Technology mapping and the start of the EIA procedure
Kanteleen Voima Oy started planning the NordFuel biorefinery project in 2016. For a power plant located in the middle of forest-based biomass fractions further use was sought as energy production unit for biofuel production. Based on technology mapping, the decision was made to carry out EIA procedure for three different options:
Option 0 (VE0) – The biorefinery will not be implemented. Kanteleen Voima Oy will continue to operate the Haapavesi power plant.
Option 1 (VE1) – A bioethanol plant will be built and will be connected to Kanteleen Voima Oy’s Haapavesi power plant.
Option 2 (VE2) – A bio-oil refinery will be built and will be connected to Kanteleen Voima Oy’s Haapavesi power plant.
- Option VE2a – Bio-oil production will be based on the pyrolysis process. In addition, a solid-fuel gasification plant will be built in connection with the power plant.
- Option VE2b – Bio-oil production will be based on gasification and on a chemical process of synthesis.
Concept design and completing the EIA procedure
The EIA procedure was completed in 2017. In connection with the EIA study, a resident survey was conducted in the vicinity of the plant. A clear majority (circa 80 %) of the respondents perceived the biorefinery project positive. The most significant positive impacts of the project relate to employment and livelihoods, land use, resource use, and the reduction of fossil emissions. For the load on waterbodies has been prepared for with extensive and multi-stage purification measures. The aim is to recycle the used water of the plant efficiently. Based on the EIA results and the technology-evaluation done during the EIA procedure, it was decided to proceed with the Option 1 – the bioethanol plant project. A concept plan for the bioethanol production process and for the biogas production including process water treatment and purification was developed.
Environmental permit application and techno-economical analysis becomes more accurate
Biorefinery’s environmental permit application was submitted to Regional State Administrative Agency in summer 2018. Simultaneously a separate environmental permit application regarding power plant’s changing operations was submitted. Permit decisions were received in third quarter of 2020, approximately two years after submitting the applications.
During the year 2018, the business plan and the feasibility study became more accurate.
Pre-design and verification test runs
The developing of the concept design continued with significant verification tests related to the technologies. At first ethanol was produced at the technology provider Sekab’s demo plant in Örnsköldsvik. Simultaneously process water was produced for biogas production testing. Six-month biogas-piloting was carried out in Haapavesi. Treated water of the biogas-pilot was further tested for tertiary treatment in Finland and elsewhere in Europe. The results were as expected and the pre-design of the biorefinery was refined based on these results.
In 2020 a tender was launched for the ethanol technology providers and new ethanol production test runs were conducted. Other suppliers of process technology and main equipment were also compared. OPEX and CAPEX of the profitability calculations became more specific.
Ensuring the raw material sufficiency
Raw material availability study was conducted for the biorefinery. The study was carried out by the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). According to the study, forestry by-products i.e. logging residues and small-diameter stemwood from thinning of young forest, are sufficiently available within 150 km radius from the plant. Letters of intent were signed with raw material suppliers to secure the supply of raw material for the biorefinery.
Life Cycle Assessment confirms the 2G status of bioethanol
The carbon footprint calculation shows that the biorefinery is in accordance with the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) of the EU. This means that the bioethanol and biogas produced by NordFuel meets the requirements set for the 2nd generation biofuels in terms of both raw-materials and carbon footprint, which must be at least 65 % smaller than the fossil reference fuel. The carbon footprint of the bioethanol production is estimated to be 70-80 % smaller than fossil fuels. With the capture of carbon dioxide generated in the production process, the products will even become carbon negative.
Getting involved in EU projects
NewLiEP – a possibility to trial the technology
NordFuel is involved in the EU-funded Horizon 2020 FTI (Fast Track to Innovation) research project, which started in August 2019, together with Danish and Swedish technology companies. This two-year NewLiEP project (Injecting New Life into Cellulosic Ethanol Production) aims to verify an economically viable process to produce bioethanol from softwood. The project introduces a novel fermentation process that provides superior productivity with lower operational and capital expenses. Read more on the project webpage or EU’s page.
CarboTech – mapping the possibilities for further use of lignin
NordFuel is participating in “CarboTech – Biomass-based carbon applications” research project of the University of Oulu. In this three-year project (May 2019 – April 2022, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, ERDF) the processing of the bio-based raw materials into technical carbon (activated carbon, carbon foams) will be studied. Selected raw materials are sawdust, hydrolysis lignin, kraft lignin and grass biomass. The role of the NordFuel in this project is to provide hydrolysis lignin received from bioethanol production for research use.
Economical calculations and financing model becomes more precise
Long-term bioethanol and biogas sales contracts and partnerships ensure that the products will be cost efficient for the end-users in Finland and elsewhere in Europe, and enable financing of the constructing phase.
Complex process and strict environmental requirements are increasing the investment cost
As technology processes becomes more precise as the pre-design continues, also the investment costs became more precise and increased. It is clear that without national and EU-level investment subsidies, it will be difficult for a new technology plant to be profitable enough. By-product markets, such as further processing the lignin and manufacturing products out of water treatment sludges are in the investment decision phase the positive options of possible new sources of income in the future, after the completion of the biorefinery.
Positive investment subsidy decision
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment of Finland (TEM) has granted to NordFuel Oy biorefinery project a subsidy of 24,5 M€ on June 15th, 2020. Grant was dedicated to big demonstration projects implementing new technology providing future energy solutions to meet the national- and EU-level climate and energy targets by 2030.
Regional State Administrative Agency has granted an environmental permit to Kanteleen Voima Oy’s NordFuel biorefinery 7th of August 2020. The environmental permit application was submitted two years ago. Legally valid environmental permit is prerequisite for the investment decision of the biorefinery.