The History of Sulfite

From the 19th century to the 1960s, the sulfite process was the dominant process for the production of pulps. During the second half of the 1960s, a major closure of the factories began. The reason was that when the factories were built in the 19th century, the sulfite process was simpler as this avoided expensive chemical recycling and less air pollution as in the pulp process. Also, the pulp could be bleached and textiles, varnishes etc. could be manufacture from sulfite pulps.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the kraft pulp process was developed so that the pulp could be bleached and special pulps could be produced. When the environmental problems at the ever larger factory facilities came to light in the 1950s, it became the law in several countries that cleaner processes were required. This meant that during the 1950s and 1960s, the sulfite processes were developed to be able to compete with the Kraft pulp factories.

However, oil-based products were developed for textiles, varnishes and much more. These were both cheaper and better than products from wood. In this way, the investments became more expensive and there was no incentive for the sulfite process to be further developed as the kraft pulp process already had all the processes fully developed and was more flexible. This meant that the market for sulfite pulps disappeared from the mid-1960s onwards. However, from the 1990s, people began to become interested in sulfite pulp again due to the fact that it can be bleached without chlorine and different biochemicals could be produced that could not be made in a kraft pulp process.


Benjamin Chew Tilghman patented the bisulfite process in the United States.


Carl Daniel Ekman built the world’s first sulfite mill in Bergvik Halsingland, Sweden.


Alexander Mitscherlich patents parts of the sulfite process and subsequently went on to develop solutions for the extraction of adhesives, alcohol and textiles that can be produced by the sulfite method.


The opportunity to make synthetic textiles (viscose) from sulfite pulp was discovered.


Böhns sulfite mill in Norway was the first in the world to deliver dissolving pulp.


G. Ekström and H. Walin, a Swedish engineer, patented a process of ethanol generation from Sulfite liquor. Also, Fritz Haber from Germany produced synthetic ammonia in a chemical process.


T. Marusawa Japan patented the ammonium bisulfite method for pulp production.


Babcock & Wilcox installed the first recycling boiler for the kraft pulp process, the so-called ‘Tomlinson boiler’.


T. Ramen Hörnefors’ factory in Sweden delivered the world’s first functional evaporators for sulfite processes.


H. Bergström and KG. Trobeck developed a new system for chemical recycling that proves to be economically superior to all competing systems, including the Tomlinson boiler.


Babcock & Wilcox delivered the first sulfite (magnefite method) recovery boiler to Weyerhaeuser’s factory in Longview, USA. Today, the Magnefit method is the most common in sulfite factories.


The start of one of the world’s most advanced experimental factories in Jössefors, Sweden, which used ammonium sulfite in the process of chemical recovery of the sulfur part but not the ammonium. Many processes, products and machines were developed for the sulfite and power processes that still exist and are used today. Some of the most ground-breaking were continuous sulfite boiling and black liquor gasification.


B.Jansson invented a new type of dehumidification system that was far superior to all other systems.


The start of the world’s first continuous bisulfite boiler for dissolving pulp developed in Jössefors at Papirfabrik Waldhof in Mannheim. This is still in operation today.


The start of the host’s first black liquor gasification plants for sulfite liquor recycling developed in Jössefors at Ortviken’s paper mill Sweden.


The factory in Jössefors was closed down due to the sharp decline in the expected market of sulfite pulp and the large-scale R&D of the sulfite processes as no one was interested in continuing to pay to develop these.


The Lyocell fibre was first produced from sulfite pulp at Lenzing in Austria.


The start of an accelerated resin maturation process at Billerudsbruk, Sweden.


The starts of a newly built sulfite pulp mill in Paskov in what was then Czechoslovakia.


The start the first completely closed goblet without chlorine in Domsjö, Sweden.


Domsjö resumed production in Sweden, dissolving production with a modified sulfite method. In the same year, the initial R&D work began with Leif Engelthon on what will be SUND.


The development of the new Ammbifite process was started by the Swedish engineer, Leif Engelthon.


The development of a new type of continuous sulfite fiber line.


The sulfite factory in Paskov in the Czech Republic was rebuilt to produce dissolving pulp.


The SundFit platform was being developed to become part of the Biokomb XP project.


The unique SundRec system was developed for combustion-free chemical recycling for the ammbifite process.


The Sunfite process based on the the SundFit platform began to be developed to be able to use the sulfite method on non-tree species such as bagasse, bamboo, straw, etc. The experience and techniques have been developed later for the SundAgro platform.