The headline figures for particleboard capacities in Europe and North America show growth in this Part 1 survey on the particleboard industry.

Capacity stats from the survey are as at December 31, 2018, so new mills coming on stream this year will not appear in the main listing until next year’s report.

For the whole of Europe (EU28+ those European countries outside of EE) we have calculated the overall capacity figure at 54.6 million m3, compared to 51.6 million m3 in 2017.

For the EU28 we estimate the figure is 37.2 million m3, with European capacity outside the EU (most notably Russia), of 17.4 million m3.

Meanwhile, in North America – comprising the US, Canada and Mexico – our update on capacities now gives an overall figure of 9.79 million m3 (2018 – 9.3 million m3), with the US seeing about 500,000m3 growth overall. After many years of little activity, there is much news to report in the US.

The European Panel Federation (EPF) published its 2018 annual report at its AGM in Scotland during June.

The report estimates that total production output reached 32 million m3 in the EU28 and EFTA in 2018, a 2.6% growth. Germany continues to be the largest player in the particleboard sector with an 18% market share (5.8 million m3), followed by France (11% / 3.5 million m3) and Poland (9%), while furniture is the largest end use industry, consuming 67% of production, with construction accounting for 21%.

In North America, the Composite Panel Association (CPA) predicts particleboard capacity in North America will increase 4.9% in 2019, while its figures show sales were flat in 2018 at 5.83 million m3.

The most recent stats (for the month of October) from the CPA reveal shipments fell 4.7% from the previous month, with year-to-date shipments down 4.4% compared to 2018.

That last point, of course, demonstrates that capacity improvements and production/ sales levels are not always perfectly aligned and there is some concern that the capacity increase coming on stream from new mills in the US comes at a time of doubt about the near-term economic health in markets.

As the CPA president said in a recent interview, finding new markets for panel products is currently a big challenge for the North American panel industry.

Overall, prevailing geopolitical uncertainties, including the continuing Brexit process, and tensions between the US and China make the 2019/2020 global economic outlook quite cloudy.

EU28 countries

Now we move on to specific developments and changes in the European particleboard industry and how they impact the survey statistics.

First up is Egger’s new €440m particleboard plant in Biskupiec, Poland, which was fully commissioned during the summer, with open days being held in September. The 650,000m3 annual capacity plant featuring a Siempelkamp ContiRoll press is Egger’s first in Poland and its 19th overall, with 400 direct jobs being created. This capacity will appear in next year’s main listing.

In Germany, work is ongoing on a new particleboard plant at Sonae Arauco’s Beeskow facility. The new plant was due to start up in October but we understand it may be the end of 2019 before commissioning, therefore this extra capacity – an increase from the current estimated 260,000m3 capacity – will be added to next year’s main listing. The new plant will have an annual production capacity of 600,000m³ or more particleboard per year.

The “Beeskow 50+” project, as it is known, involves Dieffenbacher supplying a threehead forming station, the forming line and a 42m-long CPS+ continuous press.

Also in Germany, it has emerged that Kronospan has plans to move its particleboard production technology from its Bischweier plant, which stopped raw board production several years ago. It is unclear where the Dieffenbacher 52m-long continuous press is destined for or how long this process make take.

In Spain, a new continuous line has been installed at the Nadela plant of Tableros Hispanos to replace a multi-opening press line. The Dieffenbacher continuous press has a planned capacity of 495,000m3. Commissioning was expected before the end of the year. We expect to add this extra capacity to the main listing next year.

Also in Spain, we have updated our capacity list for Losan following the installation of a Siempelkamp ContiRoll line at the Cuenca factory. The first board was produced in April, 2018 with production doubling, reaching 950m3 per day, with an estimated 307,000m3 annual capacity.

Meanwhile, in Italy we have added Kastamonu Entegre’s plant (former Trombini Group mill) at Pomposa to the list after investment in the formerly closed plant. The annual capacity is 480,000m3. Both this plant and the other mill it acquired from the Trombini Group (Frossaco in Turin) were hit by fires affecting their wood raw materials – Pomposa in July, 2018 and Frossaco in March this year.

Kastamonu is making a total investment believed to be around US$180m in restarting production at the sites but we are unclear when the closed 320,000m3 Frossaco plant will start up again.

Staying in Italy, it has been brought to our attention that we have been inadvertently omitting one of the country’s particleboard producers – Lombardo, based in Mortegliano. Its 70,000m3 capacity plant has now been added to the list.

Moving further east in the EU28, the relocation of the Darbo particleboard plant to Kastamonu’s Bulgaria plant in Gorno Sahrane has been completed and the first board was produced in March this year.

Dieffenbacher had been contracted to undertake the relocation of the forming station, forming line, pre-press and a 42.4m-long CPS continuous press with annual capacity of about 580,000m³ per year, which will significantly expand Kastamonu’s production capacity in Bulgaria and strengthen its presence in eastern Europe.

This new capacity for Kastamonu will be added to next year’s main listing.

Several other projects are in the pipeline but with no further news on their timetables we will not provide detailed updates on them – these are Kronospan’s Phase II investment plans for its Sanem plant in Luxembourg; VMG’s complete line order (ca660,000m3/year) from Siempelkamp in Akmene, Lithuania; and a Kronospan plan for a particleboard investment in Bulgaria, as mentioned in previous surveys.

Now moving to European countries outside the EU28, with the biggest development being that of Starwood in Turkey.

Dieffenbacher and Starwood celebrated the commissioning of a new PB line at its Inegöl facility in August, six weeks ahead of schedule. The line, featuring a 35m-long CPS+ line has a capacity of approximately 460,000m3.

The line replaces a Dieffenbacher line commissioned in 1991.

Meanwhile, Plitspichprom’s new 180,000m3 plant in Balabanovo, Russia centred around a Siempelkamp Generation 8 ContiRoll continuous press has been scheduled to replace an older multi–daylight press at the site. Plitspichprom is part of the industrial SOUZ group.

North America

There is much news to report in this region with the US now seeing large new capacity plants come on stream, as well as several older plants closing. The Kronospan 550,000m3 capacity plant in Eastaboga, Alabama produced its first panel on October 9, 2019 establishing Kronospan as the only manufacturer in North America to produce MDF/HDF/ MUF/ UF resins, treated paper, laminated HDF and TFL/MF PB, laminate flooring, and particleboard on one site.

This move demonstrates Kronospan’s desire to establish itself as a leading provider of composite panel products in North America.

Its total investment of US$463m to include laminate flooring and decorative paper impregnation lines, a particleboard and thermally-fused laminate line, expansion of the resin plant and creation of a furniture cluster is certainly considerable.

Siempelkamp supplied a ContiRoll 10ft x 43.7m long press, as well as two short-cycle presses as part of the contract.

A few months before this milestone came the hugely significant opening of Sonae Arauco’s new US$450m plant at Grayling, Michigan, delivering a capacity of 800,000m3 annually.

The Dieffenbacher CPS+ press, is one of the biggest particleboard presses in the world measuring 10ft x 52.5m long.

It is the first PB plant to be erected in the US since 2001 and Arauco’s first greenfield project in the US.

The third major US particleboard development – Egger’s project in Lexington, Kentucky – reached a major milestone in July with celebration of a topping off ceremony and start of production equipment installation.

Both American and Austrian flags were draped on the roof beams in the ceremony which was somehow symbolic of how European technology expertise is starting to transform operations in the US particleboard sector.

It signified the halfway point in construction and the project continues to be on schedule for start-up in the second half of 2020.

It will be Egger’s 20th plant worldwide. Production capacity will be an estimated 400,000m3.

While these large new mill developments have been taking place, announcements of closures have been made for some of the more outdated and less competitive mills in the US.

Most notable is Georgia-Pacific’s news several months ago that its fire-affected Thomson mill (266,000m3 capacity)will not re-open.

Two Georgia-Pacific particleboard facilities in Hope (354,000m3 capacity), Arkansas, and Monroeville (266,000m3) in Alabama will also close. Approximately 100 employees at each facility will be impacted.

Georgia-Pacific’s particleboard production in Diboll, Texas, will remain in operation.

US regional news organisations quoted Georgia-Pacific executives as saying that investments needed for upgrades and longterm viability for the plant operations are not economically feasible, given the future view of the market.

The three mill closures will take out 886,000m3 of particleboard capacity.

Moving on to Canada, Arauco announced in August the closure of particleboard operations at its St Stephen plant – formerly owned by Flakeboard – in New Brunswick with the loss of up to 75 jobs by the end of the year.

Arauco said the operation was not competitive, with the plant older compared with other sites in North America.

“It is a decision based on the economics of our business and the changing nature of the industry,” Kelly Shotbolt, the outgoing president of Arauco North America, said at the time of the announcement.

MDF operations at the site will remain in operation.

And we have a correction to make for Uniboard’s Val d’Or plant. Production capacity is now listed as 363,000m3.

As normal, WBPI readers, including mills and technology providers are welcome to contact us with any corrections or to point out anything we may have omitted.