Green light for biomass power plant at Norske Skog's Golbey paper mill

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The go-ahead has been given for the planned waste wood-fired power plant at Norske Skog's paper mill in Golbey in eastern France. The joint venture Green Valley Energie, which will build and operate the plant, announced the successful conclusion of financing negotiations at the beginning of last week. Green Valley Energie's shareholders are Norske Skog and Veolia, each of which hold 10 per cent of the joint venture, and the financial investor Pearl Infrastructure Capital which holds the remaining 80 per cent share.

According to Norske Skog, the power plant will be the largest co-generation plant of its kind in France. Start-up is scheduled for September 2024. Once completed, the plant is to have an electrical output of 200 GWh which will be fed into the national grid. The 700 GWh of heat produced by the plant each year are to be used by the paper manufacturer as process heat and steam at its mill.

The material combusted at the biomass power plant is to consist of up to 230,000 tonnes of waste wood and about 20,000 tonnes of residues from paper production per year, Norske Skog said. Veolia reported that the power plant will use class B waste wood (coated or otherwise treated wood, for instance from old furniture and demolition projects), the majority of which will be sourced in the nearby regions of Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardennes. Norske Skog will be responsible for securing the plant's feedstock supply. Veolia will operate and maintain the power plant and the biomass fuel processing platform for 19 years.

The processing technology for the waste wood will be supplied by the French company Sera Energie. The biomass boiler and turbine for the power plant will be built by Aalborg Energie Technik. The construction work will be carried out by Eiffage.

An alternative to fossil fuels

"The biomass boiler will ensure a stable, long-term supply of cost-competitive and 100 percent renewable steam as an alternative to fossil energy sources like natural gas, shielding us from increasingly volatile energy markets," said Sven Ombudstvedt, CEO of Norske Skog. "We are delighted that the joint venture now is fully financed and ready to commence construction. This will significantly strengthen the competitiveness of our Golbey plant, supporting Norske Skog’s strategy of becoming a leading independent supplier of recycled containerboard," commented Tore Hansesætre, Senior Vice President of Strategic Projects at Norske Skog.

Veolia is "again positioning itself as a major partner of manufacturers in their ecological transformation", said Jean-François Nogrette, the director general of the environmental services group’s French operations. He added, "We are very proud of this project, which will contribute to strengthening decarbonisation of the region and develop new clean and local energy capacities."

Conversion of paper machines to be completed in 2023

Norske Skog operates two newsprint machines at the Golbey mill with a total production capacity of around 580,000 tonnes per year. One of the machines will be converted to produce corrugated base paper in the second half of next year. The paper manufacturer plans to begin operating the 550,000 tpy line in the fourth quarter of 2023. At the time it first announced the conversion project, the paper group estimated the investment volume at around €250m. The mill's second paper machine, which currently also uses some virgin fibre as feedstock, will be converted to 100 per cent recovered paper. It has a production capacity of up to 335,000 tonnes per year.

Pearl Infrastructure Capital is a private equity fund which was founded in partnership with the Edmond de Rothschild group in 2019. Pearl Infrastructure describes the focus of its investments as "infrastructure for the energy transition and the circular economy in Europe, primarily for industrial companies".

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