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In addition to the conversion to kraftliner production, the pulp mill was modified to produce unbleached kraft pulp. Several enhancements were also made to the mill’s environmental performance. The conversion brought significant improvements to the treatment of malodorous gases and wastewater, as well as to chip storage. Altogether EUR 40 million was invested in the enhancements and the mill now has the technical capability to produce all the energy it needs without fossil fuels.
Since 1996, Oulu Mill has produced coated fine paper on two manufacturing lines. In May 2019 Stora Enso made a decision to end paper manufacturing and invest EUR 350 million to convert one of the paper machines into high-quality kraftliner for packaging. Paper production and sheeting in Oulu ceased in September 2020, and in January 2021 pulp production started at the converted mill. The mill is expected to reach its designed production capacity by the end of Q2/2021.
“Oulu Mill had an ideal starting point for this kind of conversion. There was an integrated pulp mill, a power plant, existing paper lines and an experienced team. In addition, it has an excellent location for raw material and logistics, with the deep-sea harbour just adjacent to the mill,” says Hannu Kasurinen, EVP Packaging Materials.
The new kraftliner capacity considerably strengthens Stora Enso’s global offering in containerboard. A similar conversion project was carried out in 2015–2016 at Varkaus Mill when one paper machine was converted to produce kraftliner.
Today, approximately 400 people are employed on the Oulu Mill site, including facilities personnel and logistics staff. The mill’s wood consumption, mainly purchased from private forest owners in Northern Finland, will increase by 0.5 million m3 to 2.4 million m3 annually.
“Oulu’s new product is a very strong, food-contact safe 100% virgin-fiber based kraftliner that will come with both brown- and white-top. There is a strong market demand for the grade and our expectation is that, when fully ramped up, Oulu Mill will generate a EUR 300 million annual sales increase for the Packaging Materials division in 2022,” Hannu Kasurinen continues.
The product, AvantForteTM by Stora Enso, has three fiber layers, making it the strongest kraftliner in Stora Enso’s portfolio. Packaging applications include fresh, fatty or moist food, as well as high-end e-commerce packaging. Customers in demanding packaging end-uses that require strength, purity and strong visual appearance features will benefit from Oulu’s new product.
“Oulu’s paper quality was the benchmark in woodfree coated papers. Our goal is nothing less in kraftliner. Of course, the journey to the best has only begun, but the team in Oulu is dedicated to safety and delivering premium quality to our customers,” says Oulu Mill Director Juha Mäkimattila.
A total of 2.4 million m3 of wood for Oulu Mill means an annual cash flow of more than EUR 100 million into the regional economy. This includes both wood trade revenues for forest owners and harvesting and transportation revenues for Stora Enso's local partner companies. The increase is approximately EUR 20 million.
In addition to wood trade revenues, wood sourcing has an employment effect. The change at Oulu Mill will create 100 new jobs in its wood sourcing area in wood purchase, harvesting, transportation and forestry work. In the future, the wood sourcing for Oulu Mill will employ several hundred people in northern Finland.