Left to right: Jürgen Heindl (CEO of Progroup AG), Reiner Haseloff (Premier of the State of Saxony-Anhalt), Maximilian Heindl (CDO of Progroup AG) and Armin Willingmann (Minister for the Economy, Science and Digitalisation of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt).
Following a record-breaking construction and assembly time of just 18 months, Progroup’s new paper mill – PM3 – in Sandersdorf-Brehna is starting to operate. At the heart of the factory is one of the world’s most modern and high-performance paper machines. The mill has an annual capacity of 750,000 tonnes. Progroup is therefore increasing its production of containerboard from 1.1m tonnes to a total of around 1.85m tonnes annually.
The company has been pursuing a Green Hightech strategy since it was founded. Progroup only ever uses recovered paper as the raw material for making paper.
“As a family company, we think about the generations to come,” says Maximilian Heindl, Chief Development Officer and member of the Board of Progroup. “The new paper machine is designed so that it will continue to produce containerboard in a sustainable and energy-efficient way for the next 50 to 60 years. This is why we are investing €100m in sustainability measures alone. It means that, when it comes to environmental protection and energy efficiency, the new factory sets the benchmark for the future in the paper industry.”
Around 860,000 tonnes of recovered paper per year will be processed at PM3 to create containerboard. The raw material is treated in a state-of-the-art drum pulper and drum screen. With an overall installed length of 78m, this recovered paper drum is the largest of its type in the world. The special design of the drum means that it is particularly good at conserving resources.
To preserve the precious resource of water, Progroup has integrated a new type of circulating water treatment plant. It works like a biological kidney, by treating the process water which is used and returning it to the closed circulation system for paper production. Progroup will reduce the amount of fresh water used by 80%. This is equivalent to 3,750,000 cubic metres of water per year.
During this process, recovered paper impurities are biologically degraded and converted into biogas. This means that the plant overall consumes 10% less fossil resources. For the consistent implementation of the sustainability measures, the paper factory was awarded the ‘Eco-Management and Audit Scheme’ (EMAS) certificate from the European Union during the construction phase in January 2020.
Big investment project
With a total level of investment of €465m, PM3 is currently the biggest investment project in Saxony-Anhalt. The State Economics Minister, Prof Dr Armin Willingmann, emphasises the importance of Progroup setting up its business. He says, “In the last four years in particular, Saxony-Anhalt has increasingly developed to become an attractive business location for national and international investors, which is also demonstrated by the major investment that Progroup has made in the new paper mill in Sandersdorf-Brehna. The project exemplifies a second pleasing development: Saxony-Anhalt is evolving to become a state for the technologies of the future in which as well as technical innovations high-quality jobs are also being created. I am therefore optimistic that the economy in Saxony-Anhalt will cope well with the consequences of the corona pandemic and will grow dynamically again in the next few years. Progroup’s new paper mill will also have a very positive effect on the economic strength of the state over the long term.”
“The state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly mill really does showcase the region,” adds Andy Grabner, Mayor of Sandersdorf-Brehna. “The working relationship with the town council was characterised by mutual respect and appreciation right from day one. Since construction work began, Progroup has considered many local companies in the supply chain. With the commissioning of PM3, further jobs and apprenticeships are now being added.”
The Sandersdorf-Brehna mill will see the creation of around 140 direct jobs and up to 350 indirect jobs with great potential for the future.
As one of three paper mills that the company now operates, the new site forms an important part of Progroup’s consistent ‘Two Twentyfive’ growth strategy; the aim is to double the size of the company by 2025 compared to 2015.
In addition to the new paper mill, there are another eight corrugated sheet feeder plants and more than 500 new employees. The total level of investment for these growth projects is around €1.35bn. Progroup’s plans for new corrugated sheet feeder plants and paper mills all focus on creating sustainable business. This starts during the construction phase by awarding contracts to regional companies in order to minimise journey distances and therefore, CO2 emissions. It culminates in investments worth millions in innovative, sustainable technology, as the paper mill PM3 demonstrates.