Life became much less hectic in the autumn of 2017, once the bioproduct mill in Äänekoski had started up and the project was largely completed. Enriched by the experience, the team members returned to their previous jobs or took up new ones. I was ready to start the countdown to my retirement, but then I received a call from Ilkka Hämälä, our President and CEO. He said we needed to study the conditions for Kemi mill’s further development – or even for building a new, large bioproduct mill. So I started.
The prefeasibility study on the Kemi mill began in May 2018 – very differently from the one in Äänekoski, where the project was initially floated within a small group. This time, we shared openly that we were studying the conditions for further developing the Kemi pulp mill by launching a prefeasibility study on building a major bioproduct mill in our existing mill area. The production capacity and the employment and economic effects of this mill would be comparable to those of the investment in Äänekoski. If we discovered that the construction of a large mill was unfeasible, we would continue to develop the Kemi mill at its current capacity by renewing and modernising its departments.
So what are the requirements for building a large mill? What are the questions that the prefeasibility study must answer? The most important aspect, of course, will be sustainable wood supply for the mill throughout its lifecycle of 30–40 years. Metsä Group’s wood supply experts are currently calculating and evaluating this, based on forest growth estimates published by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) in the autumn.
Wood will be supplied to the mill from a broad area and from many sources, mainly from privately held Finnish forests. So the next question is: how and where should the transport infrastructure be developed to ensure that a large volume of wood can be delivered to Kemi and the mill by rail and road? To achieve this, Metsä Group’s experts are cooperating closely with the authorities in both the state and Kemi’s municipal administrations.
The third question concerns the delivery of pulp, the mill’s main product, to the global markets. Part of the pulp produced by the large bioproduct mill will be processed into high-quality paperboard in Kemi, as is currently the case, but most of its production will be exported. Kemi has an export harbour only 15 minutes from the mill. However, the harbour and the sea route leading to it are currently unsuitable for the largest long-distance vessels. This means the measures necessary for the further development of the harbour and sea route must be determined.
Kemi has been Lapland’s economic engine since the 1870s and will continue to be so long into the future. Profitable mill construction is part of Metsä Group’s DNA. If the planning of Bioproduct Mill 2.0 begins in 2019, our bioproduct concept will be markedly more advanced than it was in Äänekoski five years ago.
When the prefeasibility study is completed, I’m going to retire and focus on my wife and grandchildren. But I will follow the project’s progress with great interest – from my sofa at home.