13.12.2016 //
Jukka Saastamoinen
Pictures Metsä Group and VR

In Äänekoski even logistics is big

The bioproduct mill constructed by Metsä Fibre in Äänekoski requires a massive logistics system, the largest ever seen. The annual 800,000-tonn export transportation from Äänekoski to Vuosaari will take place by rail.

Put your hand on your heart, Jari Voutilainen, SVP, Logistics at Metsä Group: have you ever thought that some part of the transport chain in the new bioproduct mill to be completed in Äänekoski next year could fail and cause the biggest logistics nightmare in the history of the Finnish forest industry?

Äänekoskelle valmistuu maailman tehokkain sellutehdas. Sen ympärille muodostuu erilaisten biotuotteita valmistavien yritysten verkosto.
The most efficient pulp mill in the world is being built in Äänekoski.

– The volume of goods transported to and from Metsä Group’s bioproduct mill in Äänekoski is enormous – The challenge would have definitely been huge if we had attempted to go forward with the old methods and infrastructure. The logistics how ever, have been designed exceptionally well and authorities have been involved right from the start. Even with major volumes, I do not doubt for one second that the goods will come in and out as planned, Voutilainen says.

Tehtaan työmaa Äänekoskella syksyllä 2016
Mill construction site in Äänekoski, September 2016.

When the factory is fully operational, the consumption of raw wood will be 6.5 tonnes per year. This means that 240 log trailers will drive to the factory every day as well as 70 train carriages full of wood.

Voutilainen admits that the truck traffic will absolutely put the road network in Central Finland to the test.

– For instance, highway 4 is already congested north of Jyväskylä and if the Finnish Transport Agency had not decided to start the basic renovation work for this and a couple of other locations earlier, the routes might have been badly congested after the mill was opened.

Storage on wheels and rail

Raw wood cannot be temporarily stored at the bioproduct mill’s area: the wood will be unloaded from the trucks directly into the factory. The unloading system for trains will also change: in the future, all carriages will be emptied in a way that ensures that the locomotive does not have towait for too long.

The mill produces 1.3 Million tonnes of pulp per year. 8 00,000 tonnes of this will be exported and transported by rail to Vuosaari Harbour in Helsinki. The remaining 50,000 tonnes of pulp will remain in Finland. These will be transported mainly by truck.

There is no temporary storage for the finished product in the factory either. This will be guided directly to the automatic distribution centre where it will be loaded onto carriages using a new kind of technology.

– The automatic distribution centre and the hoisting system loading half a carriage at a time formthe most important logistic changes at the factory. In other areas, there is nothing special in the new infrastructure at the factory – except for the fact that the scale is exceptionally large in all respects, Voutilainen says.

Voutilainen and others have had other harbours in mind in addition to Vuosaari.

– We went along the Finnish coastline from the Kvarken towards the south and compared the harbours very analytically. We dug up an enormous amount of information and took into consideration both quantitative and qualitative factors. When these were eventually combined,Vuosaari scored the highest.

One of the factors leading to Vuosaari’s victory was its great accessibility from both sea and land.

– Vuosaari is Finland’s biggest export and import harbour and its investments have been so extensive to ensure that there is enough capacity. And on top of that, it is a harbour that we arealready familiar with: It is already used by Metsä Group for exports.

Three trains

Three trains will be reserved for harbour transporation and each train will have 20 to 22 carriages. The idea is that while one train is being loaded in Äänekoski and another is being unloaded in Vuosaari, the third train will be on its way to the factory without cargo.

The efficiency of the transport system is significantly improved by the fact that the government will provide electricity to the tracks between Jyväskylä and Äänekoski and all the way to the corner of the bioproduct mill. In this way, the trains can be operated with VR’s new Vectron locomotives.

Voutilainen says that trains are "the most efficient, safe and environmentally-friendly transport option" between the mill and the harbour.

Oy M. Rauanheimo Ab will take care of the export transport harbour operations.

VR Transpoint and Rauanheimo signed a contract in February regarding a comprehensive solution of the bioproduct mill’s export logistics, in which VR Transpoint is responsible for rail transport tothe harbour and Rauanheimo is responsible for harbour operations.

Rauanheimo has an objective to offer customised logistics solutions in Vuosaari Harbour to other customers as well. The new contract will employ approximately 30 to 35 people at Rauanheimo and it will require an investment of about seven million Euros in machinery and equipment.

The best option

Voutilainen says that there was no real alternative to the new logistics system for the bioproduct mill.

– In theory it may have been possible for another option to have worked, but now we are totally focused on getting all relevant parties involved in the project at the planning phase. When westarted to think about the best way to form the logistic system with the government, the ELY Centre, our logistics partners and other similar operators, this is what we came up with.

– I hope it is ok to compliment the Finnish authorities at this point. The cooperation has been excellent with them. I think it is fair to say that it is the most essential success factor we have had so far. It is also one of the reasons why the project has stayed on schedule so well.

The bioproduct mill in Äänekoski is the biggest forest industry investment in the history of Finland. It is estimated to cost EUR 1.2 billion. Voutilainen will not guess how much of the total sum goes to logistics.

– We have not specified these costs.

Taking advantage of bi-products

The idea of the bioproduct mill is to use all bi-products of pulp production and to form a cluster of different bio industry companies around the factory – or an ecosystem as the popular term goesthese days.

Voutilainen is also reluctant to provide an estimate on when these companies producing new bioproducts and the required infrastructure will start appearing around the factory.

–But I want to point out that the mill’s self sufficiency in energy production is 240 per cent.

– In other words, the factory produces twice the amount of energy it consumes. There are no fossil sources among the used energy sources: all of it is renewable. Thanks to the mill, the share of renewable energy out of the total production in Finland will grow two percentage points.