Switching to renewables at Maastricht Mill with an 'e-boiler'

The steam boilers that Sappi needs for paper production are increasingly part of the solution to climate change. Instead of relying on fossil fuels like gas, Maastricht Mill in the Netherlands has installed an electronic or ‘e-boiler’ so that wind and solar can become part of the energy mix.

Fuel switching from fossil fuels

Steam is pivotal for paper production, from cooking wood chips in the digester to warming rollers to dry the paper and more. The boilers that produce this steam have traditionally been powered by combustion with fossil fuels such as gas. Now, at Maastricht, renewable electricity is a growing share of the energy mix. 

Beginning in 2021, the mill began a €6 million project to install an ‘e-boiler’ that can convert electrical power from solar and wind into the steam needed. Now that it’s fully commissioned, the mill’s yearly emissions of carbon dioxide should reduce by some 13 per cent compared to 2019. This represents a reduction of 22,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Production hours are also expected to increase in the future, reaching a maximum potential of almost 50 per cent of demand. 

Far-reaching energy impact 

Another benefit of the project is that it is helping to stabilise the high-voltage grid in the Netherlands. Grid operators can struggle to ensure that surplus power from renewables does not go to waste. Now with Sappi, they have a reliable way to offload it.  

“Our e-boiler shows that green electricity is not in some distant future,” explains Mill Director Ferdinand Koster. “At Sappi, it’s in the here and now.” It’s also a transition that has proved especially prescient given the high cost of gas and the conflict in Ukraine that has added even greater pressure to energy markets.