas energy consumption,” Botha points out.