Biomass materials are the main feedstock to the pulp and paper industry. Over the last almost two-decades the sector has experienced a decoupling of energy use from production thanks to energy efficiency improvements and process integration measures.
Despite being the largest industrial biomass consumer, biomass is the second largest vector in the sector’s energy demand mix after electricity.
Demand growth for paper and paperboard has recently accelerated and is expected to continue rising driven by population and economic growth. Efforts to curb demand and increase recycling can therefore help reduce growth in energy and emissions.
Improving the energy efficiency of pulp and paper production is one of the key strategies to reduce CO2 emissions in the sector. Energy efficiency can be improved through higher on-site waste heat recovery and cogeneration.
Increasing the share of production from recovered fibre could also considerably reduce energy use. To this end, improving waste disposal channels can help increase collection of scrap paper products for recycling.
Pursuing the use of renewable energy sources is also important, particularly for recycled production, for which natural gas tends to be employed because biomass by-products are not readily available. Other options include producing low-temperature heat from heat pumps, solar thermal energy or biogas.
Last updated Jan 7, 2022
Final energy demand in pulp and paper in the Net Zero Scenario, 2010-2030
Reducing energy use by the pulp and paper industry will require greater recycling and waste heat recovery
Final energy use in pulp and paper grew an average 0.1% annually during 2010-2019, while paper and paperboard output increased 0.3% per year, demonstrating a decoupling of growth in energy consumption from growth in production. In the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, energy use increases 0.5% per year to 2030 while annual paper and paperboard production expands 1.5%. This situation will necessitate greater recycling, as recycled production requires considerably less energy. Using a higher share of bioenergy and adopting waste heat recovery technologies will also be important to align with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 trajectory.