Everything is bigger and more efficient at the Äänekoski bioproduct mill, but pulp production in itself has remained the same. Oxygen is an essential chemical in pulp production, so the oxygen plant operations started at the same time as the bioproduct mill operations. “In fact, the oxygen plant was completed a bit more than a month ahead of schedule, so we had plenty of time to carry out the necessary test runs in peace to ensure a smooth start-up and operations for the plant,” says Matti Liimatainen, Linde’s Site Manager at the Äänekoski mill area.
The oxygen plant that operates with VPSA i.e. Vacuum Pressure Swing Adsorption technology, is one of the largest in the world. When Metsä Fibre was planning to build a bioproduct mill in Äänekoski, the question also arose as to whether the oxygen supply necessary for pulp production was sufficient. The new mill needed so much oxygen that transporting it with vehicles was not sensible.
Metsä Fibre and Linde started negotiations on the oxygen plant in August 2014. “The negotiation process on building the oxygen plant lasted for a year, which is a relatively short time when negotiating a project as large this,” says Linde’s On-site Account Manager Tommi Niemi. “Building the plant itself took less than two years.”
“In the spring of 2017, we began to train the Metsä Fibre staff with regard to the oxygen plant. We began with fundamentals that are important when working with oxygen: what is oxygen? What is it needed for, and what does an oxygen plant do? Since safety is always paramount in all of our operations, it was important for us to invest in staff training,” says Niemi.