First NTT machine outside the Americas starts in Abu Dhabi

Product differentiation with textured tissue grades and the potential for low energy consumption were the driving factors in the decision to install a new NTT machine at Abu Dhabi National Paper Mill.
Hugh O’Brian

Late last year Abu Dhabi National Paper Mill (ADNPM) started up the third tissue machine in the world using the NTT technology, following the other two which are located in Mexico and Chile.

The decision to install NTT was based on a strategy to be able to offer the market tissue products that are markedly different from the qualities offered by its competitors.

COMPANY BACKGROUND AND MARKET. ADNPM, which is a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Industrial Projects (ADNIP), was founded in 2000 to serve the growing demand and needs for tissue paper products both in the UAE as well as surrounding markets in the Gulf region. Located on an industrial site about 25 minutes from Abu Dhabi city, ADNPM installed its first tissue machine in 2002, with that PM being a 2.7 m wide unit from Over Meccanica.

Several years after the successful PM1 startup, following increased demand for its jumbo rolls made from both virgin pulp and recycled fiber, ADNPM decided to build a second tissue machine and a deinking plant. The second PM, also from Over Meccanica, is 3.6 m wide and the state of the art deinking plant has a daily capacity of approximately 80 tons. Both were installed in 2007.

Before the NTT machine from Valmet started in October 2015, ADNPM’s annual tissue production was around 62,000 tons per year. With the addition of the new machine this will rise by approximately 30,000 tons per year as the machine moves up its start-up speed curve.

CROWDED WITH COMPETITORS. Today ADNPM is the biggest tissue producer in the UAE, but it is clear that the tissue market in the country is becoming rather crowded. In addition to the two main competitors, namely Queenex Hygienic Paper Mill and Crown Paper Mill, the Nuqul Group has announced that it is entering the market in the coming year with a new paper machine.

With such a situation, ADNPM was looking to do something different to set itself apart from the competition. Helmut Berger, the General Manager of Abu Dhabi National Paper Mill, has been in the tissue business since 1982 and came to Abu Dhabi about five years ago. He spoke with us about the decision to install the NTT machine.

“When we discussed the possibility of a new paper machine, I wanted to do something very different. It had to be something special for this market. We have to compete against some of the extremely large international players who are also selling parent reels in the markets we serve. We also have to fight against cheap lower-quality imports coming from different areas in Asia.”

THE NEED TO DIFFERENTIATE. So ADNPM therefore decided NTT was the way to go, says Berger. “We needed to be able to offer products that differentiated us from our competitors. We are now able to run in the different modes, using a plain, fine, medium or coarse belt, with possibilities to produce special customized paper, even including a logo via the belt, for our customers. This will give us an advantage for the future, as everyone is able to supply dry crepe, but very few are able to provide textured tissue. And NTT gave us what I consider the only realistic possibility to have a wide range of products to make this differentiation. Of course TAD is very dif-ferent but it is also very demanding with respect to energy consumption and machine operation. In addition, it’s not flexible if we want to change away from TAD. And quite frankly there’s very little demand for TAD in this region of the world.”

“The situation is a bit special here, too, because facial tissue is our main product. In 2015 over 56% of the total output of tissue and mother reels was facial. So we needed a machine that can make extremely good facial tissue in addition to giving us very good bath tissue and kitchen towel if we want to raise outputs of those grades.”

NTT TAKES TIME TO ENTER MARKET. PM 3 was built at ADNPM with a total project cost of AED 240 million or around 60 million euro. The project went very well, says Berger, and the start-up was fine. However the thing that has been challenging, and this should be no surprise, is that ADNPM’s customers, the converters, are taking their time with respect to discovering the advantages of the tex-ture tissue. “They need time to understand, and we need to help them here, how to get the best benefits of the textured grade in the products they are making.”

All of ADNPM’s output today is mother reels, or as Berger says, converted reels in 1-ply, 2-ply or 3-ply tissue. The smallest slit reels are 19 cm wide, going up to 2.8 m wide. ADNPM also has FSC certification which is an advantage in the marketplace when customers ask for it. In addition, ADNPM has ISO9001 and ISO14001 certifications, as well as FDA approval for the dyes and additives used in its food-contact tissue grades.

Facial tissue is extremely light so when the machine is making that grade, which is very often, the production figures are not so high. Essentially, explains Berger, PM 1 averages about 75 tons per day and PM 2, which in general is dedicated only to facial grades, makes about 95 tons per day. PM 3 presently can produce about 60-80 tons per day (depending on the grade), with about 10% being textured tissue and the rest conventional, which means running in the plain mode. So far the quality has been excellent, especially in terms of bulk, water absorption and softness.

SOFT FACIAL TISSUE IS THEIR STRENGTH. “In the market here, both bulk and softness are extremely important. Even before the NTT machine was installed, we were well known in the market for making a very soft facial tissue sheet. Now with PM 3 it is even softer, extremely soft for a facial grade, while at the same time retaining good bulk. Therefore, this very bulky facial product allows our customers to reduce the number of sheets, but still have a very bulky package.”

“In addition, with the NTT we see a huge improvement in water absorbency. Especially for kitchen rolls and for the Away from Home market, towels and even toilet paper have high water absorbency at a high strength of the paper compared to conventional tissue.”

“VELVET” BRAND FOR FACIAL TISSUE JUMBO ROLLS IS GROWING. ADNPM started to put the local “Velvet” brand on some of its facial tissue jumbo rolls a couple of years ago, and this has been a success with converters. Berger says that “it took some time for us to introduce the concept of the Velvet brand on a jumbo roll, but now we see the converters are demanding Velvet because they, too, want to differentiate themselves in their markets. Last year we sold nearly 2000 tons of Velvet branded mother rolls, so it is really a success.”

THEIR OWN INTERNATIONAL TISSUE CONFERENCE. As part of an effort to get even closer to converters, and to allow good discussions between them, ADNPM has also taken the initiative to organize an event in Abu Dhabi called the International Tissue Conference, held every two years. The last time was in May 2015 when close to a hundred people attended with around 60 of them being converters from the UAE and other countries in the Middle East. Berger says it was a great chance to get together and discuss common problems and challenges that the converters face in the markets. “It also gave us a good opportunity to showcase our NTT Machine and educate our customers on the various products the machine can produce.”

ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS A BIG BENEFIT TOO. Looking at the challenge of energy efficiency in tissue making, ADNPM has seen that the NTT machine even in conventional mode gives a significant reduction in energy per ton used. Even though the company is located very close to some of the biggest energy reserves in the world, energy costs and costs in general are still a major concern. The region has been rocked by drastically falling oil prices in the past year or so, which has forced the government to seek other ways to raise revenue streams. This, in turn, has led to a rapid rise in the price of utilities such as water and electricity.


When looking at the developments that ADNPM has gone through since he has been here, Helmut Berger is very pleased that he decided to come to Abu Dhabi. “In general, I’m very happy with the move here. It was the right time for me to do something like this, and personally it’s been a great learning experience that has really opened my horizons to international developments.

For example, on our management team we have eight nationalities. It has also been a good time to be part of ADNPM because the company is expanding. It has been exciting to get approval for and to install this very interesting new NTT technology, which I believe will help us be even more successful in the coming years.

I personally believe that the NTT concept will be the future of tissue making”. *