Global packaging producer Sonoco has announced plans to invest $100m to upgrade its packaging plant in South Carolina, US.

The company will invest about $75m to add a new biomass boiler to its Darlington County plant, which will replace the two existing coal-fired boilers.

The new item will generate around 16MW of green energy that will be utilised by the manufacturing complex, as well as steam used in the papermaking process.

Jack Sanders, Sonoco president and CEO, said the project will maintain the viability of the company’s operations.

Darlington County Economic Development Partnership executive director Robert Long added that the new biomass boiler system is the culmination of Sonoco’s ongoing sustainability efforts.

Sonoco will also upgrade a machine that produces corrugated paperboard, as well as emission-control technology on another boiler at the facility.

Expansion work is set to begin this month and will continue until July 2013, with the boiler being operational by the fourth quarter of 2013.

The company obtained a rural infrastructure grant of $100,000 from the Coordinating Council for Economic Development, to improve roads used by the trucks during construction of the facility.

The firm forecasts the capital expenditures will reach $185m in 2012 compared to a predicted $155m in 2011, owing to its focus on new growth projects as well as additional capital needs related to the recent acquisition of Tegrant, a protective packaging provider in the US.

The company expects to register sales of $4.5bn in 2011 and aims to reach $5bn in 2012; it is now looking to grow the business to around $1bn in annual sales, continuing to strengthen new product development and use global infrastructure to gain access to emerging markets.

The global protective packaging industry serves a market worth an estimated $15bn, which is expected to reach $23bn in the coming years.