UPM's Chapelle Darblay mill sold to municipality and resold to Veolia

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The first steps towards a new future for the Chapelle Darblay paper mill in France have been taken: UPM has finally sold the former newsprint production site to the Greater Rouen municipality which then in turn initiated the resale to Veolia last week. It took a couple of years for UPM to dispose of its Chapelle Darblay site which was officially closed in mid-2020.

On 10 May 2022, the Finnish paper company announced that the sale of the former newsprint mill had finally been concluded. The buyer was the municipal association Métropole Rouen Normandie which, on the same day, signed an agreement to resell the mill to environmental services giant Veolia. The transaction covers the site’s land, buildings and equipment.

Together with pulp manufacturer Fibre Excellence, Veolia plans to rebuild the mill to produce recycled corrugated case material with a capacity of around 400,000 tonnes a year. Veolia plans to supply recovered paper to the mill as well as a fuel for the site’s biomass power plant. The company estimates that the project will require investments of €120m. The project partners will now initiate the permitting procedures for the site’s conversion.

UPM originally intended to sell the Chapelle Darblay mill to the recycling company Paprec and the investment company Samfi and had already signed a sales agreement in October last year. The potential buyers had planned to establish waste sorting, processing and power generation activities at the site. Paprec wanted to quickly restart the mill’s biomass power plant and add activities including waste wood processing, the production of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) and a sorting centre for commercial and industrial (C&I) waste. Samfi intended to produce hydrogen by electrolysis at the site using electricity from the biomass power plant and other sources.

As the Métropole Rouen Normandie municipal authority wanted to preserve paper production in Grand-Couronne and create more jobs, it exercised its pre-emptive right to buy the site in February this year. Right from the beginning, the local authority’s plan was to resell the mill at cost, that is, for a total of €8m (€9.6m including VAT). In order to accelerate the process, Métropole Rouen Normandie sold the site only to Veolia. However, Veolia and Fibre Excellence are reportedly planning to set up a project company that will lease its assets to the two founders.

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