The first steps towards a new future for the Chapelle Darblay mill in France have been taken: UPM has finally sold the former newsprint site to the community of Rouen who has already initiated the resale to Veolia.
It took a couple of years for UPM to dispose of its Chapelle Darblay site which was officially closed as early as in in mid-2020. On 10 May 2022, the company announced that the sale of the former newsprint mill had finally been concluded. The buyer was the municipal association Métropole Rouen Normandie who, on the same day, signed an agreement to resell the mill to recycling giant Veolia. The sale includes the land, buildings and equipment of the site.
Together with pulp manufacturer Fibre Excellence, Veolia plans to rebuild the Chapelle Darblay mill to make recycled corrugated case material with a capacity of around 400,000 tpy in the future. The site's biomass cogeneration plant will also be renewed. Veolia put the total investment sum at €120m. Fibre Excellence said on request that production of fresh fibre-based paper is not excluded. More details have not been disclosed yet. It is way too early to estimate when production on the rebuilt machine can be started, but Fibre Excellence noted that it could take 2-4 years, depending on factors such as financing and authorisations.
UPM originally intended to sell the Chapelle Darblay mill to recycling company Paprec and investment company Samfi and had already signed a sales agreement in October last year. The two companies planned to produce hydrogen at the site. As the municipal association wanted to preserve paper production in Grand-Couronne and to create more jobs, it exercised its pre-emptive right to buy Chapelle Darblay in February this year. Right from the beginning, the plan was to resell the mill at cost price, i.e. for a total of €8m (€9.6m including VAT). In order to accelerate the process, Métropole Rouen Normandie sold the site only to Veolia. However, Veolia and Fibre Excellence are reportedly planning to set up a project company that will lease its assets to the two founders.
According to earlier information from Métropole Rouen Normandie, the pre-emptive right was limited to the real estate and some equipment, which was planned to be acquired at a price of €5m. However, an agreement had been reached with UPM to also purchase the other operating resources necessary for production for an amount of €3m.