At the mill in Cumbria – set against the backdrop of the UK’s beautiful Lake District – the construction of a new boiler will allow the mill to operate exclusively on renewable energy. The system is projected to increase demand for biomass in the North of England and to create a substantial new market for energy crops and other forms of biomass sourced from the local area. In addition, the new boiler will supply electricity into the local grid.
In early 2013, Iggesund Paperboard’s new biofuel boiler will be ready for operation. Representing an investment of £108-million, its purpose is to supply the mill’s entire energy requirements with self-produced energy in the form of steam and electricity.
‘This is a radical change of energy source,’ comments Ola Schultz-Eklund, the mill’s MD. ‘In one step, we’ll go from using natural fossil gas to using biofuel, reducing our environmental impact and stabilising our costs.’
With 400 employees, Iggesund Paperboard in Workington is the UK’s only producer of folding boxboard. Incada, the paperboard made at the mill, is constructed of a central layer made of mechanical pulp produced on site, which gives a low weight combined with high stiffness. The outer layers are made of a purchased chemical pulp to create high whiteness and good printability.
‘Thanks to investments spanning more than a decade, we’ve raised the standard of what was a middle-of-the-road paperboard mill to one that is state of the art,’ comments Ola. ‘Including the investment on the biofuel boiler, we’ve invested more than £200-million in this transformation.’
Step by step, the investments and renovations have raised both the quality and quality consistency of Incada, used for packaging, book and brochure covers, and other applications in the graphic arts sector.
As a result, the mill has found new end uses for its product and gradually improved profitability.
‘Our investment in the new biofuel boiler, profitability and reduced environmental impact go hand in hand,’ Ola continues. ‘We know that the cost of fossil-based energy will increase faster than that of biofuel, so we see this investment as a way to stabilise our energy costs. At the same time our emissions of fossil carbon dioxide from the production process will fall to almost zero, which should make us an even more interesting option for printers who have promised consumers that they will declare and reduce the emissions created by the products they sell.’
Offer to farmers to ‘grow their income’
Many nearby residents have seen the impressive new structure being built but few have so far realised that Iggesund’s investment will also create a sustainable long-term market for biofuel in the county of Cumbria.
Iggesund will need 500 000 tons of combustible material annually. As a result, the company is now launching a campaign to interest local farmers in cultivating energy forest in the form of willow.
‘We’ve developed a package that includes technical advice, financial support for the transition and a harvesting and transport service, all based on long-term contracts,’ explains Ulf Löfgren, financial director and a member of the team that developed the offer.
Britain’s environment department, Defra, has identified parts of Cumbria as being suitable for the cultivation of energy crops. The new market for these crops should be considerably larger than just meeting Iggesund’s requirements, as it’s widely expected that energy produced from fossil sources such as coal and oil will become increasingly expensive.
Iggesund’s investment is not due to any immediate need. The new boiler’s fuel supply is already ensured for several years to come. However, it does take three years for newly planted willow seedlings to produce their first crop.
Later this year, Iggesund is planting its own willow crop on about ten hectares close to the mill for demonstration purposes. The company is also launching a website with information about energy crop cultivation, its offer to farmers, and how participants in the project can share information.
‘We’re not expecting Cumbria to become covered by energy crops but we do believe this can be a way for farmers to gain additional income,’ comments Ulf Löfgren. ‘We can take care of harvesting and transporting the crop, and will be offering index-linked contracts so farmers can count on a reliable, inflation-protected source of income for the long term.’