In mid-March 2015, the installation of the first steel structures for a brand new MDF plant in Mexico began.

Richard Higgs first reported on this project for us (WBPI, issue 5, 2014, p30), just as the company placed the contract for the production equipment.

This is the first wood based panel plant for the Mexican producer of sustainable teak timber, PROteak, and with this plant the company hopes to advance into new areas.

The project entails an unusually large scope of supply from a single source and the source chosen by PROteak was Dieffenbacher, the complete line supplier from Germany. PROteak began its life in 2000 with the establishment of the first teak plantations on regenerated pastures of former cattle farms.

Over the next six years, the company enlarged the area of its plantation to 521ha and became the first Mexican forestry company to be awarded certification for sustainable forest management in line with the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Thanks to ideal climate conditions, the first timber thinnings could be taken after seven years.

PROteak then began to produce highquality kitchen products, such as chopping boards, and to sell them across North America. The stock market launch in 2010 gave PROteak a big boost. The additional financial resources allowed the plantation area to continue to grow – to nearly 8,000ha in 2011.

With the acquisition of additional plantations in Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama, this young company was able to rapidly expand its market for kitchen utensils, as well as entire teak logs, to Asia and Europe.

The company was very successful financially and this led to its first plans for diversification: In 2013, PROteak finally made its first step in the panel sector. The company intended to establish the largest and most important Mexican forest industry project in Tabasco, located in the south of Mexico; a modern and efficient MDF plant that would cover its demand for wood purely from its own sustainably managed, fast growing, eucalyptus plantations.

Across this entire project, PROteak will create 1,500 jobs in Tabasco.

At this point, PROteak was a newcomer to the field of wood based panels. However, the company was experienced in the successful development and implementation of sustainable business models in the timber industry. It had the opportunity to take over 8,400ha of harvest-ready eucalyptus plantations and the industrious Mexicans were looking for applications for the wood.

However, PROteak was not alone for long, as leading Spanish board maker Financiera Maderera SA (Finsa), entered into partnership with Proteak earlier this year and in Issue 4, 2015, WBPI announced that Finsa had acquired a 5.2% stake in PROteak.

Since April, managers from the Santiago de Compostella, Spain-based firm had joined Proteak officials supervising the Mexican firm’s project to launch the green field 280,000m3/ year MDF plant. The mill started up in August 2015.

The first discussions with Dieffenbacher about the new line took place in 2012, when PROteak sought information about the manufacturing process of MDF and the necessary investments.

Once it had received the initial investment recommendations, PROteak carried out well-informed feasibility studies and market analysis. Dieffenbacher says it soon realised how professionally and purposefully PROteak planned its new projects.

For example, the concept of combining the system’s energy supply with heat and power generation was discussed from the very beginning, as electricity prices in Mexico are very high and natural gas very cheap.

In the meantime, a site was found close to the city of Huimanguillo in the state of Tabasco. It meets the various location factors perfectly, such as proximity to the eucalyptus plantations, good connection to the road network, and natural gas and electricity connections.

The green light was then also given for a German bank to finance the project. The order for a state-of-the-art Dieffenbacher MDF system was finally placed in November 2013.

For many months, Dieffenbacher says it continuously supplied PROteak with information on all questions related to the project. Honesty and transparency during project development is as self-evident for Dieffenbacher as the long-term after-sales responsibility for its machines, says the company.

This made it easier for Dieffenbacher to even share certain risks related to this project. Meanwhile, PROteak has won multiple sustainability awards and is a responsible company.

The trust is mutual and PROteak ordered virtually everything from Dieffenbacher except buildings, foundations and roads.

The scope of supply ranges from round log size reduction to finishing and packaging.

The order also included a resin manufacturing plant, a low voltage distribution system, the entire steel construction, tanks, silos, piping and installation, starting with unloading the equipment.

Gluing is carried out using both the PROjet Blow Line system and EVOjet M dry gluing system. The CPS 265-29.5 press produces MDF panels between 3 and 40mm thick.

The order package also included finishing systems such as raw board handling, a storage system, sawing and sanding line, a short cycle laminating line and a packaging line.

The energy system is also from Dieffenbacher. It is fuelled with wood waste and has a capacity of 25MW, supplemented by a gas turbine with a capacity of 12.9MW of electricity.

The waste heat from this is also routed to the MDF plant. The production site components are manufactured at several sites, including sites in Mexico. For this reason, Dieffenbacher says it posted an experienced project engineer in Mexico from the beginning of the project, saying that this means the engineer is ideally placed to check all supply from Dieffenbacher’s overseas production facilities, as well as components manufactured directly in Mexico, right from the moment the contract was awarded.

Renowned refiner manufacturer Andritz of Austria, supplied the 54”-1CP pressurised refining system, with a design capacity of 600 tonnes per day.

Mexico now has three MDF plants (Masisa, Duraplay de Parrall and PROteak ) going into production close together in terms of time and this might be considered a problem for a new player such as PROteak MDF.

However, Omar Nacif, vice-president of the operations board at PROteak, said: "The per capita consumption of MDF in Mexico is one third of [that in] similar Latin American countries.

"The trend has shown an increase for several years due to penetration and widespread awareness of the benefits of the product among furniture manufacturers in Mexico. That trend will continue, based on experiences around the world, and even increase further when local production starts.

"The Mexican market has the capacity to receive the three new plants and in our projections, when we are at full capacity, the consumption will grow by between 20 and 25% compared to 2014," said Mr Nacif. Turning to Mexico as a whole and how he expects the market to develop, the vice president said: "Mexico has potential. In recent years the economy has shown the necessary basis to enter an era of greater economic growth.

From our perspective, some of the recent structural changes and the good performance of the US economy will provide many good years ahead."