We need to take the lead – not wait for the technology to mature

Forest company SCA is taking various initiatives to convert forest residuals into biofuels. When investments in the Östrand pulp mill led to a doubling of tall oil production, the company saw a business opportunity that also helps to achieve the climate goals on a societal level.

“In partnership with energy company St1, we want to build a plant that enables us to refine the tall oil from our mills into renewable fuels ourselves,” says Mikael Källgren, President, Renewable Energy at SCA. The Swedish forest industry is sustainable as it is, but making green fuels from by-products like tall oil strengthens the sustainability even further.”

Production equivalent to domestic aviation in Sweden

The plant could be up and running by 2022, when production of biofuels is expected to total 100,000 m³ a year; compare this to all domestic flights in Sweden in 2018, which needed 236,000 m³ of fuel.

SCA itself provides a considerable proportion of the raw material that’s needed, and expects to be able to source the rest on the international market.

“We’re busy looking at every single aspect of this, and aim to make a decision during 2021. The decision would certainly be easier if the government clarified its standpoint on biofuels in the longer term, for example with a reduction commitment by 2040,” says Källgren.

 

Photo: Kristofer Lönnå

Mikael Källgren, President, Renewable Energy at SCA.

Various ways the forest industry can help the transition

In addition to this project, SCA is investing in developing commercially viable technologies both to produce biofuels and green chemicals from black liquor, and to produce biofuels from solid biomass such as sawdust. The technology for these two initiatives needs to mature before they can go to market.
Källgren says that the process of making bio-oil from solid biomass is being researched globally, as the technology can be applied to raw materials around the world. Technologies for extracting green chemicals from black liquor are not as much in focus in terms of research, as black liquor is a residual of the pulp industry specifically.

“Flows of residuals offer several interesting opportunities for the forest industry to make a further contribution to the transition from fossil to renewable, and as a big corporation we can’t just sit and wait for the technology to mature. We have to take the lead,” Källgren explains.