Smurfit Kappa begins operation of biomass cogeneration plant

By Erin Voegele | June 26, 2012

Paper packaging company Smurfit Kappa Group plc has announced the startup of a 21.4 MW steam cogeneration plant at its paper mill in Nervion, Spain. According to the company, the cogeneration plant is part of a €20 million ($25 million) biomass energy investment, which will significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions while improving the mill’s profitability.

Information issued by Smurfit Kappa says the upgrade was made possible by a strategic investment program that included the acquisition of multi-functional crusher to process forest waste. The project also included a selection and storage system that has enabled increased biomass production, now exceeding 100,000 tons per year.

According to Smurfit Kappa, the cogeneration project began in 2009, when an engineering study was completed. Some equipment purchases were also made that year. Construction kicked off in January 2011. A building has been constructed to house the new 21.4 MW steam condensation turbine along with four new refrigeration towers with water circulation capacity of 2,500 cubic meters per hour in a continuous process.

As a result of the upgrade, Smurfit Kappa Nervion said it has increased its energy generation by more than 40 percent, now exceeding the yearly production of 120,000 megawatt hours. While the company noted that black liquor is used as fuel in the cogeneration plant, the new crushing line will allow other woody biomass waste materials to be used as fuel as well.

Smurfit Kappa also released its fifth annual Sustainable Development Report for 2011 in June. The report details the company’s vision and its ongoing activities related to sustainability. Regarding biomass, the report notes that Smurfit Kappa is also working to transform the current boiler in its Navarra, Spain-based kraft paper mill. The upgrade will double the amount of biobased steam generated at that facility. Overall, Smurfit Kappa noted in the report that the amount of biomass-based energy it uses increased from 41 percent of the total energy mix in 2010 to 42 percent in 2011. The increase is attributed to a biomass boiler that was installed in Cellulose du Pin in France.