Dec. 1, 2001
Le Papier et L'Emballage is breaking the mold of Algeria's papermakers by setting itself up as a privately owned and operated firm. On top of that, the company has decided to use recovered paper from local suppliers as furnish, once again, taking a bold step into new territory
A brand new company is set to chalk up two groundbreaking moves in Algeria's paper industry. Le Papier et L'Emballage is the country's first privately-owned paper mill and, as if that is not radical enough, it is also gearing up to be the first plant to use locally collected recovered paper as its furnish.
The mill is located in the industrial area of Baba Ali, some 20 km west of Algiers and takes up one half of a 2 ha plot. The site is near an existing paper mill owned by the public paper group, GIPEC. Le Papier et L'Emballage picked the location on account of the area's list of assets, which include the availability of water, proximity to a major road network (a motorway links Algiers to Oran), location next to a large consumer area in Algiers and the availability of local skilled labor.
Le Papier et L'Emballage started buying basic equipment for the site in 1995. One year later, the company took the plunge and bought a second hand PAMA paper machine from a mill in Germany. Civil works started at the site in 1998, two years after the main equipment arrived. A further two years down the line, and the company was able at last to turn its attention to installing the paper machine.
It was not an easy task, according to Mohamed Mouloud, the company's technical manager. Workers had to unpack each component and check to see if any repairs were necessary to bring the equipment up to scratch. In May this year, after checking over each piece of machinery, the company kicked off the next stage of the project - building the unit. The company has to work fast to reassemble the PM parts as the equipment is due to come on stream in 2002, according to Mouloud.
Priming the PAMA PM
The second hand paper machine is 50 m long and is fitted with a 2.1 m wide headbox, also from PAMA. The unit will operate at speeds up to 170 m/min. The equipment is designed to produce 15,000 tonnes/yr of containerboard. The company expects the line to churn out some 50 tonnes/day. Output will be mainly fluting and liner in the basis weight range of 80-140 g/m2. Le Papier et L'Emballage hopes to target buyers in the converting and small business sectors.
The machine will hook up to a Babcock boiler with a capacity of around 4 tonnes/hr. The boiler uses 20 l/s of water, which is supplied from a water well nearby. The press section comprises three presses and an offset press. The dryer section is made up of 22 dryer cylinders with diameters ranging from 1,200-1,500 mm. The calendering section is fitted with four PAMA calender rolls. The machine is also equipped with a PAMA reel, as well as a winder from Schmidt Haubolt. The unit will draw power from the national grid run by Sonelgaz. The same company will also supply gas to the plant.
Creating wealth all around
Turning to the second leg of Le Papier et L'Emballage's project, the company claims to be the first Algerian mill to use local recovered paper as its furnish. "Most others prefer either to import papers or are content with converting," Mouloud comments.
The source of raw materials was one of the major issues that the company had to consider when it was planning the development at Baba Ali. The mill's managers opted to use local recovered paper, which has the added bonus of bringing economic benefits to the area - creating jobs, for example.
Le Papier et L'Emballage gets to work on its first PM
On top of that, the move has earned the support of the public authorities, as well as other industrial companies, which are keen to promote the collection of recovered paper. In fact, plans have already been made to pour funds into the recovered paper sector and to develop this side of the domestic pulp and paper industry. It is hoped that the project will bring benefits particularly to the employment sector, raising the number of young workers to an acceptable level, while ensuring a consistent supply of recovered paper to local mills for producing wrapping and corrugating papers.
As part of the scheme, the company has cleared a wide space to receive and store bales of recovered paper before they enter the pulper, which has a capacity of around 12 m3 and operates at 6% consistency. The line also includes two high density cleaners, one deflaker and a set of two-stage centri-cleaners.
Taking matters in hand
After more than five years of hard work, Le Papier et L'Emballage is slowly closing in on its goal with the PM due to start up next year. The last few years have been far from easy for the company due to several holdups along the way. Factors including land ownership disputes and general uncertainty at a political level have caused delays. "It has actually been a time hurdle race and we are proud now that the erection is nearing the last lap," Mouloud comments. On a positive note, though, Mouloud says that the company has managed to make steady progress with the installation despite the pitfalls. Managers at the site in Baba Ali are proud of the fact that this is Algeria's first paper mill to be run by a private concern with private financing. Until now, Algeria's domestic paper output has been supplied by publicly owned mills. "Our company is a pioneer in this field and I hope we will open up the way to other private industrialists in the paper and board sector," Mouloud says. The producer is keen to encourage other enterprises to follow its example in order to improve the balance of private and public companies in the pulp and paper industry. Mouloud believes that privately run mills are perfectly capable of satisfying local demand while maintaining a key position in the region's industry.
Bearing in mind that Le Papier et L'Emballage is stumping up the cash for the project by itself, Mouloud puts the total cost at FF 26 million ($3.6 million). The investment will also cover the recruitment of a team of technicians and highly skilled workers whose main task will be to start up the machine and train new employees. The mill will have a workforce of around 80 people.
Le Papier et L'Emballage's second hand paper machine may not be the biggest, but the company's sheer determination to succeed more than makes up for any shortfall in size. Rumor has it that the company has already sparked a wider interest in the private paper sector. Sources say there is talk of other private companies following suit with potential investments in the pulp and paper industry. No-one is coming forward with names just yet, but one thing is sure, Algeria's pulp and paper industry is on the verge of a massive shake-up with exciting opportunities for companies that dare to stick out their necks.