Workington Paperboard Mill's story
Overnight the mill switched its energy supply from fossil natural gas to biomass, and thereby reduced its fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions by 190,000 tonnes a year, the equivalent to the annual emissions of over 10,000 homes. As part of a truly circular economy, the biomass fuel is sourced from the UK from sustainably managed forests. These forestry operations aim to yield the maximum quantity of rectangular planks from the growing trees to supply the sawn timber industry. Whatever is left over, industry co-products – wood shavings, bark and branches – the company turns into their paperboard and bioenergy. Nothing goes to waste!
To supplement the biomass from forest residues, Holmen Iggeusnd worked with local farmers and landowners to grow and supply energy crops. Local farmers can sell biomass (SRC Willow) to the Workington Mill and Holmen Iggesund offered support with planting and harvesting. The paperboard produced at the mill is recycled to complete the circularity model.
Useful learnings from Workington Paperboard Mill
This was a huge commerical and capital undertaking for the site so visiting and benchmarking other sites ahead of the investment and construction was very useful. The project received support through the Renewable Obligation now shut and although the main Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme has been grandfathered, the availability of some of the "embedded benefits" cannot be taken as guarenteed. Year-by-year, there is the chance that incentives aimed at encouraging the adoption of a green technology schemes gets adapted at short notice with consequent loss of expected revenues. Keeping track of government policy and incentives is therefore important.
The short rotation coppice willow that is grown only provides a small percentage of the total biomass but provides additional benefits including income for local farmers, counteracts flooding and improve biodiversity. It was important to set out from the start the mill's commitment to supporting the farmers through the Grow Your Income scheme. This involved offering to help with the planting and harvesting whilst providing guarantees of future income.
Workington Paperboard Mill's metrics
Amount of carbon dioxide saved per year.
Number of farms in Cumbria that supply biomass to the plant.
Amount of income fed back into the local and regional economy.