Green River Panels (Thailand) Co Ltd, part of the Green River Wood and Lumber Group, is a new venture for its long-established parent company, which has always specialised in furniture production for the mid- to high-end market.   The group has furniture production facilities in Malaysia, Vietnam and China and also has some sawmilling operations in Malaysia and Thailand.   One of these sawmills, built on a Greenfield site in 2001, is located in Bangklum, near Hat Yai in the south of Thailand, and is one of five mills owned by the company within a 60km radius of Bangklum.   I know what you are thinking: Five sawmills, lots of residues, ideal for a particleboard line. That is exactly what Green River thought, too, placing a contract in May 2006 with Dieffenbacher for all equipment from the forming line to the star cooler, including a CPS continuous press.   As we learnt from last year’s article (WBPI issue 1, 2007, p32), groundworks began in October 2006.   I returned to Green River in early December 2007 to find the last frantic preparations – necessary in every mill as it nears completion – for start-up at the end of that month. I subsequently heard that the first board was produced on December 19 and that the company planned commercial production before the end of February 2008.

“The buildings were roofed by mid-2007 and the first machinery arrived in early March, with installation of the main components of the line in May,” said Hubert Hsieh, the man with responsibility for the particleboard project.   First to be installed was the Büttner drum dryer, followed by the 29MW energy plant from a Chinese supplier. Next came the continuous press from Dieffenbacher, which is destined to produce around 150,000m3 of panels per year.   “Maybe we will add a boiler at a later date – perhaps next year – to generate electricity and provide steam for the lumber drying kilns of our sawmill next door,” said Mr Hsieh.   The press installation was completed in August last year and was due to complete testing in mid-December, together with the thermal oil heating system.   The sanding line was due on stream in January and comprises an Imeas six-head machine with the option of a further four heads – two each for calibration and finishing.   The trimming and splitting saw was supplied by a Chinese manufacturer but an angular saw system is under consideration for the end of this year.   “If all goes according to plan, we could increase this mill’s capacity to 200,000m3 and an area of the site is set aside for this possible expansion,” said Mr Hsieh.   The wood supply for the mill will come from two sources: slabs, offcuts and other residues from the company’s own sawmills; and in the form of rubberwood from plantations in the area. The sawmills also process rubberwood, producing lumber for furniture manufacture.   “We also have a finger-jointing factory three kilometres from here and will utilise wood from there too. Thus the group will be utilising the whole tree with nothing wasted,” pointed out Mr Hsieh. “As a group we concentrate on rubberwood solutions in Thailand.”   The company plans to supply some of its particleboard production to its own group furniture factories in Malaysia, Vietnam and China. For the rest, it will look to export panels, notably to Taiwan where the majority of the group’s management comes from and where the group is headquartered.   Exports will go through Penang Port in Malaysia for container shipment, as the factory is close to the Malaysian border, and also through Songkhla port, 50km away in Thailand.   Rail transport will be used to ship the containers to Penang from the border station of Padan Besah.   “This particleboard mill is a pilot project for the whole group, which has previously concentrated only on furniture,” said Mr Hsieh. “If it is successful, maybe we will build other mills in other countries.”   Unfortunately for Green River and the other particleboard producers in this part of Thailand (including Panel Plus and SPB), the market has been dire for most of 2007, lamented Mr Hsieh. “The market in South East Asia is the worst – worse than China which achieves prices about US$50 per m3 higher than here. Europe also achieves about US$30 more than we can.   “That is a challenge for a new factory like ours, exacerbated by the increased supply of particleboard in Thailand in recent years. Costs also continue to rise and the gap between particleboard and MDF prices has about tripled in the last three years,” he said, echoing the comments of all producers in the region.   Reduced supply of plywood from Indonesia due to logging restrictions has benefited MDF, but not particleboard.   The Green River Panels particleboard project has been a steep learning curve for a company building its first-ever panel production line. Although expert in furniture manufacture and sawmilling, there was no inhouse expertise in panel production of any kind.   The company did, however, retain the services of a German engineer with considerable experience in building particleboard mills – Herbert Hermann Karl Fahlbusch – as the project manager.   Hubert Hsieh has overall responsibility for bringing the project in on time and on budget and, by the look of things in early December, he had a good chance of doing just that.