Rouen mill founded in 1928

DS Smith calls for gov’t clarity on energy investment after €90m French spend

Roberts: “We have started the financial year very strongly"
Roberts: "We look forward to collaborating with the government here in the UK on delivering our zero targets"

DS Smith CEO Miles Roberts has asked for more clarity from the UK government on energy investment following its €90m (£79m) investment to transform the energy supply at its paper mill in Normandy, near Rouen in France.

The project includes replacing the coal-fired boiler with a new biomass boiler that will reduce the site’s emissions by 99,000 tonnes of CO2 per year compared to FY22/23.

The 56 MW Valmet high-tech boiler will supply at least 80% of the site’s heat demand and will be fully operational by the first quarter of 2025. It will be fuelled by 94,000 tonnes of biofuel, 30% of which will come from plant by-products (pulper waste) and 70% from waste wood sources such as furniture and demolition waste.

Engie Solutions will operate the boiler, which will allow for the possibility for the future installation of a steam turbine “capable of producing around 10 MW of electricity with a maximum steam supply of 65 t/h”.

The project was granted approval by the Regional Biomass Scheme in 2022 and is supported by local authorities including a €15M subsidy from the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME).

Ahead of the chancellor’s Autumn Statement next week, Roberts has called on the UK government to provide clear indications on long-term energy strategies for businesses to allow for investments like DS Smith’s spend in France.

He said: “We are investing €75m and deploying a €15m subsidy from the French government to build our new biomass-from-waste boiler in France and, once complete, it will reduce emissions on site by 99,000 tonnes of CO2 per year and offer attractive financial returns.

“We are delighted to say that we are working hand in hand with the French government to make this a reality, and we look forward to collaborating with the government here in the UK on delivering our zero targets. Clarity around medium- and long-term energy plans for the UK will help provide the right environment for businesses like ours to invest in significant carbon reductions programmes.

“We can all agree that goals of growth, productivity and world-leading action on climate change are critically important. To realise these, clear indication on long-term energy strategies for businesses are key, similar to what we have seen in countries like France, Italy, Spain, and Poland – all of which are countries into which we have invested over the last 18 months.”

In addition to the biomass boiler, two new gas-fired boilers (2 x 34 t/h of steam) will complete the back-up boiler fleet already consisting of an existing gas-fired boiler (34 t/h of steam).

The new project is one of a number of initiatives in Europe and North America that DS Smith said contribute to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 46% in absolute terms by 2030, compared with 2019 levels, and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

DS Smith is also participating in the Science-Based Targets (SBTi) initiative with its 1.5°C science-based target in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The company is also a member of the United Nations led Race to Zero campaign.

Acquired by DS Smith in 2019, the paper mill in Rouen was founded in 1928 and was the first mill in France to produce lightweight recycled fluting, used in the manufacture of corrugated board.

The site also produces light, medium, and dual-purpose papers for consumer goods and e-commerce packaging. It has an annual production capacity of 280,000 tonnes.