Portuguese Paper Maker Targets U.S. Printers, Contributes to Portugal's Green Initiatives
SETÚBAL, PORTUGAL—grupo Portucel Soporcel (gPS), one of Europe’s major manufacturers of uncoated wood-free paper, as well as Europe’s largest manufacturer of bleached Eucalyptus Kraft pulp, is making strides in the United States. gPS exports 92 percent of its total production, and 10 percent of its sales come from the United States.
The company operates mills in Setúbal, Cacia and Figueira da Foz, Portugal. It's Figueira da Foz mill—the largest single office and offset paper facility in Europe—produces the Navigator, Soporset and Discovery brands for the U.S. market. Its main office in North America is located in Norwalk, CT, with five warehouses—in Los Angeles; Houston; Port Elizabeth, NJ; Baltimore and Savannah, GA—to serve both the East and West coasts.
“By having stock in several warehouses, we’re able to service our customers more efficiently,” explains Jason Horst, sales manager.
With a strong commitment to provide customers with the stocks they want, the company believes that market research with sheetfed printers is key to knowing what they rank as the most important attributes in a white opaque and offset paper sheet. In 2006, after conducting a survey with 403 sheetfed printers throughout the United States, respondents ranked good quality of the cut and even cut between sheets, regularity of quality, low level of paper jams, good price value ratio, and high print quality and definition in full color printing as the top attributes.
To produce its Navigator brand of papers, gPS uses the Eucalyptus globulus species because—within photosynthesis—it is known as a “hard worker,” and has the ability to regenerate itself in harmony with the environment. The Eucalyptus globulus pulp also offers several advantages for producing paper such as: high opacity, good formation and porosity, high stiffness, as well as high bulk and high dimensional stability. Compared with other trees, it provides more pulp and more paper for the same amount of wood, and the low lignin content requires less chemicals in pulp making.
gPS manages 296,000 acres of forest, with 74 percent of the forest yielding Eucalyptus trees. The company uses vegetative propagation of selected trees, and it is those cuttings that give origin to modern plantations. During its growth, the tree will naturally debark and lose the lower-level branches. After the first fell, at the age of 12, the tree is kept alive and reshoots from the coppice. Three fells are done using the reshooting ability of the species. The average time between each fell is 12 years and, subsequent to the third fell, the land is replanted.
“A Eucalyptus tree that is between 10 to 12 years old is the best to produce paper because, at that age, it has more productivity,” explains Carmen Correia, forest engineer at Viveiros Aliança, which has nurseries that produce forestry and ornamental plants for the company and for the external market. “But, it is very important, when making the cut, not to touch the leaf because it can die,” she adds.
Besides the production of Eucalyptus, gPS also engages in a wide range of other activities, from game reserves to production of cork, wine, honey and ornamental plants. The company’s Herdade de Espirra (Espirra Estate) winery produces 200,000 bottles of Herdade de Espirra wines a year, and invites many groups, from young to old, to participate in the “stomping” of the grapes.
gPS has undertaken many eco-friendly initiatives across the organization. Since 2000, the company has invested more than US$288 million in environmental projects on its industrial sites. Its three mills are chain-of-custody certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), as well as ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001 and ISO 9001.
By 2007, the company produced 74 percent of its electrical power consumption needs. That same year, forest certification (FSC-FM) was concluded for gPS’ own managed forests, and the company is working towards PEFC-FM (SFI-FM) for Q4 2008/Q1 2009. The company’s managed forests store an amount of carbon that is equivalent to the CO2 emissions generated by 1.5 million cars driving around the globe, and each year is fixing more than twice the fossil CO2 produced in its pulp and paper mills.
The largest Portuguese producer of “green energy” generated from biomass, gPS has also has made it a point to be a part of many environmental initiatives in Portugal. The company has invested more than US$9.6 million in fire prevention and fire fighting in the last three years; has a partnership for biodiversity management with the World Wide Fund for Nature; as well as a cooperation for the conservation of the Bonelli’s Eagle in the South of Portugal. In addition, it is a member of FSC-Portugal, the European Union initiative “Business & Biodiversity” and the UN/International Organization for Nature Conservation program “Countdown 2010.”
With a new paper mill slated to be up and running in Setúbal in August 2009, gPS expects to create 350 highly qualified jobs. The new industrial unit will be equipped with the PM4, the world’s largest and most sophisticated machine for producing uncoated wood-free paper, with a nominal paper production capacity of 551,000 tons (short)/year. With the PM4, the group aims to reinforce its position as a premium cut-size and folio supplier to European and U.S. customers.