When Veracel was founded, our mission from the start was to build a model factory for our shareholders,” says Chief Operating Officer Ari Medeiros. Mission more than accomplished. Veracel’s 300,000-square-meter mill, which has been in operation since 2005, is recognized as one of the most modern and efficient worldwide, constantly breaking records and having produced six million tons of cellulose to date. The mill cost a staggering $1.25 billion and was the largest project to be carried out under former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government.
BEATING RECORDS TO A PULP
From the outset, Veracel made its mark, being the first project of its size and complexity to be completed in just 22 months. “Supplies for the facility were defined and ordered in July 2003 and we opened for operation on May 17, 2005, beating all market construction time records,” Medeiros confirms. The achievement is even more impressive when considering that the mill is equipped with the most modern machinery and technology available. “We have the largest single line production in the world, which has enabled us to produce a worldwide record of 1,075,000 tons of quality pulp for cellulose every year,” he continues.
In fact, with its state-of-the-art machinery, the factory runs at 20 percent over its nominal installed production capacity. “The BAT (Best Available Technology) system is applied to all procedures at the plant,” says Medeiros. BAT standards were established in 2001 and determine parameters for items such as cellulose processing, environmental restraints and disposal of residues. “An example of the guidelines established by BAT is the consumption of water at facilities. The lower the water usage, the more is obviously being recycled. The BAT states a 30-cubic-meter water volume per ton of cellulose produced; at Veracel we use just 25 cubic meters: another proof of our surpassing industry requirements,” Medeiros explains. The fact that the parameters are set according to global industry practices reiterates how Veracel is a model for the rest of the world.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
The history of Veracel starts 14 years before its inauguration, in 1991, when Veracruz Florestal, then an Odebrecht subsidiary, started acquiring land in Bahia. The first eucalyptus seedlings started to be planted in that year, with the intention of paving the way for a cellulose factory. Throughout the 1990s, the plantation expanded and in 2000 Odebrecht associated with the Swedish-Finnish company Stora Enso to form Veracel. At the end of the same year, Aracruz Cellulose joined the partnership and the environmental license for the pulp mill project was approved. Odebrecht left the partnership: “Traditionally from a different sphere, civil construction and chemical industries, Odebrecht left Veracel divided equally between Stora Enso and Aracruz-Fibria,” Medeiros confirms.
Today, the result of a partnership between two leaders in the pulp and paper industry, Brazilian Fibria and Swedish-Finnish Stora Enso, the company is an integrated agro-industrial undertaking. Veracel is located on a 12-hectare site in the south of Bahia in Eunápolis. It is operated by 720 employees and about 2,500 workers from specialized contracted companies, ranging from eucalyptus planting to pulp final shipment. “Our decision to outsource services such as maintenance, cleaning, staff transport and food is part of a strategic management program. All of the cellulose management, including finance and accounts departments, is run by Veracel,” Medeiros explains. The nearby port in the municipality of Belmonte has a pulp warehouse with capacity to hold 14 thousand tons, supporting buildings and the system for berthing and waiting for barges to transport Veracel cellulose to its customers.
Due to increased demand and overproduction of the mill, plans are currently being discussed for the construction of a second facility. Although Medeiros quickly points out that nothing has been finalized, it is expected that the project will begin before the end of 2011. “With just one factory we have to maintain production at full throttle, with a second plant, the two can support each other and afford us greater flexibility,” he says.
Stepping into the market six years ago, Veracel is an industry over-achiever, beating records and exceeding production capacity year after year. Famous from the start, the company hasmaintained its reputation and shows no signs of backing down from its position as a model and reference on which others base their operations. As Medeiros concludes; “Veracel is always a step ahead.”