Scandinavia goes viking in advanced biofuels

January 17, 2011 |

The Viking mastery in utilizing wood - that resuilted in the famous longships - has led today into a leading position in advanced biofuels

In the Old Norse, the term “viking” meant to “undertake an expedition” and it later came to characterize the raiders, settlers and traders that epitomized an era of Scandinavian expansion that impacted Europe, Asia Minor and the Americas for a hundreds of years. At the heart of the Scandinavian technology, for so many years, has been their understanding of wood – how to grow, harvest, refine and use – from the famous Viking longships of an earlier age to the significant advances in technology brought by Scandinavians to the global forest products industry from the 19th century to today.

It should be of little surprise, then, that the Scandinavians have become world leaders among the developers of advanced fuels and materials made from wood – and their resulting mastery of enzymes that catalyze those conversions. Less expected, but no less impressive, has been their mastery of the art of making fuels from straw, and their astute financial and strategic leadership. Overall, there is no region that has done so much for, and within, the global biofuels industry – based on comparable population and geographic size – as the Scaninavians, and in today’s Digest we round up on some of the latest and greatest of their advances.

Starting in Norway

In Norway,  we reported on Friday that Borregaard has received $9.87 million in funding from Innovation Norway’s environmental technology program towards the construction of its (400 cubic meter) cellulosic ethanol pilot plant. The pilot is expected to cost $22.18 million, and will commence construction in the first half of 2011.

The new investment by Borregaard and the Norwegian government is another confirmation that Scandinavia has emerged a a noted leader in the development of advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals.

More on the Borregaard project

Borregaard has developed new technology for production of bioethanol and green chemicals from biomass such as straw and other agricultural and forestry waste. The newly developed technology changes the cellulose fibres in the biomass into sugar that is used for the production of bioethanol, while other components in the biomass are made into advanced biochemicals. The technology consists of a multi-stage process, and has given good results at laboratory scale. Borregaard will now upscale the processes in the planned pilot plant that will be built at the company’s industrial facility in Sarpsborg.

At Sarpsborg, Norwegian spruce is the feedtock for an existing intergtaed biorefinery that produces cellulose used in tablets, adhesives and food – Borregaard is the only producer in the world to make the vanilla flavouring, vanillin, from wood – while lignin is the raw material for a number of products tused in concrete additives, car batteries and feed.

Managing director Per A. Sørlie said: “We regard the support from Innovation Norway as decisive in the further development of our new technology for production of second generation biofuel and other green chemicals. If we are successful with this project we will be able to establish full-scale production of biofuel.”

Elsewhere in Norway: the Weyland project

Last October, Weyland commenced production of cellulosic ethanol at its pilot plant in Bergen. The plant, which was formally opened by State Secretary Per Rune Henriksen, has a 200,000 liter (53,000 gallon) annual capacity.

The Weyland process is based on concentrated acid hydrolysis with the company’s core technology being a method (patent pending) for recovering acid consumed in the process. Weyland’s can utilize a variety of different feedstocks, such as wood and agricultural waste, and wood waste from demolition.

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Category: Fuels

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