Skärblacka Mill: The Journey to World-Leading Sack Paper Production

The location of Billerud’s production facility in Skärblacka has a rich history dating back several centuries. Its industrial history traces back to the 1600s with a focus on hydro powered iron production. A record investment in the 1960s laid the foundation for today’s modern facility, establishing a strong position in the paper industry as a world-leading producer of sack paper.

History of Hydro Powered Iron Production at the Site

Industrial activity has been ongoing at the current facility site since the 1600s, initially centered around hydro powered iron production. However, the forestry industry in Skärblacka can be traced back to the 1870s when a joint-stock company was founded to build a factory producing paper pulp at the location. Two years later, in 1872, the Skärblacka Mill was completed, and paper production soon became the central focus of its operations.

For a long time, the raw material for paper production was rags, cotton, and linen rags, with old worn-out linen goods being the preferred source. As global demand for paper increased, there was a shortage of rags as raw material, leading to a shift to wood as a raw material around the turn of the century.

Evolution of Paper Production

The year 1929 marked a significant milestone when Skärblacka Mill’s oldest paper machine, PM4, was built. This machine played a key role in the production of high-quality paper.

Since 1953, Skärblacka Mill has been made up of the merger between two older mills: Skärblacka Paper Mill and Ljusfors Paper Mill. In Ljusfors, operations still take place in the original brick-built premises, reflecting industrial cultural history. Only remnants of Skärblacka’s old paper mill, including the current warehouse, TM1’s machine hall, and adjacent storage spaces for PM7 and PM8, remain. The rest of the facility is the result of a major industrial investment made between 1959 and 1962, shaping the foundation for today’s modern mill and production focus.

Enormous Investment – Foundation for Today’s Modern Paper Mill

The official inauguration of the modernized mill took place with royal grandeur on December 4, 1962, attended by His Royal Highness Gustaf VI Adolf. The investment, equivalent to over 4 billion SEK in today’s value, was the largest in the history of the Swedish pulp and paper industry. The initial plans to size the mill for 150,000 tons per year with a focus on sulfate pulp changed in the final stages to prioritize paper production, specifically sack paper. This decision was influenced by the brighter prospects for Scandinavian sack paper compared to unbleached sulfate pulp.

In1982, PM4 suffered a severe fire, but despite this challenge, the mill successfully rebuilt and modernized the machine.

Since 2001, the mill has been part of the Billerud Group. Today, the mill includes three pulp lines, five paper machines, and a reel-up machine for market pulp, which is pulp produced for sale to paper industries elsewhere or with different ownership than the pulp mill. The production is focused on brown sack paper, machine-glazed kraft paper (MG paper), and fluting, which is the corrugated layer in corrugated cardboard packaging. The mill’s paper is used in various products such as sacks, carrier bags, pouches, wraps, and medical packaging. Skärblacka’s sack paper is among the strongest in the world today, capable of lifting a car.

Sustainability and Society

Skärblacka Mill has played a vital role in the local community by providing employment opportunities and investing in the surrounding area. A total of 730 people work at the mill, making it a significant employer in the region.

Skärblacka Mill also serves an important function in the local community by utilizing residual energy from sewage systems to produce district heating, reducing the community’s reliance on fossil fuels for heating.