What do journalists think of the future of journalistic work?

paperinsight ViewpointInterested to know what journalists think of their future? Robert G Picard of the Oxford University, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has produced an interesting and insightful report on, ‘Journalists’ Perceptions on the Future of Journalistic Work‘.

Of those journalist which responded to the survey (509 journalists across the Western world), the conclusions were:

  • Journalism will be a harder job with less institutional support in the future.
  • Journalism will not be less satisfying or less independent.
  • There are concerns that journalists will have to work harder and have to think more about personal branding and entrepreneurship, and that they cannot count on stable employment, full-time jobs, or indeed life-long journalistic careers.
  • The respondents generally see journalism as a relatively stable collection of fundamental practices and techniques that is not dependent on medium or existentially threatened.

Picard points out that the results are striking for three reasons:

  • Journalists are clearly not in denial about the direct impact fundamental changes in the media will have for journalism as a form of work.
  • The respondents recognise that these changes are likely to make journalism more stressful, individualistic, and less stable, but they are not particularly pessimistic about the future of journalism as a professional practice.
  • The results are generally consistent across gender, age, and how long people have worked as journalists.

Picard concludes that many journalists are very clear eyed about how their profession is changing, and are not stuck in the past as some commentators assume.

He states that the challenge for news media, individual journalists, and journalistic professional associations, then, is to make sure that the often radical changes involved in journalism moving from 20th-century organisations to 21st-century ones are accompanied by the development of strong forms of 21st-century journalistic professionalism and the means to support them.

To view the detailed report, please click here.

Why are IKEA and Apple buying up forests …. lots of forests?

paperinsight bioeconomyAn interesting article appeared in Gizmodo by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan giving a perspective on the interests of technology and retail companies in forests, driven by conservation and sustainability pressures and their drive to use renewable resources.

Recently, Ikea (83,000 acres) and Apple (36,000 acres) bought up significant tracts of forest with the intention of managing them as a renewable resource.

In a quote attributed to Apple’s Lisa Jackson, she states:
‘We are in the midst of one of the greatest land transfers in history. In the last 15 years, we’ve already lost 23 million acres of forestland that provided the pulp, paper, and solid wood material for products we all use. That’s roughly an area the size of Maine. As land continues to be sold and change hands at an alarming rate, an estimated 45 million more acres are currently in the crosshairs of development.’

Apple and IKEA are not alone in eyeing up (buying up) future sources of renewables which can be used in the production of energy, food products or products many of which were traditionally derived from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas.

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For more information on why companies are buying up forests, there is also an article in the Wall Street Journal concerning IKEA –> click here

Today, Germany celebrates a 625 year history of papermaking

paperinsight paper companiesThis morning, I noticed an article in ipw magazine stating that on June 24th (today), the German paper industry (VDP = Association of German Paper-manufacturers) celebrates a 625 year history. Many paper manufacturers will open their doors to mark this special event.

Congratulations and what a great idea to open doors and share what the industry does and contributes.

For the detailed ipw article, please click here.

Optical Brightening Agents for Papermaking – the supply and demand situation

paperinsight additive supplOptical brightening agents (OBAs) are used in large quantities to increase the brightness or whiteness of paper and board products and for details of what optical brigthening agents are and their raw material composition, please refer to an earlier blogpost.  Recently, there has been a number of changes in the market which have impacted on the supply and demand for these products.

Demand has been in a state of flux, with further consolidation in the industry and closure of paper mills in Europe and the USA countered by the increased demand in Asia and South America. When demand shifts to Asia and South America, there are different options for the sourcing of OBAs as there are strong regional manufacturers of the products which are usually more competitive than the European or international producers.

On the supply side, there have been three significant effects. First, the Chinese government has belatedly chosen to clamp down on the polluting producers of the diamond-stilbene (DAST) raw material and as China is the major producer (> 40%), removing a significant amount of DAST increased raw material prices significantly. The remaining DAST producers in India and elsewhere could not pick up the deficit and DAST prices increased from below $1.50 to over £5.00 only to fall back to  around $3.50. This supply shortfall is not too dissimilar to the situation that occurred before the Beijing Olympics when the Chinese government prevented a number of DAST and OBA manufacturers from producing in order to cut down on the pollution wafting over the Olympic sites.

Second, to compound things, exchange rates have been volatile – especially the devaluation of the Euro against the dollar.

Third, oil prices fell dramatically only to recover somewhat but it is unlikely that prices will return to the $100/barrel level in the near future.

So, what of the product producers? Those that were back integrated and produced DAST had some relief, and tried to take advantage of the situation, increasing DAST and OBA prices; however, the OBA market in Europe was saturated and there was little upward movement in pricing and this situation is likely to remain.

From a European perspective the situation is:

  • European manufacturers of OBA face much higher higher material costs but have lower product logistic costs.
  • As the raw materials are based on oil, the oil price fluctuations we have seen recently have reduced raw material costs although DASDA pricing is not entirely dependant on oil pricing.
  • Chinese, Indian and Indonesian manufacturers importing into Europe are having to either absorb the dollar and raw material increases or find a way to compete with current European pricing. Most paper mills look at the delivered cost of OBAs (DDP) and the supply chain costs from India or China are significant, even when importing companies ship powder OBAs and dilute them in Europe.
  • Chinese, Indian and Indonesian manufacturers do not offer the more innovative OBAs and are therefore competing with what are essentially ‘commodity’ OBAs.
  • The OBA market is very competitive and there are too many suppliers. Aside form the manufacturers, the market is further fragmented by European suppliers which source from India, China and Indonesia.  These suppliers are also subject to the same effects that their suppliers (importing manufacturers) are facing.
  • A number of importers seem to flout both REACH and patent compliance for short-term gain.
  • New entrants into the market seem to struggle with both the compliance and basic service requirements of their customers.

The outlook for price increases in the OBA market in Europe is bleak and the market will remain fragmented.  The question is how long all the players in the European OBA market will be able to live with very low margins – there will be some exiting the market in 2015/2016.

 

 

The interest & investment in nanocrystalline cellulose continues – two new commitments are made in Europe

paperinsight bioeconomyOn the 11th March, 2015, Sappi Limited announced that it will build a pilot-scale plant for the low-cost production of Cellulose NanoFibrils (nanocellulose) at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen in the Netherlands.

The pilot plant is expected to be operational within nine months and the raw material would be supplied from any of Sappi’s Saiccor, Ngodwana and Cloquet dissolving wood pulp plants. The pilot plant will test the manufacturing of dry re-dispersible Cellulose NanoFibrils (CNF) using the proprietary technology developed by Sappi and Edinburgh Napier University. The CNF produced by Sappi will have unique morphology, specifically modified for either hydrophobic or hydrophilic applications. Products produced using Sappi’s CNF will be used in areas such as lighter and stronger fibre-reinforced composites and plastics, in food and pharmaceutical applications, and in rheology modifiers as well as in barrier and other paper and coating applications.

The location of the pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus provides Sappi with easy access to multiple partners with whom Sappi will seek to co-develop CNF-containing products across a range of applications.

The pilot plant is the precursor for Sappi to consider the construction of a commercial CNF plant and fits with Sappi’s strategy which includes seeking growth opportunities by producing innovative performance materials from renewable resources.

Please click here for the detailed Sappi announcement.

In another announcement, MoRe Research, Holmen and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, stated that they are investing in, ‘Europe’s first pilot facility for nanocrystalline cellulose‘, in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.

The role of each of the participants can be summed up as follows:

  • The pilot facility is located directly adjacent to MoRe who have in-depth knowledge of cellulose, and wide-ranging experience of pilot operations and extensive laboratory and analytical resources.
  • As SP operates in many different sectors it will be able to pave the way for commercially interesting applications beyond the forestry sector’s traditional boundaries.
  • MoRe and SP will have central roles in the construction and operation of the facility, which is expected to be in place during the first half of 2016.
  • The operation in the pilot plant is based on technology developed by an Israeli start-up company Melodea.
  • Holmen is working actively to develop new products based on raw materials from forests and are participating as a catalyst in the creation of the facility and in their role as a co-owner of Melodea

The facility will allow interested companies to develop nanocrystalline cellulose from cellulose-based material on a large scale.  As with the Sappi announcement, the interesting material properties of nanocrystalline cellulose were emphasised, and examples were given for potential applications – as a building material, in biocomposites, printed electronics and dye additives.

The plant is supported financially by Västernorrland County Administrative Board, Holmen, the Kempe Foundations, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Önnesjö Foundation.

Please click here for the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden announcement.

 

Metsä Fibre signs financing agreements for the Äänekoski bioproduct mill

paperinsight bioeconomyOn the 10th June, 2015, Metsä Fibre Corporation, part of the Metsä Group, signed financing agreements for the Äänekoski bioproduct mill project and refinanced its existing EUR 270 million revolving credit facility.

The EUR 750 million financing for the bioproduct mill consists of a EUR 400 million Finnvera guaranteed loan, EUR 200 million loan from European Investment Bank (EIB), EUR 80 million loan from commercial banks and EUR 70 million loan guaranteed by Swedish export credit agency EKN. Other lenders, include Danske Bank, DNB Bank, Pohjola Bank, SEB, Swedish Export Credit and Swedbank.

The financing has been coordinated by Nordea.

So, what does this bio-product mill do? In summary, it:

  • Refines wood into bio-materials, bio-energy, bio- chemicals and fertilizers sustainably and with great resource efficiency
  • Uses 100% of the raw materials and side streams as products and bioenergy
  • Does not use fossil fuels
  • Emphasises energy efficiency when choosing equipment and machinery
  • Has an operating model based on an efficient partner network
    • New products will be created in collaboration with various experts joining the network
    • Creates opportunities especially for small and medium-sized enterprises to produce innovative bio-products with high added value.

For the detailed press release, please click here.

For details of the bioproduct mill project, please click here.

The formation of Biomass101 – a consortium which aims to share the sound science of carbon-neutral bio-energy.

paperinsight bioeconomyA consortium of organisations formed from owners of forests, wood suppliers and major pulp and paper manufacturers has been recently established under the banner Biomass101. Collecting and sharing sound scientific information on carbon-neutral bio-energy, their aim is to provide informed information and hold the media accountable for for giving a fair and balanced view of the bio-economy.

The new consortium states:
‘We’ve started Biomass101 because we can’t sit idly by and watch the debate distorted by activists who, while they may have good intentions, are misguided and misinformed. That’s a part of responsible stewardship too—making sure people know the truth about the hands-on work we are doing each day. So we intend to monitor the coverage closely, and hold the press accountable when they get it wrong. As the leading coalition of people who care for and depend upon our forests, we offer a unique, first-hand perspective on these issues. And so we have a responsibility to add our voice to this conversation. Balanced coverage ought to mean scrutiny on the assumptions and motives of biomass critics, too. If they are pushing unrealistic, impractical, and harmful policies, then the press ought to be pointing that out.

The public deserves a fair, objective, and balanced conversation on carbon neutral biomass, one based on sound science, smart public policy, and common sense. Here are some of the core principles we intend to make sure are part of that conversation.

Educated guesses and willfully blinkered arguments that ignore the full carbon cycle do a disservice to a critical public discourse. Let’s have an honest discussion about carbon-neutral biomass, a dialogue that features openness, integrity, and accountability.’

For more details on the consortium, please click here .

BASF declares Force Majeure for a range of EO-based products

paperinsight marketBASF has declared Force Majeure due to technical problems with its ethylene oxide (EO) production.

The statement from BASF is as follows:

‘BASF’s European production sites for ethylene oxide have experienced significant technical problems leading to a Force Majeure declaration on ethylene oxide on May 19, 2015. Due to the ethylene oxide (EO) shortage BASF has subsequently to declare Force Majeure for EO-based products produced in Europe in the portfolio of Home Care and Industrial & Institutional Cleaning, Formulation Technologies, AgChem Additives and certain EO-based products in the portfolio of Personal Care.

The resulting effects of the Force Majeure for customers are currently being evaluated. BASF expects that the supply situation of the affected products will improve towards end of June. Meanwhile BASF is implementing measures to limit the consequences for its customers. BASF will continuously inform customers about the development and the details regarding the supply capability with the affected products.’

It is likely to affect some of the raw materials and products used in papermaking such as the ethoxylates used in for foam control, deposit control, cleaning etc

For the press announcement from BASF, please click here.

For examples of where ethylene oxide is used, click here.

European Patent Office: A pinch of mixed salt for Archroma as Blankophor lose optical brightener patent opposition

PatentThe European Patent Office (EPO) has ruled in favour of Archroma (Clariant) regarding an opposition filed by Blankophor against a patent filed for a mixed salt of an optical brightening agent. The patent in dispute is EP 2 260 145 B1 and the Archroma press release provides interesting detail: click here.

It is clear from the comments credited to Dr Bernd Hauschel that Blankophor are not happy with the decision and it is not difficult to agree with this viewpoint as the patent is creative in its case for proving it has an ‘inventive step’ – a general patentability requirement present in most patent laws, where an invention should be sufficiently inventive or ‘non-obvious’. The use of optical brighteners in the presence of most metal ions, or counter-ions, whether added to the paper making process or naturally present in the process is not new. It will be interesting to read the details of the EPO’s patent ruling.

Dr. Bernd Hauschel, Head of Technology and Intellectual Property at Blankophor GmbH, stated: “Even though we have a different view on the decision of the European Patent Office, we do respect their decision after we lost the opposition case against Archroma’s patent. For this reason, we decided to enter into a license agreement to avoid any infringement of the Archroma patent in the context regarding our products. We also like our patents to be respected.”

Archroma acquired the patent in the private equity purchase of the paper chemical business of Clariant and the intellectual property is owned by a company, Clariant Finance (BVI) Limited, Road Town, Tortola (VG), in the British Virgin Islands tax haven, despite the work being done by inventors based in Switzerland (formerly UK) and France.

Optical brightening agents are used in large quantities to improve the brightness or whiteness of paper and are sold to the paper industry for prices which generate low profit margins as the market is crowded with many manufacturers and suppliers competing for a market which is in decline in Europe and the USA and facing challenges in the rest of the world – let’s hope that this dispute did not erode the profits of the two companies.

 

Agri-papers: Kimberly-Clark launches a range of tissue & towel products containing bamboo and wheat straw

Kimberly-Clark Professional has launched GreenHarvest products, a cutting edge offering that incorporates rapidly renewable plant-based fiber, such as wheat straw and bamboo, into Kleenex and Scott brand towel and tissue products.  GreenHarvest offerings include Kleenex hard roll towel and Kleenex Cottonelle coreless standard roll bathroom tissue made with 20 percent bamboo fiber, and Scott multi-fold towels, standard roll bathroom tissue, coreless JRT Jr. bathroom tissue and coreless standard roll bathroom tissue made with 20 percent wheat straw fiber. (PRNewsFoto/Kimberly-Clark Professional)

Kimberly-Clark [KC] Professional has launched a range of products based on ‘rapidly renewable’ plant fibres such as wheat straw and bamboo. The range of ‘GreenHarvest’ products will be used in Kleenex and Scott brand towel and tissue products.

KC Professional is the first major towel and tissue manufacturer in North America to introduce products made with 20 percent plant fibre in place of tree or recycled fibre. To use these fibres, KC has had to develop new manufacturing processes for converting plant fibre into pulp.

GreenHarvest offerings include Kleenex hard roll towel and Kleenex Cottonelle coreless standard roll bathroom tissue made with 20 percent bamboo fibre, and Scott multi-fold towels, standard roll bathroom tissue, coreless JRT Jr. bathroom tissue and coreless standard roll bathroom tissue made with 20 percent wheat straw fibre.

In 2012, KC Professional became the first major towel and tissue manufacturer in North America to pilot the use of products containing fibre from sources other than trees. GreenHarvest products are the “next-generation” products, an initiative recognized by leading environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs).

The interest in using alternative fibres has been part of the KC strategy and they recently sponsored work to look at the ‘Life Cycle Assessment‘ of alternative fibres and the results are available here: click here.

For some additional commentary and press reports, please see the following:

For some earlier information, please see the following: Booshoot and Kimberly-Clark Sign Development Agreement to Support Production of Tissue Products Made with Bamboo Fiber