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Metsä Group starts up its Kemi bioproduct mill and paperboard mill

FINLAND (News release) -- The largest investment of the forest industry in Finland, the new Kemi bioproduct mill and the paperboard mill expansion, came into operation on Wednesday 20 September 2023. The operations will start department by department. Pulp deliveries from the new mill to customers will begin in October 2023.

"Metsä Group's products replace fossil materials in people's daily lives. Pulp and paperboard are used as raw materials for numerous consumer goods, and we are able to produce them in Kemi with considerably lower emissions. Finland needs sustainable investment that creates employment, income and a strong belief in the future," says Ilkka Hämälä, President and CEO of Metsä Group.

The Kemi bioproduct mill produces 1.5 million tonnes of softwood and hardwood pulp annually. It uses zero fossil fuels and will be completely waste-free by 2030. Featuring cutting-edge technology, the mill operates a fully-fledged circular economy, as all the wood raw material and production side streams are efficiently used for various bioproducts and bioenergy. For example, the mill produces tall oil and turpentine, as well as two terawatt hours of renewable electricity per year, which is equivalent to the annual consumption of 100,000 electrically heated single-family homes. This accounts for approximately 2.5% of Finland's total electricity production. Thanks to its efficient chemical cycles and other environmentally efficient solutions, the new mill's emissions are lower than the limits specified in the currently valid environmental permit for the closed Kemi pulp mill, despite the considerable increase in production capacity.

The bioproduct mill will consume 7.6 million m3 of wood every year, representing an increase of 4.5 million m3 compared to the old mill. Of this additional volume, 3.5 million m3 will be procured from Finland and one million from Sweden.

The modernisation and bottleneck investments made in Kemi paperboard mill will increase the annual production capacity of white top kraftliner by around 40,000 tonnes to 465,000 tonnes. This increase will further strengthen the Kemi mill's position as the world's largest producer of coated white-top kraftliners, whose products are used worldwide as surface material for corrugated packaging. The integration of the bioproduct mill and the paperboard mill, as well as the modernisation of the paperboard mill's production line, will considerably improve the paperboard mill's water and energy efficiency. The investments will reduce the mill's water consumption by 40% and energy use by 5 per cent per tonne of paperboard produced.

Metsä Group's completed, ongoing and planned investments since 2015 total approximately seven billion euros. The investments enable the company to better meet the needs of forest owners and customers across the forest industry's value chain and contribute to climate change mitigation. Energy efficiency, a smaller environmental load and the bioproduct mill's fossil free operations support Metsä Group's and its customers' sustainability targets.

The sustainable wood supply of Metsä Group's Kemi bioproduct mill covers the entire chain from the forest to the mill and from regenerative forestry to new railway logistics reducing transport emissions.

Among other things, regenerative forestry means adding more deciduous trees, old trees, decaying wood and burnt wood to commercial forests. For example, we offer our owner-members the Metsä Group Plus forest management model, which sets higher requirements than current certification systems, and organise a competition called Renew Metsä. Both of these follow the principles of regenerative forestry.

Metsä Group procures the bulk of its wood from its owner-members in Finland, that is, from more than 90,000 members of Metsäliitto Cooperative, who own around half of Finnish private forests. The additional use of pulpwood will increase forest owners' annual wood sales income by around Euro 100 million. Sales income from log wood will also increase significantly. The Kemi bioproduct mill's increased wood consumption will generate around 1,000 new jobs in harvesting, wood transport and forest management.

"The wood consumed at the Kemi bioproduct mill will be procured from commercial forests. We will not procure wood for the mill from old-growth forests that should be protected. According to our estimates, around 60 per cent of the wood used at the bioproduct mill will come from thinning sites. This will clear the backlog of thinning in our northern forests while helping trees grow into sturdy log wood suitable for use in wood products offering long-term carbon storage," says Juha Jumppanen, EVP Wood Supply and Forest Services, Metsä Group.

Northern Finland is home to vast peatland areas, which are special in terms of greenhouse gas and water emissions. In 2020, Metsä Group revised its peatland management guidelines, which now favour continuous cover forestry methods.

Rail transports will account for approximately two thirds of the raw wood used at the Kemi bioproduct mill. Thanks to this, the emissions from wood transports will decline by around 20 per cent per cubic metre. The transports are powered by VR's latest engines. The Vectron electric locomotives can handle loads as heavy as 2,500 tonnes, which means approximately 20-25 per cent more wood per train.

"We've designed our wood deliveries in Kemi to meet our emissions reduction targets. In addition to using electric locomotives for wood deliveries, we have electrically powered autonomous cranes in the woodyard. We'll continue to reduce our emissions across the wood supply chain," says Jumppanen.

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