Sunday, June 7, 2009

"Top Three" microbiological problems of paper machines

Certain types of microbiological problems in paper mills seem to be acute all the time. Looking back to last months, this may be "Top Three" among them:

* Microbiological spoilage of raw materials. This is an everlasting hazard for mineral and starch slurries, and the reasons are very easy to understand: both raw materials mentioned may contain high densities of bacteria (mainly aerobic sporeformers and actinobacteria), slurries containing starch are very nutritive growth media for different microbial species and the very challenging biocidic treatments of slurries (especially mineral ones), when inaccurate, can lead to the total spoilage of them.

* Growth of biofilm and production of slime. This problem seems to be connected to poor washing and boil-out programs which leave rests of biofilm inside the machine and give growth time for it because too long running periods. The chose of ineffective biocide and/or its insufficient dosing can also stimulate the activity of these trouble-makers.

* Microbial growth in the broke system. Especially big machines with large broke towers suffer of this problem. If the basic biocide program is insufficient and the retention times inside the towers are too long, aerobic population tend to increase the number of its cells to the level of 10 000 000 cfu/g or even higher. Consumption of oxygen by respirating bacteria leads to anaerobic conditions, redox potential will be dropped and the growth conditions for both fermentative and anaerobic bacteria turns to be excellent. Drop of pH, slime and spore formation, smells and odours - even the production of H2S and H2 - will be found in such situations.

There are some measures to prevent these hazards. Growth period of microbial population shall be kept as short as possible, the control of waterborne and bioflim bacteria shall be as rapid and frequent as possible and the bioside programs, intended in killing of raw material, process water and biofilm bacteria shall be evaluated more frequently.

A realistic and accurate way to control both process water and biofilm growth, as well as to evaluate biocide programs, is now available. The Finnish company SAMPLION Ltd is manufacturing and selling "Portable Microbiological Enrichment Unit", a "mini-fermentor" for 10 simultaneous tests in controlled conditions, to detect the failures of biocide programs in only hours (watesr) or days (biofilms). Some results of PMEU's paper industry applications will be published in next Spring - coming back to refer them later.

Some wrong ideas about the overdosing of biocides will also rise up frequently among publicity. Basically it is not a question of only the cubic meters of biocides consumed, however, The chose of most effective biocides for different areas of processes towards different problems, the dosing of these compounds, their type of action and some other factors play a major role when building an effective biocide program for paper machine. Overdosing of biocides is a problem only in cases, when the program does not work, and leads to the loss of money and the rise of biocide concentration in paper machine effluents.