Development and Implementation of an Online Kraft Black Liquor Viscosity Soft Sensor
Thesis DisciplineChemical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The recovery and recycling of the spent chemicals from the kraft pulping process are economically and environmentally essential in an integrated kraft pulp and paper mill. The recovery process can be optimised by firing high-solids black liquor in the recovery boiler. Unfortunately, due to a corresponding increase in the liquor viscosity, in many mills, black liquor is fired at reduced solids concentration to avoid possible rheological problems. Online measurement, monitoring and control of the liquor viscosity are deemed essential for the recovery boiler optimization. However, in most mills, including those in New Zealand, black liquor viscosity is not routinely measured.
Four batches of black liquors having solids concentrations ranging between 47 % and 70 % and different residual alkali (RA) contents were obtained from Carter Holt Harvey Pulp and Paper (CHHP&P), Kinleith mill, New Zealand. Weak black liquor samples were obtained by diluting the concentrated samples with deionised water. The viscosities of the samples at solids concentrations ranging from 0 to 70 % were measured using open-cup rotational viscometers at temperatures ranging from 0 to 115 oC and shear rates between 10 and 2000 s-1. The effect of post-pulping process, liquor heat treatment (LHT) on the liquors’ viscosities was investigated in an autoclave at a temperature >=180 oC for at least 15 mins.
The samples exhibit both Newtonian and non-Newtonian behaviours depending on temperature and solids concentration; the onsets of these behaviours are liquor-dependent. In conformity with the literature data, at high solids concentrations (> 50 %) and low temperatures, they exhibit shear-thinning behaviour with or without thixotropy but the shear-thinning/thixotropic characteristics disappear at high temperatures (>= 80 oC). Generally, when the apparent viscosities of the liquors are <= ~1000 cP, the liquors show a Newtonian or a near-Newtonian behaviour. These findings demonstrate that New Zealand black liquors can be safely treated as Newtonian fluids under industrial conditions. Further observations show that at low solids concentrations (< 50 %), viscosity is fairly independent of the RA content; however at solids concentrations > 50 %, viscosity decreases with increasing RA content of the liquor. This shows that the RA content of black liquor can be manipulated to control the viscosity of high-solids black liquors. The LHT process had negligible effect on the low-solids liquor viscosity but led to a significant and permanent reduction of the high-solids liquor viscosity by a factor of at least 6. Therefore, the incorporation of a LHT process into an existing kraft recovery process can help to obtain the benefits of high-solids liquor firing without a concern for the attending rheological problems.
A variety of the existing and proposed viscosity models using the traditional regression modelling tools and an artificial neural network (ANN) paradigm were obtained under different constraints. Hitherto, the existing models rely on the traditional regression tools and they were mostly applicable to limited ranges of process conditions.
On the one hand, composition-dependent models were obtained as a direct function of solids concentration and temperature, or solids concentration, temperature and shear rate; the relationships between these variables and the liquor viscosity are straight forward. The ANN-based models developed in this work were found to be superior to the traditional models in terms of accuracy, generalization capability and their applicability to a wide range of process conditions. If the parameters of the resulting ANN models can be successfully correlated with the liquor composition, the models would be suitable for online application. Unfortunately, black liquor viscosity depends on its composition in a complex manner; the direct correlation of its model parameters with the liquor composition is not yet a straight forward issue. On the other hand, for the first time in the Australasia, the limitations of the composition-dependent models were addressed using centrifugal pump performance parameters, which are easy to measure online. A variety of centrifugal pump-based models were developed based on the estimated data obtained via the Hydraulic Institute viscosity correction method. This is opposed to the traditional approaches, which depend largely on actual experimental data that could be difficult and expensive to obtain. The resulting age-independent centrifugal pump-based model was implemented online as a black liquor viscosity soft sensor at the number 5 recovery boiler at the CHHP&P, Kinleith mill, New Zealand where its performance was evaluated. The results confirm its ability to effectively account for variations in the liquor composition. Furthermore, it was able to give robust viscosity estimates in the presence of the changing pump’s operating point. Therefore, it is concluded that this study opens a new and an effective way for kraft black liquor viscosity sensor development.