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Forestry biomass potential

Using the full potential of forestry biomass through improved mobilisation and the creation of new products and markets.

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News from this sector
Wood-based innovations made an appearance at Independence Day Reception in Finland

Stora Enso's woodpulp has been used as a raw material in the evening gown of Finland's First Lady Jenni Haukio.
Forest-based biomass industry: Where are we today and where are we going tomorrow?

"This will be a year when the industry starts to tell its story a little louder."
Wood-based innovations made an appearance at Independence Day Reception in Finland (15/01/2019)
Stora Enso's woodpulp has been used as a raw material in the evening gown of Finland's First Lady Jenni Haukio.
Stora Enso has an investment under way to meet the growing demand for wood-based textiles and significantly increase the dissolving pulp capacity of its Enocell Mill in Finland; dissolving pulp is used as a raw material in the textile industry. Stora Enso promotes wood-based innovations together with its customers and partners.

Pure by Stora Enso is a wood-based dissolving pulp that is being used a raw material in the evening gown made by Aalto University for Finland's First Lady Jenni Hauki to wear at the Independence Day Reception. Stora Enso supports the new method of producing textile fibres developed by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki and supplies dissolving pulp as the raw material for the project. The textile fibre used in Haukio's gown was produced using the new loncell method.

"We are pleased that Jenni Haukio has chosen renewable wood fibre as the material for her ball gown. We support the development work behind wood-based textiles on a long-term basis throughout the value chain to increase the share of wood-based textiles, as we believe that everything that is made from fossil-based materials today can be made from wood tomorrow," says Sirpa Valimaa, Product Manager, Dissolving Pulp, Stora Enso.

"Stora Enso is now ramping up its production of dissolving pulp, as demand for wood-based textile fibres is growing faster than all other types of textile fibres. Currently only around seven per cent of the world's textiles are wood-fibre based, and fossil raw materials are used in roughly 70 per cent of textiles. Dissolving pulp made from wood is being used to replace, for example, cotton and various oil-based materials, such as polyester, in the textile industry."

The Enocell mill, part of Stora Enso's Biomaterials division, has been producing dissolving pulp since 2012. The mill is currently being converted to focus entirely on the production of dissolving pulp. After the conversion, it will have an annual dissolving pulp capacity of 430,000 metric tonnes. The EUR 52 million investment was announced in October 2017, and the work is expected to be completed in the second half of 2019.

Forest-based biomass industry: Where are we today and where are we going tomorrow? (15/01/2019)
"This will be a year when the industry starts to tell its story a little louder."
8,000 years ago, a squirrel could have swung through the trees from Lisbon to Moscow without touching the ground. That's how abundant forests once were across Europe. This was just one of many interesting facts given out by Berry Wiersum, CEO at paper-based packaging company Sappi Europe, when he gave a snapshot of the European forest bioeconomy at the 8th Nordic Wood Biorefinery Conference (NWBC). This event - a leading meeting forum for wood biorefinery professions - took place at the Scandic Marina Congress Centre in Helsinki, Finland, on 23-25 October and was hosted by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Delegates also heard how the forest-based biomass industry was helping to build a bioeconomy at a time when impending threats of climate change and peak oil were driving the world towards increased use of biomass for chemical compounds and other materials. Wood density in Europe is also growing.

Following on from the conference, Liz Gyekye, senior content manager at Bio-Based World News, caught up with Wiersum to ask him five in-depth key questions on current market trends.

Liz Gyekye (LG): What defined the forest-based bioeconomy for you this year compared to 2017?

Berry Wiersum (BW): There has been considerable speed in two areas. First, the industry asked 'how do you use lignin for materials?' A lot of research has gone into this. A lot of companies, including ours, have launched new products or unveiled pilot plants for either composites, sugars or materials in general, which are going to replace fossil fuel-based materials. Second, the frenetic attack on plastics has occurred this year. This has not come from industry, but from NGOs and David Attenborough's great documentary Blue Planet II. This has shocked politicians into activity. These two things were very big drivers in 2018.

Another driver is the change in climatic conditions. The summer that we had in Europe this year has made everybody sit up. You can see that a long, hot summer without rain can cause damage all over Europe. You get forest fires in Sweden, and draught conditions in Netherlands. This is concentrating people's minds more on the need to act to tackle climate change.

The recent landmark report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shocked an awful lot of politicians and observers. It has strengthened the case for climate change politicians to enforce more activities to tackle the climate change problem. Another IPCC report unveiled this year described how industry would have to drastically cut its emissions to combat climate change. This is also very far reaching.

Essentially, there are a number of different influencers that will help to push investment into cleaner technology and help the switch from plastics to paper. These influences will also help to promote the complete use of trees, rather than the partial use of trees. If you make pulp today, you are normally just using one third of the tree. If you are making pulp, the lignin is often just burnt as a fuel.

Elsewhere, the European Commission has recently launched its 2050 climate strategy, which set out its vision to deliver net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. There will be technology to help the pulp and paper industry reduce its emissions. I suspect that we are going to see a powerful speeding up of developments in research and pilot schemes for demonstration units for a number of these technologies.

Separately, there will be a drive to replace certain types of plastics by paper because it is just impossible to recycle certain types of plastic. This specifically applies to film. One result might be the brands might start switching from flexible plastics to paper as the paper industry starts to develop proper barrier packaging materials. These barrier materials will have to be anti-moisture, anti-oxidant and anti-grease. We are seeing these barriers being developed very quickly by the industry.

LG: What is happening on the regulatory side?

BW: In the European Commission's recent 2050 strategy document, biomass is considered to be carbon neutral and there is more of an emphasis on reusing it. It acknowledges that sustainable biomass has an important role to play in a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy. The Commission is also keen to move away from subsiding the burning of biomass for energy, particularly because there have been a number of energy plants in the EU that were burning wood. They were cutting down forests, turning them into pellets and then claiming that they were carbon neutral, which is a waste of good wood.

There is move now to say "we recognise that biomass is carbon neutral, but we are anti-subsidy and we want to encourage the reuse of biomass either from wood or recycling paper."

The real question is whether legislation will move away from encouraging burning biomass and saying that this isn't carbon neutral. This debate has been taking place within the European Commission for the past several years, and there is merit on both sides of the argument.

Elsewhere, we are going to see pressure on demand for wood increase in the future, as it will not only be used for paper and housing, but used for new materials as well. You already have a growth in wood density in European forests. This is because good forest management is making the density of the forests go up. You now have an increase in the surface area which is dedicated to forests in Europe. The pressure on wood is going to increase. Therefore, legislators are bound to favour the usage that guarantees the reuse of wood rather than setting fire to it.

A carbon sink is a forest, ocean or other ecosystems viewed in terms of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The view that the most efficient carbon sink is a managed forest compared to an unmanaged one is gaining credence. The most efficient carbon sink is a managed forest.

Separately, the European Union's single-use plastics directive, which is scheduled for publication in February of next year, will also change the face of packing completely when it comes into force. Under the proposed directive, items such as plastic straws, cotton swabs, disposable plastic plates and cutlery would be banned by 2021, and 90 per cent of plastic bottle recycled by 2025. It specifically addresses packaging you use "on the go". For instance, coffee cups could start being made of paperboard, with the inner plastic lining removed. This gives the paper industry a challenge to find a solution to this.

However, the legislation is still quite purist in its outlook. It will not address larger liquid packaging, cartons, for instance, which contain paper board, polyethylene and aluminium.

Read the full interview here
How to support the European bioeconomy with Big Data technologies (15/01/2019)
A pilot initiative has offered a new solution for sustainable forestry. It's part of a series of activities that handle massive data flows collected through sensors and aerial and satellite imagery.
The importance of a well-functioning bioeconomy is increasingly recognised in addressing challenges like climate change, natural resource scarcity and unsustainable consumption patterns. Defined as an economy in which food, materials and energy are derived from renewable biological resources involving the land and the sea, bioeconomy is seen as a central component of sustainable development. To support its growth, the EU-funded DataBio project has been focusing on the production of raw materials from agriculture, forestry and fishery through 26 pilot trials executed by 48 partners from 17 countries and involving over 100 organisations.

As part of these initiatives, the Finnish partners have developed, among others, a mobile application that uses Big Data for forest management. Seppo Huurinainen from MHG Systems Oy Ltd, who coordinates DataBio project's forestry pilots, explains in a news release: "One of the Finnish consortium's innovations is a globally unique concept based on forestry standards, which allows landowners and forestry operators to collect data on their forests using a smartphone and upload the data to the Finnish Forest Centre's forest resource database with the help of an application called Wuudis." Huurinainen says the application "facilitates the payment of sustainable forestry subsidies and makes it easier to collect information and keep forest inventories up to date."

Monitoring app
The same new release by project partner VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd adds: "The Wuudis service and the associated mobile application as well as standardised forest resource data concept provided by the Finnish Forest Centre can be easily scaled to other countries." The application can also be used to monitor the effects of storms, snow, pests and diseases, according the news item. It also notes that another Finnish pilot has developed a service.

The ongoing DataBio (Data-Drive Bioeconomy) project was set up "to show the benefits of Big Data technologies in the raw material production from agriculture, forestry and fishery/aquaculture for the bioeconomy industry to produce food, energy and biomaterials responsibly and sustainably," as summarised on the project website. The project "proposes to deploy a state of the art, big data platform on top of the existing partners' infrastructure and solutions - the Big DATABIO Platform." In addition to Big Data, the platform utilises Earth observation technologies and ICT. As part of its overall methodology, DataBio collaborates with end users and will "proceed to verify the concept through several pilotings in the chosen sectors."

Pilots under the DataBio project cover precision agriculture that involves olives, fruits, grapes and vegetables, as well as cereals, biomass and fibre crops. Forestry pilots include areas such as forest damage remote sensing, invasive alien species control and monitoring, and a web-mapping service for government decision-making. Fishery pilot focuses on oceanic and pelagic fisheries predictions and planning.

New guidelines on cascading use fail to meet expectations of EU's new Bioeconomy Strategy (03/01/2019)
Non-binding guidelines on the cascading use of wood fails to live up to the Commission's own ambitions signalled in its recent Bioeconomy Strategy.
The guidelines should be aligned with the new EU strategy to make the bioeconomy more circular.

Today's publication of the non-binding guidelines on the cascading use of wood fails to live up to the Commission's own ambitions signalled in its recent Bioeconomy Strategy. CEPI has been a long-time proponent of this principle which allows for every wood fibre to be used on average 2.5 times, instead of solely burning wood for bioenergy.

"The cascading use of principle works automatically in a well-functioning market but unsustainable subsidies distort wood markets" says Ulrich Leberle, Raw Materials Director of CEPI, the European forest fibre and paper industry. "The new guidelines should be aligned with the new EU strategy to make the bioeconomy more circular. They should also take into account any assessment of Member States that encourages the application of these principles in their bioenergy support schemes.

The new guidelines ignore the firm call set out by the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, approved yesterday, to avoid raw material market distortions and neglect to provide clear instructions on this in the new guidelines.

The guidance is clearly a missed opportunity for contributing to a circular bioeconomy that is built on the efficient use of biomass and innovative solutions rather than on direct burning of wood for bioenergy. The focus should now turn to ensuring that Member States respect the cascading use of principle in their national climate and energy plans and that future revision of these guidelines take account of this principle.

Valorisation of wood side streams (03/01/2019)
Nova-Institute supports efforts to improve side stream valorisation practices in the European wood processing industry to foster the material cascade principle.
One of nova-Institute's clients is currently searching for new opportunities to supply woody raw materials for further processing.

The available pine wood material (Pinus sylvestris L.) in the form of shavings, dust, chips and cut-offs is dried and might be further processed in pellet production, Wood Plastic Composites (WPC), Engineered Wood Products, Biorefineries or other biomass processing areas. Material incures in the countries of France, Denmark, Poland and Hungary.

We would appreciate your offer specified as an 'ex works' price related to a particular sample and a preferred origin-country you are interested in.

In case of interest, please send your offer or questions to:

KIT researchers explore cost-effective use of woody biomass as raw material (04/12/2018)
Oil is still the most economically attractive resource for fuels and basic chemicals that can be used to manufacture everyday products such as plastic bottles and detergent. New biotechnological processes aim to simplify the use of renewable biomass
as an alternative to the fossil raw material and make it more cost-effective.

Researchers at KIT are focusing on plant biomass such as wood and straw which is not used as food or feed.

Oil is profitable but its use is detrimental to the climate and environment. Besides, supplies of the fossil raw material are dwindling. Processes applied so far to win basic chemicals such as ethanol from renewable materials are expensive. What is more, they use plants such as maize, sugar beet and rape which also serve as food for humans and animals. ''To achieve sustainable and environmentally friendly energy and raw material supply, we need to develop innovative technologies which make the use of renewable biomass also attractive from an economic point of view,'' says Professor Christoph Syldatk, Head of the Institute of Process Engineering in Life Sciences II / Technical Biology at KIT. His research group is examining how raw materials that do not compete with food or feed can be processed biotechnologically -- for example straw, green waste and sawdust. These second-generation, non-edible, bio-based raw materials consist to a large extent of lignocellulose which forms the cell walls of woody plants. To be able to use lignocellulose, however, it first needs to be broken down into its components (fractions). This process has so far been time-consuming and expensive. To reduce production costs and establish lignocellulose as a raw material, researchers at KIT are examining, among other things, how -- on the basis of lignocellulose fractions -- new types of biosurfactants can be produced using microbial or enzymatic synthesis.

The aim is to convert the woody biomass into basic components for the production of chemicals and materials such as bioplastics. Bacteria, yeasts and molds are among the microorganisms, the metabolism of which is used by researchers in the lab for such innovative product syntheses and chemical changes. Some industry partners are already implementing KIT's application-oriented research on a large scale. Products can be manufactured using a bio-based process. Their molecules and properties are identical to those of petrochemical components. ''On top of that, there are more options to modify the molecular structure," explains Syldatk. For example, plastics can be equipped with a higher melting point or greater gas permeability, and surfactants with modified foam properties. ''We are trying to play around with bacteria in fundamental research to find out which functions the respective structures have, and if possible to produce tailor-made compounds,'' says the biotechnologist.

Process optimization is also involved in the use of microorganisms for further processing of synthesis gases which are produced by pyrolysis from straw or wood waste in the bioliq pilot plant at KIT. ''A major advantage of using synthesis gas is that it provides the same starting conditions, no matter what type of biomass was used as a raw material,'' says the researcher. Flue gas can now also be converted with the help of microorganisms, ''because they tolerate sulfur compounds or even use them for their metabolism. For chemical processing, the combustion gases would first need to be cleaned from these toxic compounds,'' explains Syldatk. In its bio-economy research program, the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg supports the KIT-driven development of innovative methods for the microbial use of lignocellulose.