|Verso’s three-pronged energy strategy seeks to reduce overall
|energy consumption, generate more electricity from renewable
|resources and improve efficiency, all while reducing costs.
At Verso, some of our best opportunities for greater environmental sustainability and financial success lie in our ability to maximize our current assets for energy production. Over the last two years we completed a number of projects that will enable us to reduce overall energy consumption, generate more electricity from renewable resources, improve efficiency and reduce costs.
- Quinnesec Renewable Energy Project - This $45 million project at our Quinnesec Mill is fully operational and is exceeding expectations for efficiency and cost reduction. The project includes an upgraded biomass delivery system, upgraded combination boiler and new 28 megawatt turbine generator.
- Bucksport Renewable Energy Project - This investment includes an upgraded biomass delivery system, upgraded combination boiler and new 25 megawatt turbine generator. The boiler, previously fed by a
combination of fuels, now runs solely on renewable biomass save for a small amount of natural gas used to ignite the boiler at startup.
- Thermal Energy Efficiency Projects - Verso completed multiple projects across our mill system that are meeting expectations to more efficiently recover steam and water in our pulp and papermaking operations. This $21 million investment included a $9.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Better Buildings, Better Plants Program
In 2009, Verso joined an elite group of businesses in participating in the U.S. DOE Better Buildings, Better Plants Program, vowing to reduce Verso’s energy intensity (energy per ton of production) 25% by 2019. Thanks to the success of our energy efficiency projects we are on track to achieve this goal.
Kathleen Hogan, Acting Program Manager in the U.S. DOE’s Office of Advanced Manufacturing said, “Verso’s efforts are helping the nation benefit from energy efficiency. Together with the other partners in the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program, Verso’s actions will save billions in energy costs, create new manufacturing jobs, strengthen the nation’s economic competitiveness, and help protect the environment.”
Generating Energy More Efficiently
In Verso’s paper mills, boilers burn fuel to create high-pressure steam that drives a steam turbine generator to make electricity. Lower pressure steam from the steam turbine exhaust is used in the papermaking process to dry paper, to heat buildings and provide for other process heat demands. Most of the steam used is condensed and recycled back to the beginning of the process, reheated and used again. This process of combining electricity generation with the use of “waste” steam for heating is called a combined heat and power (CHP) cycle or co-generation. The CHP cycle plays a major role in Verso’s energy strategy to reduce overall consumption, generate more electricity from renewable resources, improve efficiency and reduce costs.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CHP is one of the most efficient energy technologies available. The average efficiency of traditional fossil-fueled power plants in the United States is 33%, which means that two-thirds of the energy in the fuel is vented as heat and lost. This has remained virtually unchanged for decades. However, by using recovery technology to capture a significant proportion of this waste heat, CHP systems like those used in Verso’s mills typically achieve total system efficiencies of up to 80% percent for producing electricity and thermal energy.
Because the CHP cycle is more efficient, less fuel is required to produce a given energy output than with separate heat and power. In addition to helping reduce our operating costs, burning less fossil fuel like coal or natural gas in our boilers results in lower emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide.
Expanding Biomass Use for Energy
In 2012, we increased our use of carbon-neutral, wood-based biomass to 64.9% of total fuel use, up from 58.7% in 2011, thanks to our renewable energy initiatives and energy efficient projects (outlined above).