Fortum welcomed in 2019 with the announcement that it is launching a ‘significant development project’ that aims to manufacture high-value products from agro-residues and woody biomass to replace the use of fossil and other environmentally taxing raw materials.
The company has received support from Business Finland for a €14.4 million, two-year project in which Fortum and collaborating technology and refining partners will conduct research into creating an industrial ecosystem in which biomass is refined in ‘bio-villages’. Demand for bio-based raw materials is growing rapidly in, for example, the textile industry. In addition to utilising woody biomass, the downstream processing opportunities for agro-biomass unsuitable for human consumption, like straw, are also being explored. The project will be part of Business Finland’s ‘Bio and Circular Finland Program’ which aims to place Finland at the forefront of the circular economy.
Fortum already has extensive experience in utilising biomass for combined heat and power production but is now planning to leverage technologies to use biomass more efficiently: separating the main components of biomass (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin), with any remaining material combusted for energy. After fractionation, cellulose can be used to produce textiles, hemicellulose can be used as a raw material in foods and cosmetics, and lignin can be used in the production of adhesives.
The new project ties in with Fortum’s Bio2X programme which champions the development of new technologies for utilising biomass. Existing Bio2X projects include:
A biorefinery in Assam, India, being developed in collaboration with a joint venture between Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) and Chempolis. Using formico-technology developed by Chempolis, the biorefinery will use bamboo as the key raw material in the production of bioethanol for blending into petrol. The biorefinery will also produce biochemicals and a biocoal which will be used to produce heat and power on-site.
Fortum Otso, a bio-oil made from forest residues, wood chips or sawdust. It is a replacement for heavy oil and reduces CO2 emissions by close to 90% compared to fossil fuels. Fortum opened its bio-oil production plant in Joenssu in late 2013.
AcuComm’s WasteView Projects database has details of 26 projects involving Fortum – the majority of these are located in Europe.
Written by Ian Taylor, Senior Editor & Research Consultant