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Estonia's largest biogas plant begins operations

Pulp producer AS Estonian Cell has started operations of a new wastewater treatment and biogas plant at its facility in Kunda, Estonia. The EUR 11 million investment features a "state-of-the-art technology" providing an innovative solution in the context of pulp production while making the company the single largest producer and consumer of biogas in Estonia.

Estonian Cell is a bleached-thermo-chemical mechanical pulp (BTCMP) mill that uses only Aspen pulpwood as feedstock.

The new biogas plant is part of an overall EUR 17 million investment in capacity expansion, energy and production efficiency measures announced in May 2013 by the owners, Austria-headed Heinzel Holding GmbH. The objective is to increase the effectiveness, profitability and to ensure the sustainability of the loss-making bleached-thermo-chemical mechanical pulp (BTCMP) mill.

According to a statement, the company will be able to substitute more than 5 million Nm3 of imported fossil gas with biogas thereby reduce costs related to gas purchases by more than a third and serve as an important milestone in the turnaround of the company, currently running a cumulative loss of EUR 22 million.

The investment also has a positive environmental impact, reducing the ecological footprint of the pulp mill even further,said Siiri Lahe, Board Member of Estonian Cell.

Estonian Cell’s Kunda aspen pulp mill launched production in 2006 and 100 percent of the production is exported to different countries in Europe and Asia. The approximately EUR 153 million project, is one of the largest foreign greenfield investments made in Estonia over the course of the last decade.

The pulp mill technology is already highly environmentally friendly. Wood processing takes place mechanically and the process is sulphur- and chlorine-free. The company is exploiting the best available technology and our production process is characterised by high wood yield and efficient water and energy usage, said Lauri Raid, Board Member of Estonian Cell.

According to the company, the new biogas plant features “state-of-the-art technology”, providing an innovative solution in the context of pulp production. The plant has the largest single biogas reactor in Europe. In terms of biogas plants with multiple reactors, the production volume of the new plant belongs among the top-3 in Europe. The reactor capacity is 4 300 m3 and the anaerobic digestion cycle together with the biogas production lasts 11 hours on average.

Wastewater is first treated mechanically; if necessary, neutralisation of residual peroxide and chemical removal of fine fibres takes place. Then, the organic matter is converted inside the reactor with the help of microorganisms to produce methane and carbon dioxide, explained Kersti Luzkov, Environment and Quality Manager for Estonian Cell.

About AS Estonian Cell

Owner: Heinzel Holding GmbH

Type: bleached-thermo-chemical-mechanical pulp (BTCMP)

Start-up: September 2006

Investment: c. EUR 153 million

Feedstock: aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Target production: 200 000 tonnes per annum (2018)

Actual production: 160 000 tonnes (2012)

Staff: c. 85

 

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