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Better and better

More powerful, more efficient, and more sustainable: SCA ’s pulp mill in Östrand, Sweden, has reinvented itself in a mammoth, three-year project. ANDRITZ contributed the advanced technology and extensive know-how for one of the country’s largest industrial investments.

SCA's pulp mill in Östrand

SCA's pulp mill in Östrand

© Jan Philip Welchering

Ingela Ekebro remembers April 26, 2017 very well – the day when the tension surrounding the Helios project, for which she was responsible, reached an absolute peak. ANDRITZ was to widen the huge HERB recovery boiler in SCA’s pulp mill in Östrand, Sweden, by 3.8 meters. A complete boiler side wall with a height of 60 meters, a width of 30 meters, and weighing 460 tons was moved in one piece using a hydraulic device. Never before had this been attempted in a mill of this size.

SCA and ANDRITZ at work: Göran Bröttgårdh, Ingela Ekebro, Håkan Wänglund, and Henrik Grönqvist check progress on the Helios project.

© Jan Philip Welchering

Five hundred men and women worked intensely with full focus to move the wall into the exact position with millimeter precision and not make any mistakes while doing so. The sound of motors humming echoes throughout the premises, and earnest voices are heard coming from the walkie-talkies. Eventually the good news comes through: Mission accomplished! A mixture of relief and happiness fills the air. The capacity of the ANDRITZ HERB recovery boiler was increased from 3,000 to today’s 5,000 tons per day. In future, the energy yield will be so high that the mill will be able to feed up to 50 percent of the electricity generated to the public grid. The mill’s namesake – Helios, the mighty god of the sun – would have appreciated this achievement. “It was a great relief to us all,” says Ingela Ekebro, looking back. A year and a half later in September 2018, she sits down in a meeting room bathed in light in the control center in the middle of the mill premises. Amidst the hectic mill operations, the modern building is like an oasis of calm where work goes on with deep concentration, but still in a relaxed atmosphere. There are lounge-like working and recreation areas in pleasant colors, wood-paneled walls,and stylish lamps. You feel as if you are visiting a digital startup. Ingela Ekebro leans back and smiles. “Extending the recovery boiler was an extremely important stage of the project for us.”

Concentrated calm: All production processes are monitored constantly in the newly built control center at SCA's pulp mill in Östrand.

© Jan Philip Welchering

A quantum leap

This was not the only leg of the journey in which the forest management and wood-processing group SCA received active support from ANDRITZ. The Helios project, which planned to completely modernize and extend the pulp mill near the university town of Sundsvall, took almost three years. Throughout this entire period – and partly in the years preceding it as well – a large team of ANDRITZ experts from Sweden, Austria, Finland, and Germany was actively involved and worked closely together with SCA.

The topics were manifold and extended from the planning, concept, and control of important areas of the mill extension to delivery and start-up of innovative technologies and on to management of work safety.

SCA invested almost eight billion Swedish krona in modernization of the mill, in which around 8,000 employees were involved over the total project duration. The pulp mill, which was started up in June 2018, is one of the largest industrial investments in Sweden, and there is, above all, one very good reason for this: Bleached softwood pulp is in demand all over the world. In the past ten years, the global market saw growth of 1.5 to 2 percent per year. “We are now increasing our annual capacity gradually from 430,000 to 900,000 tons of softwood kraft pulp,” says Ingela Ekebro. Achieving this goal would be a world record. About half of the production volume will be used for SCA ’s own paper production, while the rest will be sold to external tissue producers.

System knowledge from A to Z

The project was also a huge undertaking for ANDRITZ, both technologically and in terms of organization. After all, how is it possible to modernize a pulp mill extensively while it is in full operation and then disrupt ongoing operations as little as possible during this work? All this in a very confined space: The mill premises are bordered by the sea on one side and a railway track on the other. Space is a luxury here, so the logistics were correspondingly complicated. Machines, components, and working materials had to be delivered to the site “just in time” and such that all those involved did not get in each other’s way. “Together with SCA, we divided the entire project into several phases and sub-projects that we worked through in small steps, flexibly, and in close coordination,” Henrik Grönqvist, project director from ANDRITZ, recalls. “Of course, there are numerous technical and organizational obstacles in a project of this magnitude,” adds Göran Bröttgårdh, who handled the business side of the project as its commercial director. “So open, trusting, and professional communication were of the essence.”

In addition to extending the ANDRITZ HERB recovery boiler, ANDRITZ was involved in other process areas. In total, there were ten separate ANDRITZ start-ups, including five in the white liquor plant, two in the wood processing area, two in pulp drying, and then the recovery boiler start-up. Here, the Group supplied and installed the following production technologies and equipment: a debarking system with two parallel debarking and chipping lines, a new, energy-saving pulp drying system, new recausticizing machinery, as well as the ANDRITZ LimeFlash technology and upgrade of the existing wood dust burner system to increase the capacity of the existing lime kiln. These components contribute both individually and collectively to increasing the output and efficiency of the mill and keeping the use of resources very low.

Complete wood room with two parallel debarking and chipping lines and bark processing with two HQ-Press bark presses resulting in excellent bark dry content. The chip handling system underwent major modernization work.

© Jan Philip Welchering

Pulp drying system from ANDRITZ with energy-saving technologies that reduce the mill's operating costs significantly. The system includes energy recovery from the boiler waste heat, fine screening, and a twin wire dewatering system with fully automatic tail threading that meets the strictest health, safety, and environmental regulations.

© Jan Philip Welchering

Knowledge and courage

“Sustainability was our top priority at all levels," says Ingela Ekebro. “That’s why we also wanted to set benchmarks in terms of work safety.”

Considering the hard winters in Östrand, this was not easy: The temperature drops to minus 20 degrees, up to 1.7 meters of snow are not unusual, and a stubborn layer of ice covers the streets and the mill. All this made work dangerous on the site, where heavy equipment had to be lifted and moved. “Thanks to untiring efforts by ANDRITZ, we succeeded in keeping accident figures as low as possible,” says Ingela Ekebro.

“Technical know-how is not the only reason why we chose ANDRITZ,” says Håkan Wänglund, general project manager at SCA and Ingela Ekebro’s right-hand man. “Yes, the Group’s lean process solutions, the modern technology, and its energy efficiency are convincing.” And there is another aspect that is at least equally important to the two SCA engineers: ANDRITZ has the courage to tackle and implement new and unusual ideas, even if there is no 100 percent certainty what the result will be in detail,” says Wänglund, while Ingela Ekebro nods in agreement. “We appreciate this pioneering spirit. It takes courage to set new benchmarks.”

SCA at a glance

The Swedish forest products company SCA was established in 1929 and has its headquarters in Sundsvall. The company owns 2.6 million hectares of forest - an area the size of Belgium. And because it is used intensively, this resource is managed carefully and sustainably: According to SCA, the net area of the forest grows year after year. The company offers paper for packaging and publications, pulp, wood products, renewable energy, and various services for other forest-owners. In 2017, SCA had approximately 4,000 employees and sales in the region of 16.7 billion Swedish krona.