After cutting capacity in the woodfree paper sector during the pandemic, Domtar Corporation, the largest integrated manufacturer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America and the second largest in the world in terms of production capacity, as well as a pulp producer, announced that it will restart the woodfree uncoated paper machine at its Ashdown mill in Arkansas, USA. The PM, which has a capacity of 168,000 tons per annum, is expected to resume full operations in January 2022 with the aim of increasing production. Domtar estimates that the costs for the restart will amount to 10 million $. Ashdown’s PM has been inactive since April 2020, with the group stating at the time that it needed to react to the continuing decline in demand in the graphic paper markets. When the pandemic began, the company thus started to stop production at several plants and by August it had decided to shut down some machines and withdraw from the market a total of 655,000 tons of uncoated woodfree paper capacity, which included PMs at the Kingsport, Port Huron and Ashdown plants.
Now, the market environment has improved, which is why Domtar has decided to relaunch the production of fine paper in Ashdown. «As the economy begins to recover from the pandemic, demand for paper is also recovering,» says Rob Melton, senior vice president, pulp and paper commercial. «Our customers’ business is steadily growing, and we want to support that growth.»
Domtar explains that some of the increased paper capacity can be used to increase thermal coated paper capacity at its West Carrolton, Ohio plant to meet the growing demand for thermal point-of-sale paper.
The changes at the Ashdown Mill will result in a capacity reduction of 185,000 tons (or ADMT) of baled Southern bleached softwood kraft (SBSK) pulp per year. In addition to the fine paper machine, the Ashdown mill houses three pulp lines, which can currently produce up to 775,000 tons per year of softwood and lint pulp. Domtar stressed that the restart of PM will not affect its plans to produce kraftliner at the Ashdown plant. The company announced last year that it was considering installing a kraftliner machine with an annual capacity of 635,000 tons at the site. For potential expansion into containerboard, it was necessary to convert a fibre line, which previously produced hardwood pulp, into softwood pulp.