The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 13, 2018

ImPRESSive: Particleboard plant rises in Grayling

By The Building Tradesman

GRAYLING - Located along I-75 at M-72, the seat of Crawford County is quickly transforming from a small town, to a small town with a massive particleboard production plant. 

Undertaken by Arauco, the $400 million project involves placing an 820,000-square-foot main building (along with several others) on a 160-acre site that's equivalent to about 120 football fields. The project is being managed by Amec Foster Wheeler, and is employing more than 600 tradespeople and contractors. It will yield North America's largest "continuous" particleboard press, at 170 feet long and 10 feet wide. There are larger particleboard producing plants, but they have multiple lines.

An update provided last month by Arauco, a Chilean-based company, said the project is on track for "first board" production this fall. Nearly one million man-hours have been worked on the project. With the plant building enclosed, construction has progressed on wet exhaust and environmental systems, a waste water treatment plant, and a railway spur.

Arauco Plant Engineer Darryl Babbit said in the update that there's lots going on inside the plant. "The equipment is being installed, the press, the gluing area, the blending," he said. "All of our discussions are around first board. We're very excited for that time to come. It will be very challenging, not only for the construction side but the for operational side as well. How do we mesh all the different aspects of this facility? Whether it be the contractors, the construction team, the operational team, the outside vendors."

The project was approaching one million man-hours in May on the construction side. The plant will provide 200 permanent jobs once it's operating.

The plant will include two lines, with positioning available for a third. The particleboard products will be made in thicknesses of one-quarter inch to one and three-quarter inches, widths of 4-6 inches, and lengths of 6-12 feet, with custom lengths available. The plant will produce decorative wood panel products used in home interiors and furniture across North America.

The Arauco plant property, located about five miles south of downtown Grayling, will only utilize about 25 percent of the entire 640 acres of land it has accumulated. The remaining 75 percent will be forested. The company said plant operations would be located on the far west side of the property (near the I-75 exit ramp) in order to optimize the logistics for transporting raw materials and finished panels.

The particleboard won't be made from whole trees or even entire branches - it will be made with residual wood like woodchips brought in from other lumber mills within a 100-mile radius.

"It’s important to note that Arauco will not manage logging operations directly," the company said. "Instead, we will purchase wood and wood by-products from local sawmills and logging companies. The community can be assured that our wood procurement professionals will be supporting sound and sustainable forest management practices in working with our wood and wood fiber supplies."

Arauco said the nearby location of local sawmills, along with the region’s abundant wood surplus, "is among the reasons Arauco found Grayling attractive as the site for its new plant. It is estimated that once operating at full capacity, our plant will utilize only 30 percent of the surplus regional forest resources on an annual growth basis."

ARAUCO,  a Chilean wood pulp, engineered wood and forestry company, is undertaking the construction of a massive particleboard plant on 160 acres of land in Grayling.  Arauco photo