Bioproduct mill responds to growing demand for softwood pulp

Metsä Group’s bioproduct mill will achieve its rated capacity roughly a year after start-up. Following this, the mill will use 6.5 million cubic metres of wood a year, producing 1.3 million tonnes of softwood and birch pulp as well as a variety of other bioproducts, such as tall oil and turpentine.

“The core idea of our activities is to operate competitively in the world markets and to develop successful products there. To ensure competitiveness, the mill needs to be large and efficient. To be able to reduce the operating expenses of pulp production, we began looking for solutions that would increase the degree processing of all possible side streams. This came to be one of the key principles that steered our planning,” says Ilkka Hämälä, CEO of Metsä Fibre, Metsä Group’s pulp and sawmill business.

The value of bioproducts other than pulp produced by the bioproduct mill account for 20 per cent of the value of the entire production of the mill, and this amount is growing in phases. At Metsä Fibre’s other pulp mills, the corresponding figure is 10 per cent, on average.

“Efficiently utilising materials is of crucial importance also in terms of the environment. Every bit of the wood raw material and production side streams will be put to use.”

In terms of its material, environmental and energy efficiency, the bioproduct mill is second to none, even on the global scale. It produces all of the energy it needs from wood and the side streams of production, and therefore does not use fossil fuels at all.

"In China, growth in the demand for pulp has been strong in recent years. Now that our own production is growing significantly, we can also increase our sales elsewhere in Asia", says Ilkka Hämälä, CEO of Metsä Fibre, Metsä Group’s pulp and sawmill business. Photos: Metsä Group


The world’s biggest producer of softwood pulp
Once the bioproduct mill is operating at full capacity, Metsä Fibre will be the world’s biggest producer of softwood pulp. The markets will be provided with an additional 800,000 tonnes of pulp. The pulp produced by the new mill already has customers – two thirds of the output is exported.

Thanks to growth in the world economy, demand for pulp has experienced modest, 2–3 per cent growth over the past few years. Pulp is a basic raw material for a variety of products that are being increasingly used due to improvements in the standard of living and GDP in the market areas. These include tissue paper and packaging products, strengthened by the long-fibred softwood pulp.

“In China, growth in the demand for pulp has been strong in recent years. Now that our own production is growing significantly, we can also increase our sales elsewhere in Asia. Trading house Itochu Corporation, which owns 24.9 per cent of Metsä Fibre, has an extensive sales network there.”

Metsä Fibre also has mills in Joutseno, Rauma and Kemi. Pulp grades desired by customers and the efficiency of logistics influence the delivery destinations of the pulp exported from the mills.

“The starting point is that the Äänekoski and Joutseno mills export pulp to Asia. The main heading of the export pulp produced at Rauma and Kemi is in Europe. The bioproduct mill sends pulp on its way in the form of efficient railway deliveries to the Vuosaari port in Helsinki, and from there onwards to Asia, on bulk carriers and as container deliveries,” says Hämälä.

Once the bioproduct mill is operating at full capacity, Metsä Fibre will be the world’s biggest producer of softwood pulp.


New products
Pulp has an increasing amount of applications beyond the traditional tissue and print paper and packaging products. The one growing most rapidly among these is the use of fresh fibre pulp as a textile fibre. This trend is also steered by the challenges affecting cotton cultivation.

“Replacing plastic products with wood-based composites and polymers is a big market. New opportunities also keep opening up all the time as the world moves from a fossil-based economy to a material economy of renewable raw materials.”

Now that the bioproduct mill is in production, Hämälä considers achieving the planned volume level over the next year a key priority. Another challenge involves getting progress underway in entirely new bioproducts and their processing chains.

“We have been able to double the utilisation rate of side streams, and to produce chemicals and renewable energy for our own needs, for example. A few companies are already making their own products from the bioproduct mill’s raw materials. In addition, there are several ongoing product development projects whose potential as industrial investments will be evaluated over the next few years. Our goal is for the ecosystem created by the companies operating around the mill and using our products as raw materials to expand.”

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