All UPM’s pulp mills in Finland and Uruguay are certified in accordance with the voluntary EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). The mill specific EMAS statements complement UPM's corporate responsibility reporting, which is integrated into the company’s annual report.
According to Kari Saari, Senior Manager, Sustainability at UPM’s Finland Pulp Operations, the company is committed to transparent sustainability reporting, and wants to exceed the minimum level required by standards and regulations.
“Originally, the EMAS scheme covered only environmental performance, but UPM was active in promoting the need to extend its scope to societal impacts. Also, our Fray Bentos pulp mill in Uruguay was the first outside Europe to be certified by EMAS. The new mill in Paso de los Toros will enter the same scheme,” Saari says.
He stresses that the EMAS statements are especially valuable as transparent documents available to all interested parties: “Since they are third-party verified and double checked by Finnish authorities, the general public can trust the figures we present.”
All mill specific statements as well as the UPM Corporate Environmental and Societal Responsibility Statement are available online here. The following are some highlights of the mills’ environmental performance from the previous year.
Significant reduction of fossil CO2 emissions in Pietarsaari
2021 was an excellent year for the Pietarsaari pulp mill in terms of production. A new annual production record for the plant was achieved without any quality and safety issues. Also, the birch line drying machine and the birch and softwood fibre lines set new records for total production.
In addition, the production process was successfully stepped up in the evaporation plant, the causticising plant and the recovery boiler. The new birch line also improved pulp quality and reduced the mill’s process water consumption.
A key long-term goal for the Pietarsaari mill is to increase production without causing adverse environmental impacts. For example, the target of keeping the amount of wastewater below 35 cubic metres per tonne of pulp produced was already achieved in 2021.
Also, in line with the UPM Group’s responsibility targets for 2030, the pulp mill aims to become carbon dioxide neutral. In accordance with the objective, direct and indirect fossil carbon dioxide emissions have been systematically reduced at the mill – notably by 82% since 2012. In these terms, the mill is among the best in Europe.
Kymi tested new use for green liquor dregs
The environmental performance of the Kymi pulp mill improved in 2021. The steady and efficient operation of the wastewater treatment plant resulted in lower discharges to water than in the previous year.
The integrated mill site’s environmental objectives included activities under the Clean Run programme launched in 2011, reducing abnormal emissions, increasing environmental awareness among employees, decreasing water consumption and wastewater discharges, decreasing odour emissions and lime kiln particle emissions, increasing the reuse of process waste and reducing the amount of solid waste going to landfill as well as active participation in studies seeking to reuse green liquor dregs.
In cooperation with the City of Kouvola, a pilot project was launched to use the pulp mill’s green liquor dregs and Kymi Voima’s fly ash to build a car parking area. The study will test, among other things, the frost resistance and load-bearing capacity of the car parking structure. The aim is to find new uses for green liquor dregs.
Kaukas reduced nutrients in water with tree bundles
During the 2000s, the UPM Kaukas pulp mill’s production capacity has increased, but the load to the water body has been on a steady downward trend. Processes have been developed to reduce water pollution per tonne of pulp produced.
Continuous improvement will be pursued to meet UPM’s 2030 emission reduction targets. Improvement of energy efficiency and reduction of fossil carbon dioxide emissions, as well as water consumption, were the environmental objectives of the Kaukas integrated mill unit for 2021. In addition to these, the objective of the pulp mill was to reduce specific discharges going into the water system.
During the summer, especially phosphorus loads are higher than during the off-season. The summer nutrient load can be reduced by placing bundles of trees in the discharge stream of the treatment plant, following a tree bundle experiment started the previous year. The nutrients in the effluent are used by the biofilm that grows on the tree trunks.
Fray Bentos reached record low phosphorous load
The Fray Bentos pulp mill maintained a high level of environmental performance in 2021, without any permit non-compliances. In the last few years, some of the mill’s stormwater ponds have shown algal growth, increasing the water pH to 9 or slightly over. To control this growth, UPM installed shade balls in some of the stormwater ponds, which proved to be an effective way to control the risk of permit non-compliance.
When calculated by comparing last year’s performance to 2012, the Fray Bentos mill has succeeded in reducing its total phosphorus discharge per tonne of pulp by 60%. In 2021, the mill achieved the lowest phosphorus discharge – 28,9 kg/d – since its start-up. This was the result, among other factors, of the measures implemented to optimise the operation of the phosphorus removal system since its start-up in 2015.
Text: Timo Nykänen