Eka Chemicals AB S.A.S. is located in Ambès, in the middle of the world-renowned wine district of Bordeaux, in southwest France. The factory is one of 40 owned by Eka Chemicals, which in turn is a wholly owned subsidiary of the global chemicals group AkzoNobel.
There's a staff of around 70 in Ambès manufacturing and marketing various products, mainly bleaching additives, used for pulp manufacturing. Other major product groups are hydrophobing agents, primarily for paper and cardboard, but also for more specialized products such as banknotes.
Additional product segments are wet strength products – in other words products that help paper products, used in, for example, teabags and coffee filters, to remain intact when wet – and chemicals for various sorts of tissue paper. All of them being environmentally friendly.
"Eka offers a broad palette of products that are needed within these areas," says Padovani. "At the same time we are aiming to reinforce our product portfolio through developing new products and markets. Through delivering several of these products in 'packages' we can strengthen our position, at the same time as we facilitate life for customers."
The market for tissue paper shows positive growth in Europe. Padovani explains that even during recent times, when demand is declining for almost all products, the market for tissue paper has remained stable. Figures from the European Tissue Paper Industry Association make it evident this is a huge market. According to them every West European uses 14 kilos of tissue paper annually. The European market represents around 23 percent of the global market and has a turnover of approximately 10 billion Euros. (Figures from 2005.)
A few years ago Eka made inroads into what was a totally new market for them, a product that is used in the manufacture of tissue paper. To put it simply, the manufacture of tissue is carried out in paper-making machines in which paper pulp dispersed in large amounts of hot water is poured into the machine. The pulp is then stuck onto a plastic wire and afterwards the paper is compressed in the press section and the water is dried off on a so-called Yankee cylinder, which is several meters in diameter. The result is the finished paper. The paper is manufactured at speeds of up to 2,000 metres a minute. So that the paper doesn't stick to the cylinders that the paper web travels across, these have to be treated with a lubricant along with an adhesive.
"The adhesive is manufactured in our Ambès plant utilizing a proprietary process and we rely on Nynas for supplying the main ingredient for the lubricant, which is called the 'release' in papermaker's terms." Padovani continues: "Around 2005 we carried out some analyses that showed that we could have success with a product with this lubricating function. Right from the start we worked with Nynas, without even looking at other suppliers. This was of course not just by chance, we had received very good recommendations from AkzoNobel's laboratories in Sweden."
Eka Chemicals AB placed a few important demands on Nynas. Philippe Castermans, site manager in Ambès, puts in: "In the first place, the oil has to be 'pure' and absolutely safe from the health viewpoint. Since this product comes directly into contact with paper that is then often used directly on bare skin, there cannot be any risk of causing irritation to the skin of those using the paper. At the same time we have very high demands when it comes to the health of those working with our products; it goes without saying that they must not be exposed to anything that could be detrimental to them."
The oil that Eka Chemicals chose is Nytex 820. This oil makes up 90–95 percent of the finished product, the rest consisting of Eka Chemical’s specially developed additives. "We also needed to be assured that Nynas could satisfy our logistic needs through supplying goods rapidly and efficiently, both immediately from start-up and later on as our volumes grew. And they very soon did!" At the end of 2006 Eka Chemicals started to market the new release. Currently this is sold primarily in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, to around 25 customers. Among these are Georgia-Pacific and Kimberley-Clark, both of which have head offices in the USA, the Italian company Sofidel and the Swedish company SCA.
"The success of this venture is based on our focus on green products, our know-how and our innovative ability," explains Padovani. "The trend is very clear," he says. "Demand is increasing for tissue paper as a whole, and at the same time there is a strongly growing interest for this type of 'green' product," he continues. "We are therefore glad that Nynas will be able to continue to supply our needs should we choose to also start up production in Italy and the UK, which we are currently considering."
Company: Eka Chemicals AB
Headquarters: Gothenburg, Sweden.
President: Jan Svärd.
Founded: 1895 by Alfred Nobel (founder of the Nobel Prize).
Main activity: Bleaching and performance chemicals for the pulp and paper industry.
Employees: 2,700 worldwide.
Presence: 40 sites in 18 countries.
Sales: 990 million € (2007). www.eka.com