That’s a lot of paper KapStone will invest $29 million in North Charleston mill

KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp. has operated the former MeadWestvaco mill for the past four years. (Staff/File)

One of the three paper-making machines inside the KapStone mill on the Cooper River in North Charleston is getting an upgrade.

The Northbrook, Ill.-based company on Monday announced that its board of directors has approved a $29 million investment in new equipment and for related projects over the next year and half.

The replacement of the press sections will improve the efficiency and capabilities of the mill’s so-called No. 3 paper machine, which KapStone said makes “ultra high-performance” grades of lightweight linerboard for manufacturers of corrugated cardboard.

“KapStone has become a market leader among independent box makers by developing and selling lighter weight, high-performance, virgin-fiber-based … linerboard,” the company said in a statement.

Engineering and construction are expected to take about 18 months. The installation of the new press section made by PMT Italia is being targeted for the first quarter of 2014, according to KapStone Paper and Packaging Corp.

The investment also includes improvements to other areas of the local mill that support the No. 3 machine. The machine is one of three at the mill that make various grades of containerboard paper and specialty products that are used in flooring and laminates, such as Formica.

It also is the newest of the three, having been installed in 1957, according to an investor presentation KapStone filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

The No. 3 machine was last upgraded in 2008, and can churn out 310,000 tons of brown linerboard a year, the company said. KapStone did not disclose how much the capacity figure would increase after the improvements.

The three machines can make a combined 882,000 tons of paper products a year.

Company officials could not be reached for additional comment Monday.

The replacement of the press section on No. 3 is one of the first major investments that KapStone has announced for the 75-year-old mill in the four years since it bought the facility from MeadWestvaco Corp. for about $471 million.

The annual maintenance bill for the North Charleston operation runs about $15 million to $17 million.

KapStone owns two other mills, a Summerville-based lumber business and 14 other paper plants across the eastern and midwestern U.S. It employs about 2,700.

Contact John P. McDermott at 937-5572.