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Tamil Nadu's expanding jewel in an Indian crown

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Tamil Nadu's expanding jewel in an Indian crown

May 01, 2011 - 16:00

BRUSSELS, May 2, 2011 (RISI) -Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers (TNPL) is one of the top five integrated pulp and paper producers in India. Initially started up by the government in the early 80s (the government still owns around 30% of the shares in the company) it now produces 245,000 tonnes/yr of printing and writing paper, using 1 million tonnes/yr of bagasse as well as some hardwood pulp.

But it is the challenges that this interesting company sets itself that really defines it. Just two of these challenges in the last round of investment include: to increase paper production from 245,000 tonnes/yr to 400,000 tonnes/yr; and, to increase its own pulp production from 700 to 1,000 tonnes/day all to be achieved by the end of 2011. Not exactly the easiest of tasks to carry out in a country which is known for its poor infrastructure and battle for raw materials.

To achieve this goal, the company has embarked on an MEP (mill expansion plan), which includes the startup of a new Voith paper machine (December 2010), the backward integration of its CDP ECF bleach plant involving a raft of equipment from Metso and the installation of a deinking plant from Andritz which is set to start up at the end of the year.

Pulp and paper mill management at the TNPL mill

Expanding to serve a growing market

The TNPL mill sits in a very fertile position near the town of Kagithapuram, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, and operates in what is surely one of the fastest emerging economies of the 21st Century. In terms of global presence, the Indian pulp and paper industry ranks at no. 15 in the world for consumption at around 9.1 million tonnes/yr, but that number is growing rapidly as the country emerges in terms of both population rise, and the rise out of poverty for many of its citizens. Some industry pundits put growth rates in various grades at anything from 8% to 25%. The industry itself in the country is highly fragmented with around 600 separate production units with capacities ranging from 5 tonnes/day to 1,000 tonnes/day. The raw material base is wide and varied, with some 28 mills based on wood fiber, 200 agro-based, (bagasse and straw) and 360 on recovered paper.

The Indian paper industry is basically separated into three groups, Newsprint, Industrial Packaging and Printings & Writing. Although once predominantly in Newsprint, TNPL now concentrates fully on the Printings and Writings area, consumption of which is estimated to be around 3.2 million tonnes/yr in total in India. TNPL estimates it has a market share of some 12.5%.

The company has seen a series of expansion phases or MEPs since its inception, going from a capacity of 90,000 tonnes/yr in 1985 using a single paper machine. The first major expansion at the mill was in 1996, when it doubled the capacity by installing another paper machine, supplied by Voith. In 2002 it upgraded both machines which resulted in an increase of capacity to 230,000 tonnes/yr. In 2008 an additional pulp line was added to the existing line which increased bagasse pulp production from 100 tonnes/day to 300 tonnes/day and at this time, ECF production was implemented at the mill. This improvement in the pulp line resulted in another capacity increase on the paper machines bringing an added 15,000 tonnes/yr up to a total of 245,000 tonnes/year in 2010.

The mill expansion plan being implemented onPPI's visit to the site late last year, which was set to finish completely in 2011, will result in the mill being able to produce 400,000 tonnes/yr of printing and writing paper. The mill has a chemical hardwood pulp line producing 300 tonnes/day, and two chemical bagasse pulp lines which are currently being upgraded, which produce 450 tonnes/day. The expansion includes a brand new paper machine from Voith with a capacity of 155,000 tonnes/yr. S.J. Varadarajan, senior manager and project coordinator at the mill says: "TNPL is now the largest bagasse based paper mill in the world, it is also now the largest mill in a single location in India, and second largest making fine paper."

TNPL uses around 1 million tonnes/yr of bagasse, which is procured using a barter system with local sugar mills. Varadarajan says: "The sugar mills need steam, and the paper mill needs bagasse. So TNPL supplies fuel for the sugar mills' boilers, which produces the steam they need. We have agreement with the sugar mill by which we supply them the fuel and boilers and then we get the bagasse in exchange. Sugar mills usually use the bagasse to fire their boilers. We have our own boilers at the mills which we supply the fuel to and we take the bagasse in return".

For its chemical hardwood pulp line, TNPL has some 66,000 acres of pulp wood plantations but has an objective to increase the availability of pulpwood in the state of Tamil Nadu and be instrumental in the area in the conversion of uncultivated land into productive entities. The ongoing plan is to have 100,000 acres by 2013.

The end result of the latest modifications will mean that TNPL will have the world’s largest single line for bagasse

To be continued hereto read Part II.