Giant Chinese Pulp Mill Starts Taking Shape

Land-buying, staff-picking on for $2 billion project.



What should be the largest industrial development ever in the Richmond area moves apace with completion scheduled in 2017 or 2018.

The $2 billion Shandong Tranlin paper mill is busy completing land acquisitions on the south side of the James River in Chesterfield County to round out its 800-acre site, says Garrett Hart, head of Chesterfield County Economic Development.

A core sales staff is in place and the next step is to hire a bevy of contractors to handle site preparation, master planning and environmental permitting, he says.

The investment is believed to the largest single greenfield investment ever made by a Chinese company in the United States. When operating, the mill -- located near the intersection of Route 288 and Interstate 95 -- will employ 2,000 people.

Paper mills traditionally have had major problems with air and water pollution, notably in released dioxins, ultra-toxic chemicals. Not so at Shandong Tranlin, at least according to plans.

Unlike typical pulp mills, this plant will not use trees as raw materials. Rather, it will use farm waste, such as corn stalks and leftover soybeans, for its ingredients. One reason the Chesterfield site was chosen is that it's close to some of Virginia’s largest grain belts on the Middle and North Necks bordering the Chesapeake Bay.

Another plus is that it won’t use chlorine bleach in manufacturing. That’s means very toxic pollutants won't be released into the James, which has had its share of poisonous burdens, notably the Kepone crisis of the 1970s. Because there won’t be bleach, Shandon-Tranlin’s products -- towels and paper dishware -- will be light brown in color.

Other reasons for its site selection included its proximity to water; the ease of rail and highway transportation and the availability of water and electricity from Dominion.

Hart says construction should begin soon and that completion is expected by 2017 or 2018 with operation in 2018.

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