Since its launch in 2009, the Holmen Biorefinery Development Center (HBC) has
worked to build up knowledge and identify the most promising lines of development for
the Holmen Group in the biorefinery field – see fact box.
The initiative is built on a conviction that climate change, dwindling oil reserves and rising energy prices will lead to increased demand for products and energy based on renewable raw materials from the forest.
With access to large quantities of raw materials and a highly developed infrastructure, Holmen should be well placed for such future demand. The flows of wood raw material, by-products and energy at the integrated plants in Iggesund and Braviken in particular could be used highly effectively if new biorefinery processes were also incorporated.
The newly built Braviken Sawmill, which commenced production in January 2011, opens up new opportunities in Braviken. Bark, woodchips and sawdust from the sawmill will provide valuable additional resources and the new integrated raviken plant will have the potential to be exceedingly energy efficient.
Fuels and chemicals
The technological options that HBC is assessing relate chiefly to biofuel, bio-based chemicals and, in the long term, also new materials such as biocomposites and biopolymers. The work of HBC covers everything from visions to concrete projects. As an example of the latter, Klas Simes gives the preliminary project on biogas production currently underway at Hallsta Paper Mill.
Methane can be produced by digesting some of the mill’s process water and wastewater. Upgrading turns the methane into a biofuel much in demand for buses and other vehicles. No investment decisions have yet been taken, but the preliminary project indicates that annual production equating to five million litres of petrol is possible.
The refining of turpentine is another interesting line of investigation, since large quantities of turpentine are generated as a by-product at Holmen’s pulp plants. The turpentine could be refined into more high-value products.
The gasification of biomass is another line of enquiry that is felt to hold great promise. With modern gasification technology, forestry residues, bark, sawdust and other by products can be used to produce fuels such a biodiesel, biomethanol and DME. Incorporating such facilities into integrated plants such as Braviken or Iggesund would provide considerable synergies.
Weighing up the options
Klas Simes stresses that HBC’s operations remain in an early stage of development.
Although several smaller projects are on the way to becoming a reality, the larger-scale plans are still on the drawing board.
“Our task is to identify and try to evaluate a range of future options. The driving force is market demand for innovations such as second generation biofuels and new climate smart products and materials.”
About the biorefineries of tomorrow
A biorefinery is a plant that refines wood or other biological raw material along the lines of an oil refinery turning crude oil into petrol and other substances. Bioenergy and biofuels that can replace oil, coal, petrol, diesel, etc. will be the main products of tomorrow’s biorefineries. However, the idea is to make use of the whole tree, which opens up the possibility of manufacturing a large range of materials and products, including raw materials for bioplastics, textiles, chemicals, paints, foods and medicines.
Text: Strateg Marknadsföring Anders Thorén
Photo: Ulla-Carin Ekbom