Kronospan’s SIA Bolderaja Ltd mill on the outskirts of Latvia’s capital city Riga has been the subject of a considerable amount of investment in the last three years.
The name Bolderaja may be familiar to readers of WBPI as we first published a story about the company’s particleboard mill in Issue 5, 2005, following a visit to the factory that June, when Bolderaja was owned by the BBG group of Lithuania.
Kronospan Holdings Ltd of Cyprus bought the particleboard mill in July 2005 and much has changed since then.
What Kronospan bought was a Rauma Repola 19-daylight hot press line with a capacity of around 170,000m3 of
particleboard per year. The press size is 5.7×2.1m.
What it owns today is the same press line, but with an annual capacity of 320,000m3. Investments in wood preparation and the dryer enabled the mill to reach the full potential of that 1975-vintage press, explained Sebastian Ritter of SIA Bolderaja Ltd. Emissions controls were upgraded at the same time.
The original two-head former was replaced with a three-head ClassiFormer the year before Kronospan purchased
the line.
“That hot press is like an old Mercedes car – if you look after it well, it will run forever,said Mr Ritter. “We also have other multi-opening presses in the group and so have the expertise to get the best from them and produce a high-quality, premium segment product.”
Panels are produced in 12 to 24mm and in sizes of 2750x1830mm and 2440x1830mm.
However, the 28ha site on which Bolderaja sits offered a lot more potential to its new owners than simply producing more, and better quality, particleboard than before.
Thus it was that in mid-July 2007, Bolderaja joined the ranks of European OSB producers, starting production on a brand new continuous press line with an ultimate capacity of 500,000m3/year.
Initially, the line was producing around 300,000m3/year but a second wood preparation area was commissioned in October 2008 to bring it up to that target figure of 500,000m3.
This means that today’s total combined panel capacity for the Riga site is around 820,000m3 and that means the site needs a lot of wood raw material
of course.
The strategic location of Riga was the reason why Kronospan acquired this site. Customers today range from as far away as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as Scandinavia and the UK.
“The available wood supply was another reason why Kronospan bought this site,said Mr Ritter. “All the wood comes from a radius of 200km from Riga.
“For OSB we mainly use spruce and pine, with some alder and aspen logs. For particleboard we use a small amount of bought-in hacker chips but mainly sawmill residues which are a complete mix of birch, spruce, pine, oak and aspen. We make hacker chips from this material on site and then produce the flakes.”
However, wood supply is only one part of the equation when Kronospan is choosing locations for its greenfield mills, or the ones it purchases, like Bolderaja. The market is the other.
“Riga is very important strategically, being close to the Russian, Scandinavian and central European markets for our products,said Mr Ritter. “The market in Russia is becoming more and more important for OSB and the demand will be huge.
“We are also supplying other markets which are still growing, such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – they are not huge markets but they are growing.”
Sabine Smith, who is based at Kronospan’s mill at Chirk in the UK added: “Kronospan is concentrated on the emerging markets to the east, while our competitors are more western-
oriented and that is a strength for us.”
That is another important consideration in locating its mills: Kronospan not only looks at wood supply and markets per se, but also at the growth potential of the region.
Another advantage for the Latvian company in supplying Russia is that the rail gauge (the width between the two rails) is the same as in Russia, unlike the western European rail network, so loads do not have to be transferred to different trucks at the border. The sea port in Riga offers another convenient route
for exports.
The new OSB line represents a major investment for Kronospan, with a new building being erected to house the line. The foundations and construction work were completed end-2006 and the installation of the line began soon after, in temperatures of minus 250C!
An old wet process hardboard line, an energy plant and a paper impregnation line were removed to make way for the new line and the entire project was still completed in a very impressive six months.
Dieffenbacher of Germany supplied the whole line from drying through resination, forming and pressing and supervised the building from log yard
to storage.
Project management, plant design, installation supervision and commissioning of the new line was the responsibility of Kronoplus Technical AG.
There are two strand dryers, both supplied by Schenkmann & Piel, a Dieffenbacher subsidiary.
The Dieffenbacher CPS continuous press is 53m long with a maximum effective width of 2.62m. Bolderaja’s standard board size is unusual for OSB at 1.25×2.5m, in thicknesses from 6
to 30mm.
The factory uses blenders supplied by Coil of the US.
“Our main focus is on OSB2 and 3 but we can make OSB4 if required – we have the certificates – but the market mainly demands OSB3,said Mr Ritter.
Boards can be supplied tongued-and-grooved (T&G) on the edges in a Torwegge line and this is the only form of value-adding carried out on OSB.
The output of the Riga line is branded OSB Superfinish.
In fact this OSB line is more or less a carbon copy of Kronospan’s mill in Jihlava, Czech Republic – and it won’t be the last. Another identical line is under installation in Brasov, Romania and was due to start production in early 2009. Thus Kronospan has three new plants – Riga, Jihlava and the new plant under construction in Brasov, Romania – each with capacities of 500,000m3/year.
In common with other group factories, Kronospan says that these meet all current local and European emissions targets.
Coming back to value-adding, of course the particleboard line offers a lot more potential and Kronospan has grabbed it with both hands.
The Riga factory has three short-cycle press lines for melamine-facing its particleboard (MFC) and the decor paper is supplied by Kronospan’s own factories. Between them, the three lines have a capacity of 40,000m2/day of MFC. Decor papers are supplied by other Kronospan factories.
Kronospan Holdings’ expansion over the years has been relentless as the company has continued to invest in panel production and value-adding, acquiring
and upgrading some existing mills and building completely new ones on greenfield sites.
Whether bought or built, all these mills, sooner rather than later, fit the Kronospan philosophy of efficiency and required product quality standards.
Their locations are not randomly selected but carefully planned to target markets where there is both less competition and increasing demand for the
factories’ products. A look at a map of all the company’s mill locations worldwide amply illustrates that point.
Riga is particularly interesting in
having a particleboard multi-opening press line which is almost 40 years old and a state-of-the-art continuous OSB line on the same site.
However, both lines are run to maximum efficiency, both are attuned to clearly defined markets and both have a reliable and plentiful wood supply.
Perhaps that sums up the ‘secret’ of the Kronospan group’s success as the world’s biggest volume producer of panels, encompassing MDF, particleboard and OSB and a range of value-added products from MFC to laminate flooring.  n