The drive to Iggesund Paperboard’s Workington Mill, part of the Swedish Holmen Group, takes you through some of England’s most dramatic and natural scenery – mountains, lakes, and sparkling streams flowing down to the coast of the Irish Sea. Situated on the edge of the county of Cumbria – the “Lake District” as it is more popularly known – the Workington Mill sits right in the middle of what can only be described as a “green power show.” Wind turbines dot the shoreline, generating power for energy giant E.ON. renewable energy is very big around here.
Iggesund Paperboard’s mill with its new woodyard may look to the uninitiated just like any other big new factory. However, to those in the know, this is one of Britain’s showcase examples of manufacturing valuable products in the greenest and leanest way possible. And underneath the gleaming mill façade is the centerpiece of Workington’s own “green power show” – a new biomass boiler supplied by Andritz.
Over the years, Workington has developed a reputation for satisfying the higher end of the luxury board market. In fact, some of its top-of-the-range bright white boards are used for the glitzy celebratory side of life – including the packaging of chocolates and champagne or example – under its incada brand. Important to supplying this market is the ability to produce good solid boxboard with the potential to print, foil block, and emboss. It is a highly competitive market to be in. Environmental excellence and sustainability have become increasingly important to the buyers of such board products.
Ola Schultz-Eklund, who has been Managing Director of the Workington Mill for 12 years, has overseen many of the changes that have taken place at the mill. “Making paper and board in the modern world is a tough business,” Schultz-Eklund says. “You have to be lean to survive – even when you are in a niche business like we are. We have continually invested in product quality while making sure we are as lean as possible. In that space of time, we have become the benchmark for quality and printability in the boxboard market.”
THE RIGHT STRATEGY
The Holmen Group decided in 2011 to boost the efficiency and profitability at Workington by investing in a new biomass power boiler. The boiler would not only reduce the amount of purchased energy, making the mill self-sufficient with self-generated green energy, it would allow the company to participate in the UK government’s program where green energy producers can sell their Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to companies which continue to use fossil fuel. Says Schultz-Eklund, “There is no doubt that this project was the right strategy for the future of this mill. It would make us more sustainable, more efficient, more profitable – and would open up new revenue streams.”
In March of that year, the Board approved the investment. By early April, the contract for PB 195 was in place with Andritz. The design called for a fuel input of 147.5 MW. In terms of steam flow, the boiler would produce 195 tonnes/hr on wood-based biomass and 98 tonnes/hr with natural gas. Steam pressure was targeted for 102 (a) at a temperature of 540°C.
The Andritz version of bubbling fluidized bed technology was chosen specifically for the Workington mill as it had the flexibility to deal with the variety of biomass available in the mill – recycled sawmill chips, bark, effluent cake, and washings.
Anna-Maija Harju, Andritz Product Engineer, says: “Our BFB boiler technology fits perfectly for Iggesund Paperboard because of its versatility in firing different biomass fuels and sludges. The design maintains combustion and evens out fluctuations caused by varying fuel qualities. The technology is very environmentally friendly, with emissions that are below, and sometimes far below, EU, domestic, and local regulations.”
As a follow-on in May, Andritz received the order from Workington for the biomass receiving and handling system. This included all the equipment for receiving and storing biomass fuel up to a capacity of 1,000 m3/hr as well as all the conveying equipment to supply the boiler. Part of this delivery was the installation of a horizontally fed HHQ-Chipper for chipping logs, and a horizontally fed crushing line for other wood wastes.
The storage facility delivered by Andritz is an A-frame structure with a capacity of 20,000 m3 of biomass.
The A-frame building is an essential ingredient in the whole mill operation as it helps regulate the moisture content in the wood in a range of 37-57% depending on the materials. The mill at Workington uses around 800,000 tonnes/yr of wood: a combination of sawmill chips, roundwood, energy crops, and other biomass, mostly from Scotland and northern England.
From the A-frame, the chipped and crushed biomass is transferred into two holding silos before entering the boiler.
NO OPTION FOR DELAYS
The plan was to allow 24 months for the complete project from demolition of existing buildings to startup. Crucially there was a strict deadline; the new boiler had to be synchronized to the national grid by February 15, 2013. The pressure was really on.
“There was quite a lot of work to be done before the installation could begin, as we had to decommission one of our board machines, remove it, and demolish the building to make way for the power plant,” says Timo Nieminen, Workington’s Power Plant Manager. “Then there were foundations to pour and construction of all the housing for the new boiler.”
As Nieminen recalls, there was a sudden flurry of activity around the mill as the deadline began to loom in the distance. “A whole host of different nationalities began arriving to concentrate on their part of the project,” he says. “This was a really intriguing part of the project for me, the way that Spanish, Polish, Swedish, and Finnish technicians – at one time 400 contractors – worked alongside the British mill team, and very impressively got the job done.”
The first gas firing of the boiler took place on December 22, 2012. This was followed by the first solid fuel firing on February 1, 2013. “But the really good day came on February 15, 2013 when we synchronized to the grid and reached our goal,” Nieminen says. “We were completely operational and producing power in April, and took over the boiler from Andritz on May 15.”
THROWING DOWN CHALLENGES
The Holmen Group, it seems, likes giving challenges to its employees as well as its suppliers. Instead of importing a group of biomass energy experts to run the new power plant, Holmen selected team members from the Workington Mill. This included Bill Williams, Lead Technician, who enjoyed the retraining in the art of power and steam generation.
“This project has been an amazing experience for me,” says Williams. “We watched as the boiler was built, then fired up. It was incredible to see how the suppliers sped up towards the end to make the start-up deadline. The learning curve for us has been steep and fast, but the Andritz team has been great in helping us move up the curve. They are very knowledgeable and professional.”
Have the targets been hit? “Absolutely!” exclaims Nieminen. “We use the same amount of energy in production that we used a year ago, but now it all comes from renewable sources. Our team has achieved great things. The boiler availability has been near 100% since we took it over. With the continued support of our supplier partners, we intend to keep uptime high.”
The Workington Mill management and work force make it abundantly clear that they are extremely proud of the mill being entirely self-sufficient in terms of energy – and that by doing so, they have cut carbon emissions by more than 190,000 tonnes/yr. Or, as they like to tell customers, “We cut our annual emissions by 60,000 automobiles a year.”
Schultz-Eklund concludes: “This project has had some immense challenges, but ultimately we went from a situation where our competitiveness was being affected by really poor power and steam output to a situation where we are self-sufficient and even exporting power to the national grid.”
Clearly, Iggesund Workington is the brightest star in the Cumbria area’s “green power show.”