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New Ag paper/building material listserve
(Sorry for any duplication.)
Greetings to Friends of Innovative Agricultural Developments:
We are pleased to invite you to join a new list serve, AG-RES, devoted to
promoting the research, development and marketing of pulp, paper and
construction materials made from agricultural residues. (These include
straw, corn stalks, grasses, etc.) This discussion group is open to
everyone: farmers, agronomists and soil scientists; pulp and paper
producers, experts, consultants and workers; environmentalists, policy
makers and educators; transportation sector representatives; potential
investors; and other interested parties.
Some of the issues the group will be addressing include:
1) projects incorporating agricultural fibers into building materials;
2) projects incorporating agricultural fibers in pulping and paper product
lines; 3) incorporating agricultural fibers directly into an existing kraft
pulping process; 4) the availability of the straw in different regions,
with an emphasis on determining how much is a available where and at what
time; 5) the costs of collecting agricultural fibers, including labor,
storage and transportion; 6) the availability of investment money and
potential profit margins; and 7) a discussion of the rural
Many of you undoubtedly realize that agricultural residues are currently
being made into both newsprint and paper, as well as particleboard and a
few different types of construction panels. If not, direct your attention
to the articles at the end of this letter.
Please note that there are already two list servers devoted to straw bale
home construction. We suggest that you join one of them if that is your
primary interest, as we would like this group to focus on developing new
products and markets for agricultural residues. To subscribe to them, send
the message "subscribe strawbale" or "subscribe greenbuilding" followed by
your name to email@example.com. Of course, you are welcome to join the
AG-RES list as well!
Here's a more in-depth preview of some of the issues the group will be
1) The availability of the straw in different regions, with an emphasis on
determining how much is available where and at what time: How many farmers
would be willing to sacrifice their agricultural residues, as opposed to
wanting to till it back into the soil as a nutrient? How much straw does
the soil actually need to remain healthy? What are the regulatory
requirements under the Farm Bill for leaving some portion of the residues
on the land?
2) Incorporating agricultural fibers directly into an existing pulping
process: There have been experiments with this at some plants, but it has
proven problematic to put straw directly into a kraft pulping process
because of its high silica and metals content. Are there creative solutions
to this process?
3) Incorporating agricultural fibers pulped in a separate facility, into
the production of a current paper product line:
-The cost, size and placement of such a facility or facilities needs to be
investigated. It may be cheapest to send the agricultural fibers to a large
facility near a paper product manufacturing plant, or best to keep it in a
location central to the fiber source, or it may be better to have a few
small straw pulping facilities located near the source of the straw, then
ship pulp to the manufacturing plant(s).
4) Incorporating agricultural fibers into construction materials and
building a facility to manufacture them:
-Similarly, the cost, size and placement of such a facility or facilities
needs to be investigated. Can the strength and durability of these products
compete with wood products? Are there markets for these materials? Are
there potential pollution problems associated with their manufacturing?
5) Other costs will obviously have to be assessed:
-The cost of collecting agricultural fibers, including labor: This will be
where farmers can earn extra money. Obviously they will have to get enough
money out of this to make it worth their time and labor.
-The cost of storing straw: Will new storage facilities be needed? Is there
enough storage capacity currently available? It is most cost effective to
operate a pulp mill throughout the year, so some would have to be stored
for winter use, or run it seasonally with less storage capacity?
-The cost of transporting straw or pulp to manufacturing facilities: Is
rail better than truck?
-The total cost of processing: This includes labor, materials, and possibly
paying back the costs of a new facility.
6) Is there investment money available for these projects? This could
become a key point if it becomes clear that a new facility is needed! What
kinds of government and industry sponsored grants or loans are available to
help start these projects.
7) A discussion of the rural development/value-added issues: how can
farmers negotiate to ensure that they receive equity in the mills they
supply? How do we best convey the message that this is a type of resource
use that will create local jobs, boost rural tax bases, and provide
economic benefits to a sector of the economy that has been struggling.
So, in closing, please join us if you have questions, or ideas, and pass
this invitation on to others who you think might be interested. If you're
interested in joining this working group please send your SUBSCRIBE request
to firstname.lastname@example.org. The correct syntax for a SUBSCRIBE command is:
subscribe AG-RES FULLNAME
(put your full name in place of FULLNAME)
Should you choose to unsubscribe, please send your UNSUBSCRIBE request to
email@example.com. The correct syntax for an UNSUBSCRIBE command is:
P.S. You should leave the subject line of your message blank when
subscribing/unsubscribing to avoid confusing the listproccessor.
Billy Stern Meghan Clancy-Hepburn
Pulp and Paper Strategist Campaigns Director
Native Forest Network Wood Reduction Clearinghouse
The complete text of this article, "Straw: The Next Great Building
Material?", by Alex Wilson of Environmental Building News can be found at
Manufactured Panel Products from Straw
While straw-bale construction systems have gained most of the media
attention in the past few years, this is not the only area of activity with
straw as a building material. There are at least ten companies either
currently building or planning to build manufacturing plants in North
America to produce compressed-straw building panels with applications
ranging from interior partitions to particleboard. Several companies expect
to build multiple plants. If all of the plans currently underway reach
fruition, there could be several dozen compressed-straw-panel manufacturing
plants in North America within five years.
Compressed-straw panels are not new. The process for producing "Compressed
Agricultural Fiber" (CAF) panels was invented in
Sweden in 1935 by Theodor Dieden, then developed into a commercial product
in Britain under the name Stramit by Torsten Mossesson in the late 1940s.
Since original patents have expired on the technology for producing CAF
panels, numerous companies using the Stramit process have sprung up
worldwide. Stramit manufacturers are going strong in several European
countries and Australia, and Stramit Industries, Ltd. of the U.K. claims
that over 250,000 buildings have been built using these panels.
All of the products that use the basic Stramit technology make use
of an interesting property of straw: when straw is compressed
under high temperature (about 390deg.F or 200deg.C), the straw fibers bond
together without any adhesives. Some manufacturers claim that the resins in
the straw somehow fuse together, but Robert Glassco of Pyramod
International, Inc., one of the pioneers in the United States, claims that
the straw doesn't really fuse together. Instead, he says, heat makes the
straw become limp and form around each other from the compression. When the
material is cooled, the fibers stay in place. "It's really a sophisticated
bale," he claims. Samples EBN has examined seem to hold together very well.
Stramit panels range in thickness from 2" to 4" (50 to 100 mm) and are
faced with heavy-weight kraft paper (similar to that used in drywall).
Though adhesive is not required to bond the fibers together, it is required
to secure the facings. These Stramit panels are used primarily for interior
applications where they can provide complete partition systems. Most of the
products are pre-routed for electrical wiring, and clips are sold to join
panels securely together.
A number of companies are pursuing the idea of gluing several Stramit-type
panels together, adding protective facings, and using the panels as
structural insulated panels that can be used as the exterior envelope of
buildings. In an attempt to restart production, Pyramod Industries has
erected several prototype
houses (see photo) using panels that have been stockpiled since their
factory shut down in the 1980s.
Because baled straw is a low-density material, shipping costs are
high--both in dollars and environmental impact (primarily from fuel
consumption). Will Maertens, an architect and principal of AltMatTec told
EBN that shipping distances are a major determinant of the economic
viability of manufacturing panel products, no matter what the raw material
is. Wood pulp, with a density of 15-20 lb/ft3 (240-320 kg/m3), can be
cost-effectively shipped up to about 40 miles to a manufacturing plant, he
said. Straw, which has a density of about 8.4 lb/ft3 (134 kg/m3), can only
be shipped 18-20 miles (29-32 km) before shipping costs become a major
The thermal performance of compressed-straw panels is a matter of much
confusion. Claims range from R-1.25 to R-4 per inch (RSI/m-8.7 to 28) for
products that appear essentially identical and have densities in the range
of 15 - 23 lb/ft3 (240 - 370 kg/m3). After investigating many of these
claims, EBN believes a realistic range to be R-1.4 to R-2 per inch
(RSI/m-9.7 to 13.9). Some of the highest claims are probably simple
misconversions from the original metric units, though one company,
Agriboard Industries, provided a summary page of test reports from a
certified testing laboratory in Minnesota to support their claim of R-3.4
per inch (RSI/m-23.6). When EBN contacted the laboratory, a technician
indicated that the test method quoted had not been used there for many
years, and he questioned the high R-value given the material's density.
This issue is extremely important in terms of how appropriate
compressed-straw panels are for building envelopes; EBN hopes to see
up-to-date independent test results from manufacturers.
Thin Panel Products
Also on the way are higher density straw particleboard panels. Two
companies have plans to produce furniture-grade particleboard out of finely
chopped wheat straw. Both will be using an isocyanate binder (MDI), which
is more weather resistant, non-offgassing, and stronger than the
urea-formaldehyde usually used for particleboard. The companies claim that
their products will outperform conventional particleboard.
Thin panels are also made out of longer straw fibers. Meadowood of Albany,
Oregon had a fiberboard product on the market for several years made out of
rye grass straw, but the company has ceased production temporarily. Sea
Star Trading Company, a dealer in ecological timber products, will soon
reintroduce the product with an optional hardwood veneer.
Conclusions & Predictions
There is little doubt that straw could become a significant player in the
building industry. Tremendous quantities of straw are produced in North
America--over 140 million tons (128 million tonnes) annually , based on
EBN's calculations. In grain-producing areas it is usually available at
very low cost. Just how much of that straw could be used without negatively
affecting soils is unknown--and an important area of research. If we were
to assume that 25% could be used without harming soils, we would have a
resource base of about 35 million tons (32 million tonnes) per year. Let's
take a look at what these quantities of straw could mean for the building
If we used all of that available straw for the exterior walls of straw-bale
buildings, 2.7 million 1,000-ft2 (93 m2), single-story houses could be
built each year. If we turned that straw into structural compressed-straw
panels, they could provide the exterior walls, roofs, interior partition
walls, and floors of 1 million 2,000 ft2 (186 m2), two-story houses per
year. Or, that straw could be used to produce 22 billion ft2 (2.1 billion
m2) of 3/4" (19 mm) particleboard, which is five times the current total
U.S. production of particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (all
thicknesses). Clearly, the potential is significant.
Agripulp: The Agri-pulp newsprint alternative.
A Paper presented at the Newspaper Association of America Super Conference,
Miami, Florida, March 6,1996.
Agri-pulp is papermaking pulp made from agricultural plant fibre which is
grown on-purpose or is recovered as cropping residues. A limited amount of
agri-pulp newsprint is presently made in developing countries such as
Indonesia, India, Mexico and Cuba. Bagasse (sugar cane residue) is the
principal fibre used.
What is new?
There is a renewed interest to use agriculture-based fibres in place of
wood, for the production of pulp and paper in North America. The
alternative-fibre option is driven, in part, by the growing shortage of
commercial wood supply. The shortage of wood supply can be alleviated
partially by the increased use of waste paper. But ultimately, this
remedial step will be inadequate to meet the continued demand for quality
paper products in North America.
>From an environmental perspective, profitable utilization of straw would
eliminate the hazardous and polluting practice of stubble burning in
heavily populated regions such as the Spokane Valley of Eastern Washington
and the Sacramento Valley of Central California. From a social perspective,
the usage of agricultural cropping residues (i.e., straw) would provide a
significant new income for American farmers. For example, if an agri-pulp
mill purchases straw from Eastern Washington farmers, the net farm income
could be increased by at least 20%, on a "per acre" basis, even at the
unusually high price level of wheat today. Ultimately, government subsidies
to farmers could be reduced expeditiously. And taxes could be reduced for
Agri-pulp production from agricultural cropping residues appears to be the
most practical economic means to supplement the fibre needs of the paper
industry. Unlike on-purpose fibre cropping of kenaf and hemp, agricultural
cropping residues are readily available. This fibre source is the largest
single uncommitted fibre supply in North America and is definitely
renewable in real time. For example, there are over 60 million MT of wheat
straw available in the United States annually. With careful soil management
practices, substantial amount of this straw can be used for pulp and paper
production without any adverse long-term impact on soil structure and
fertility. The potential production of newsprint-grade pulp from only wheat
straw is about 36 million MT. For comparison, the total North American
virgin wood pulp production for newsprint in 1995 was less than 15 million
In the case of agricultural cropping residues, e.g., cereal and perennial
seed grass straw, there is an optimum combination of pulping yield and pulp
quality. Available data indicate that agri-pulp (cereal straw plus other
agri-fibres) has the basic physical strengths required for use in newsprint
production and subsequent paper runnability in the press room.
Source: Al Wong, based on information from CPPA, TAPPI
One practicable zero-effluent newsprint manufacturing scheme is shown below:
There is no relationship between price and cost. There is no guarantee that
the usage of agri-pulp would provide lower-price newsprint. During the past
decade, the furnish of North American newsprint has evolved to be based on
a combination of virgin mechanical wood pulp and deinked post-consumer
wastepaper. The near-term outlook for softwood fibres in Northern North
America is a significant deficit of several million tonnes annually. The
shortage is caused by over-cutting and by re-allocation of forests for
ecological and recreational uses. The price of wood (chips) will continue
to rise in the coming years. The following table shows the pricing pattern
of wood chips and straw in two West
ern regions of North America.
Fibre Region Late 1987 US$ Late1995 US$
Wood chips BC Coast 75-80 100-130
Wood chips Pacific NW 85-90 100-130
Straw Pacific NW 0-10 10-40
The availability and pricing of ONP has fluctuated considerably during the
past few years as a) domestic demand is increased by the additional
promulgation of "recycled content" mandates, and b) Asian demand is
increased with the startup of new large-capacity newsprint machines. The
net effect of the tight supply and high demand for papermaking fibre is
higher cost of newsprint production. The "creation of a third fibre" source
would moderate the price increase and price fluctuation of the other two
newsprint fibres. The substantial cyclic supply-demand of the traditional
fibres, i.e., wood pulp and ONP can be suppressed.
For national strategic and economic reasons, the federal and state
governments should formally allow the interchangeability of agri-pulp and
post-consumer wastepaper. This intervention does not need any new financial
support from the governments. The result would be accelerated realization
of a new agri-pulp paper industry in the United States. As shown below, the
manufacturing cost of agri-pulp newsprint is estimated to be about 15% less
than that of conventional newsprint.
This is a timely opportunity to develop and implement the manufacture of
agri-pulp newsprint. There are significant social, environmental and
economic benefits for all.
Copyright 1996 by Arbokem Inc. Date: July 6, 1996
PO Box 8251
Native Forest Network
Missoula, MT 59807
PH (406) 542-7343
FX (406) 542-7347
PO Box 8251
Native Forest Network
Missoula, MT 59807
PH (406) 542-7343
FX (406) 542-7347
PO Box 8251
Native Forest Network
Missoula, MT 59807
PH (406) 542-7343
FX (406) 542-7347