VTT develop new sustainable option for forest waste

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VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a new technique that offers a sustainable way to turn forest industry byproducts, such as bark, sawdust and forestry waste, into transport fuels and chemicals.

The new technique uses gasification to turn biomass into intermediate products, such as liquid hydrocarbons, methanol or methane, in production units integrated with communal district heating plants or forest industry power plants. The intermediate products are then processed in oil refineries to make renewable fuels or chemicals.

VTT has developed and piloted the new gasification process. The process is based on VTT’s low-pressure, low-temperature steam gasification technology, simplified gas purification and small-scale industrial syntheses.

Senior principal scientist, Esa Kurkela explains, “Not one of the large gasification plants of more than 300MW that have been planned for Europe has been built yet. The almost €1 billion investment needed together with the risks associated with new technology has proven an insurmountable obstacle. The smaller scale of our solutions makes it easier to secure funding for building the first plant based on the new technology.”

The new technology is set to become considerably more competitive as the costs of the raw material of competing technologies increase, and the process is expected to be highly competitive at least from the year 2030 onwards.

VTT state that the gasification technology development is set to continue through two EU Horizon 2020 projects that they will coordinate. The projects will focus on gas purification and increasing the efficiency of synthesis technology and aim to demonstrate the performance of the entire biofuel chain at VTT’s Bioruukkii piloting centre in Espoo, Finland.