Iggesund Invests in Fossil-free Production

The end of September marked the inauguration of the new recovery boiler at Iggesund Mill in Sweden. The €240 million investment is decisive for the mill’s future development. In about six months’ time the company will see the results of yet another huge investment in a mill – a biofuel boiler costing €123 million. At one stroke, this will enable Iggesund’s board mill in Workington, England, to operate without fossil carbon emissions and solely on biomass.

“For us the investments mean that we should be able to stabilise our energy costs,” explains Guy Mallinson, Sales Director at Iggesund Paperboard. “When both politicians and industry organisations emphasise strongly that reduced fossil carbon emissions are the way of the future, it’s a wise idea to listen.

“We know that our product portfolio, both from Iggesund and Workington, will now belong to a small, exclusive group of paperboard products whose manufacture involves extremely small amounts of fossil carbon emissions.”

Iggesund’s goal is to totally eliminate the use of fossil fuels in its own production process. However, this is not the same as having a zero carbon footprint because a number of the company’s input goods, primarily cooking chemicals and latex, are made with relatively high carbon emissions.

“Today there are no good alternatives,”  Mallinson continues. “If consumers want to access all the good features of paper and paperboard products, then they need to accept that it’s impossible to reduce the carbon footprint to zero under the current definition. But we are still producing a fraction of that emitted by competing materials like plastic, metal or glass.”

Over the past two years Iggesund Paperboard’s investments equated to just over half of the company’s annual net sales of almost €600 million. The money invested into Iggesund Mill will enable a gradual increase in production. The integrated pulp and paperboard mill is currently allowed to manufacture up to 355,000 annual tonnes of paper pulp. Negotiations begin this autumn at the Swedish Environmental Court to increase the production permit to 420,000 annual tonnes.

One of the conditions for such an increase was an enlargement of the mill’s water purification system. In 2009, during the worst of the global financial crisis, Iggesund invested €25 million in a chemical water purification facility.

“Compared with the large sums involved in our energy investments this was a minor amount, but it was extremely important for the marine ecosystem right beside the mill,”  Mallinson says. “We’ve now progressed so far that no chemical analysis in the world can show any differences between fish which lived in the sea off Iggesund Mill and fish which lived in the reference zones far away from any influence by a paper mill.”

Sweden’s environmental authorities regard Iggesund’s water purification system as being state of the art. Waste fibre particles from the production process are first removed from the water by sedimentation. The discharge water is then led to an aerated lagoon – an artificial ‘lake’ with a surface area of 96 hectares – where microorganisms supplied with heat and extra oxygen literally eat their way through the organic waste matter. The last stage – the new one – cleans the water chemically in exactly the same way as drinking water is cleaned.

“The amount of organic material we release into the Baltic Sea has been reduced by over 40 per cent, but perhaps even more positive is that the amounts of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus have fallen even more,” Mallinson says. “The Baltic’s marine ecosystem suffers badly from eutrophication, so our reduced release of fertilisers is perhaps our most important achievement of all.”

He has seen how the discussion about emissions from pulp and paper industries has moved from focusing on local issues to becoming more global. The emissions from Iggesund’s mills are no longer any problem from a local perspective, but fossil carbon emissions are definitely still a global problem. In a parallel development, powerful interest groups exist who want to make water usage into a similar issue.

“We have an excellent supply of fresh water and have never had a shortage – Sweden’s topography guarantees that,” he explains. “We also use the water immediately before it reaches the Baltic Sea, and we put it back in a purified form. Our water usage does not conflict with anyone else’s, and no one has to stop using water because we are a big user – or, to be more precise, a big borrower.”

Whilst carbon dioxide is definitely a global issue,  Mallinson does not believe that water usage will ever become more than a regional one. Sweden has no shortage of water, so it seems completely unnecessary to introduce universally applicable regulations and guidelines.

“I really hope that those organisations who are insisting on reducing industry’s water usage take into account the considerable regional differences which exist around the world,” concludes Guy Mallinson, Sales  Director at Iggesund Paperboard.

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