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Veracel: the wait is over.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in O Papel magazine.

Taking advantage of favorable market conditions, Aracruz and Stora Enso completed the Veracel project in record time and inaugurated the largest and most modern eucalyptus pulp line in the world. Its 900,000 metric tons/year of production will increase Brazil's output of eucalyptus pulp by 10%.

The municipality of Eunapolis, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, even today bears the imprints of the arrival of progress. In the past, the Atlantic Forest had largely been eliminated and replaced by pasture, and the entire region had become a large ranch. It was in this region, far removed from large urban centers, that Aracruz and Stora Enso decided to build Veracel. The mill required an investment of US$ 1.25 billion (US$ 850 million spent inside the mill) and is designed for annual production of 900,000 metric tons/yr of eucalyptus pulp.

"When they told me about the project and when I saw the schedule and all the other details, I thought: 'It looks impossible, but lets see what happens.' I admit that I was a bit skeptical, and thought it was very optimistic--on a completely new site, in a region with no infrastructure, with no industrial tradition, nothing," said Veracel President Vitor Costa.

The apparently unfavorable context for the project proved no obstacle to its success. "The market situation was very favorable--all the suppliers' factories were practically empty, with few orders. They could devote all their efforts to the Veracel project," said Costa.


He knew that the project would go well because it could draw on the experience of two leading names: Aracruz and Stora Enso. "Much of the same team participated in the construction of Aracruz Line C, and knowing what worked and didn't work in that project, they were able to apply their knowledge to Veracel," said Costa.

Despite the cultural differences, the staff of Veracel's partner companies had little trouble doing their jobs. "The integration was easy, with considerable synergy of knowledge and capacity to carry out projects. I think that there will be a very significant interaction also in the operational phase of the company, in strategies both for production and for product utilization and improvement," said Renato Gueron, project director for Veracel.

Located in Eunapolis, Bahia, Veracel was officially inaugurated in September, but production of pulp started in May.


Construction of the Veracel plant mobilized 12,000 people and 200 companies from all over the country and the world. The selected site-1.2 million square meters-had almost no infrastructure when work began in May 2003. The first task was to build access roads to the site, as well as provide water and electricity so workers and machines could get to work. "The shipments that arrived-by road, water and air-were huge and very heavy," said Gueron. All told, about 5700 trucks and trailers came to the site, with more than 1000 arriving in some months.


Thought also went into accommodations and food for the workers. "We tried to provide a better standard of quality than these people are normally accustomed to, and this created a relative calm during most of the construction of the mill," added Veracel President Vitor Costa. At the end of the construction, Veracel donated the housing units to the community, allowing the municipalities to use them as schools, medical clinics, etc.


With the issue of infrastructure resolved, the partners in Veracel-Aracruz and Stora Enso-started the construction phase of the mill, which would take up an area of more than 250,000 square meters. Veracel chose the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) system, the same as used in Aracruz Fiberline C (between 2000 and 2002). The method has already been used in some plants in the United States (while not being as common in Europe) and in other types of industries, such as steel manufacturing.

"It is a model where the supplier has the greatest responsibility--it develops and executes all the conceptual engineering, basic engineering, and detailed engineering. It contracts for construction and assembly, supplies all the equipment and materials, carries out the final commissioning, and trains the operating personnel for plant startup. All this with the guarantee of achieving the agreed capacity," explained Gueron, who added that Veracel's team played an ongoing role. "We do all the monitoring until the commissioning stage, whereupon the supplier leaves and Veracel takes over."


For the Veracel project, 15 EPC suppliers were hired. The task of interconnecting all these packages, ensuring their connections, pipes, cabling, controls, etc., was the responsibility of Jaakko Poyry, which was also responsible for all the engineering consulting.


The starting gun for the immense Veracel project was fired on July 4, 2003, when purchase orders were issued by the suppliers. "We had a total schedule of 22 months, but in some sectors the duration was less," said Walter Martins, industrial director for Veracel. At the end of March 2005, for example, while some areas were in the final phase of assembly and commissioning, including the fiberline, recovery boiler, causticizing, drying machine and turbogenerator, others had already entered into operation, such as the water and effluent treatment plant, the woodyard, power boiler, and evaporation.

The construction used 40,000 metric tons of equipment and pipes and 115,000 m3 of concrete, which gives some idea of the scale of the undertaking. "In a project being carried out so fast, all areas are critical, although the most complex areas are drying, the fiberline and the boiler," said Renato Gueron.

He added, however, that there were always surprises. A pleasant surprise was the drying area, which is normally very complicated, but here had a very calm construction process. Another area, the turbogenerator, caused great concern in the Aracruz Fiberline C project but did not cause any problems for Veracel. "Those areas that we thought might be very critical didn't end up being so because they received considerable attention from the start," said Carlos Pastrana, manager of the fiberline area for Veracel.

One of the most difficult phases, in the opinion of Construction Site Engineer Bruno Leal, was the diversion of the Jequitinhonha River, followed by the construction of a dam, pipes, etc. "When the first water came through to the mill, we celebrated--it was very moving!" he remembers.

Another difficulty was the lack of an industrial culture-i.e. qualified labor-in the region. Veracel had to train 6000 persons in various professions for the project, such as carpenters, pipefitters, welders, electricians, and operators.


Starting with estimated production of 340,000 metric tons of pulp in 2005, Veracel's goal is to reach 900,000 metric tons/yr. "The production curve, clearly, is very conservative, because it is a new plant, even considering that we have the experience of Aracruz and Stora Enso and that most of the suppliers are the same," said Walter Martins.

In May, the plant operated for only 10 days, at 50% capacity. The same was expected to occur in June, and from then on production was expected to increase 5% per month. However, the expectation, according to Martins, is for much greater production.

A good way to think about the increase in production is through the "learning curve." The concept is different in some companies, but at Veracel there is a long learning curve involved in maintaining daily average production equal to the company's nominal capacity for 30 consecutive days. "In our case, the average will be 2543 metric tons/day, the amount stipulated to be reached by May 2006 at the latest, 12 months after start-up," said Martins.


Veracel pulp has a very strong advantage-low cost production. The enviable performance of the forests, linked to a modern and effective process, will permit pulp production at a cost lower than the lowest existing pulp mill cost structure. The pulp produced in May and June, however, was considered start-up pulp and was expected be sold to customers with this classification. The pulp was expected to have greater variation than pulp from a normal process.


Veracel's partners have an agreement for each to keep half the production--Aracruz will export its portion to clients in the United States, Europe and Asia, while Stora Enso will supply its paper mills in Europe and Asia. On August 15, Stora Enso announced that its Oulu Mill in Finland had received the first shipment of eucalyptus short-fiber pulp from Veracel. The 4000 metric tons of pulp delivered will be used for test runs.


In the near future, Veracel's production may increase to supply new paper mills. "The mill was planned taking into account future expansion," said Gueron. "The mill was designed to facilitate duplication of the production areas. Some key areas of infrastructure, for example, are already capable of handling a second pulp mill, such as the effluent pipes, water intake pipes, the principal electrical line, administrative buildings, control room, etc."


Costa agreed that doubling the size of the plant would be relatively easy, but added, "The difficult thing is to double the forestry base without creating conflicts with the communities," and predicted that the expansion would not occur for at least three years. "We must wait for the mill to begin operating, and then analyze some principal points, such as personnel recruitment, the rate of retention of people in the company, etc."


* How Aracruz and Stora Enso completed the Veracel project in record time.

* Why the Veracel site required extensive infrastructure development.

* Challenges faced by the construction team.

* Prospects for additional construction projects at the site.


* "Ripasa in the limelight again" (pulp mill expansion), by F. Saraiva, Solutions!, October 2004: To access this article, type the following Product Code in the search field on 04OCTSO44. Or call TAPPI Member Connection at 1 800 332-8686 (US); 1 800 446-9431 (Canada); +1 770 446 1400 (International).

* "Latin America sees rapid growth in tissue markets," by Jaakko Poyry Consulting, Solutions!, November 2004. Product Code: 04NOVSO60.

* "Successful experiences competition highlights problem-solving, teamwork" (ABTCP project competition), by R.M. Savastano, Solutions!, September 2002: Product Code: 02SEPSO52.


* Woodyard: Metso. Other suppliers: Serpal (civil construction) and Milplan (assembly)

* Cooking and washing: Andritz. Other suppliers: Paranasa (civil construction) and Montcalm (assembly)

* Bleaching: Andritz. Other suppliers: Paranasa (civil construction) and Montcalm (assembly)

* Drying and baling: Consortium Andritz-Voith-Moura Schwark (civil construction). Other suppliers: Imetame (mechanical assembly) and Estel (electric assembly)

* Evaporation: Confab/US Filter. Other suppliers: Civilport (civil construction) and Irmaos Passaura (assembly)

* Causticizing and lime kiln: Andritz. Other suppliers: Paranasa (civil construction) and Ultratec (assembly)

* Recovery and power boilers: Kvaerner. Other suppliers: Fortes (civil construction) and Imetame/Estel (assembly)

* Turbogenerator: Mitsubishi. Other suppliers: Moura Schwark (civil construction) and MIP (assembly)

* Electrical distribution and substation: ABB. Other suppliers: Enind (civil construction and assembly)

* Water and effluents: Consortium Centroprojekt (engineering), Setal (assembly) and Tessag (management e engineering). Paranasa (civil construction).

* Non-process buildings: Sertenge

* DCS and process simulator: Invensys/Andritz

* Tie line: Siemens

* PIMS: Metso Automation

* Web training: Amec

* Interconnections: Jaakko Poyry (engineering and management), with principal suppliers: Degremont, Cooper, Hamon, Paranasa, Fortes, Ultratec and Imetame.


The Veracel mill employs the very latest technology in pulp production, including the following:


The woodyard has a feeding system developed to receive debarked wood from the forest. There are two wood lines and the bark wastes are separated, and together with the fines generated by the chipping process are burned as biomass in the power boiler.


The fiberline features a chip feeding system for the digester that, rather than the usual high pressure feeder, uses a pumping system. The line washing equipment and the digester (see below) are among the largest ever built.


The Veracel low solids digester (with selective cooking) ensures the optimization and preservation of fiber strength, contributing to greater strength of the final product. The digester capacity is 3010 metric tons/day with dimensions of 56.7 X 10.5 meters (3110 [m.sup.3]).


To guarantee the standard of fiber strength and maximum pulp bleachability, Veracel opted for a 4-stage bleaching process (ADO-EOP-D1-D2) producing pulp with 92 ISO brightness.

Drying Machine

Veracel's drying machine, with a capacity of 3000 metric tons/day of dry solids, is the largest in the world--a virtual twin of one recently installed in the Jian-Ling mill in China. It is 9.3 meters wide and has a speed of 200 meters/min. The wet section consists of a double screen forming machine, followed by a press section that features a Voith shoe press. The drying section has the largest pulp drying tunnel ever installed.

Evaporation Plant

The Veracel evaporation plant is similar to that at Aracruz, which reaches 85% of dry solids after the water evaporation. At Veracel, the goal is to reach 80%.

Recovery Boiler

The Veracel recovery boiler is the largest in Brazil, with a height of around 80 meters and a capacity of 4000 metric tons/day of dry solids, with the potential to reach 4700 metric tons of dry solids/day. It will be capable of supplying practically all the mill's energy demands.

Biomass Boiler

The fluidized bed biomass boiler is projected to produce 90 metric tons of steam/hr. The excess energy, which should be around 30 MW when the mill is up to nominal capacity, will be sold to Eka Chemicals, a Veracel partner with a chemical plant on the mill site.

Water intake

The Veracel's water supply is the Jequitinhonha River, which is 5.6 km from the mill. The mill's water intake is about 1000 meters below the effluent discharge point.



The Veracel project started in 1991, when Odebrecht decided to buy land to plant forests in Bahia. In 1997, the Swedish company Stora entered the business, taking a 50% stake in Veracel. The next year, Stora merged with Enso (from Finland), creating Stora Enso, which is now based in Helsinki, Finland.

In June 2000, Veracel gained a new shareholder--Aracruz--in a deal that gave both them and Stora Enso a 45% stake in Veracel, while Odebrecht kept 10%. In January 2003, Odebrecht left the partnership, leaving Aracruz and Stora Enso each with half of Veracel. In May 2003, the partners decided to start construction of the pulp plant.

Veracel began operations with two important certifications in the forestry area: ISO 14000 and Cerflor.


Veracel has a total forested area of more than 80,000 hectares, including 3000 hectares of land rented out and 10,000 hectares planted. In addition, within the Atlantic Forest Program, there is a legal reserve of more than 31,000 hectares, 16,000 hectares for permanent preservation, 6000 hectares that make up the Veracruz Station, and 25,000 hectares of surplus reserves.

Working with engineers and other professionals, Veracel has forestry productivity of 51 [m.sup.3]/ha/year. "It is the highest average in Brazil," said Forestry Director Antonio Sergio Alipio. Given this level of forestry productivity and projections for the pulp mill, Veracel will demand around 70,000 hectares of its own eucalyptus forests and 23,000 hectares of partner plantations, for a total of 93,000 hectares.

Veracel's plantations use eucalyptus clones obtained from crossing the species Eucalyptus grandis and Eucalyptus urophylla. The seedlings are produced in a 49,000 [m.sup.2] nursery in Eunapolis. The nursery is capable of producing up to 23 million seedlings per year. Planting is done based on the concept of mosaics, in which the areas of eucalyptus are interlinked with the Atlantic Forest preservation areas. Cutting is done with mechanical harvesters that cut the trunks into debarked 6-meter lengths.



Luciana Perecin (left) and Renata Mercante are editors with O Papel magazine, the official publication of ABTCP, the Brazilian technical association for the pulp and paper industry. The photo was taken on top of Veracel's recovery boiler. To contact O Papel, send email to Patricia Capo, editor in chief:
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Title Annotation:REGIONAL REPORT
Author:Mercante, Renata
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Previous Article:Pulp trends point to dramatic changes to come.
Next Article:Engineering basics: Start with the End in Mind.

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