Steam systems are widespread in the pulp and paper industry, accounting for a significant part of a paper mill’s fuel consumption. Improving a system’s efficiency can lower energy costs, sometimes dramatically, while maintaining reliability.

In April 2006, Boise Inc. received a U.S. Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now assessment at its pulp and paper mill in St. Helens, Ore. The goal was to evaluate and identify natural gas savings opportunities in the mill’s steam system. Energy expert David Morgan of San Diego’s Akamai Energy LLC conducted the assessment and also trained the mill’s employees on how to use DOE’s suite of steam system software tools to find the savings opportunities.

The assessment validated some measures that were under consideration such as lowering the oxygen content on three boiler stacks and recovering waste heat from the whitewater process. Then, using some of the insights gained from the assessment, employees identified and implemented a project that significantly cut energy use with a process in the steam system.

As a result, the mill now saves approximately $1 million annually in energy costs and 15.4 million BTU in fuel. With total implementation costs of $31,000, the mill’s payback was less than a month.