The core of Metsä Group's bioproduct mill, under construction in Äänekoski, lies in the world's most efficient pulp mill, with an annual capacity of 1.3 million tonnes. Expanding this core with the production of numerous new bioproducts is a leading principle behind Metsä Group’s bioproduct concept. The development of the bioproduct concept has now advanced to the stage of the first implementation decisions.
“Our action plan aims at incorporating new bioproducts and partnerships into our developing and competitive pulp business in phases,” says
Ilkka Hämälä, CEO of Metsä Fibre, a part of Metsä Group.
The first step in implementing the bioproduct concept was taken in April 2015, when Metsä Group made the investment decision concerning the bark gasification plant. The bark-derived product gas is produced for the bioproduct mill's own use, whereby the mill becomes fully free of any fossil fuels. The renewable product gas will replace some 45,000 cubic metres of heavy fuel oil a year. The gasification plant will begin production at the same time as the bioproduct mill, in the third quarter of 2017.
The bioproduct concept is complemented by the agreements made in February 2016 with biogas manufacturer EcoEnergy SF Oy and biocomposite producer Aqvacomp Oy.
The biogas plant that EcoEnergy SF Oy will build at Metsä Group's bioproduct mill in Äänekoski is the first in the world to make use of the sludge generated in pulp production. The plant, set to be completed in 2017, produces approximately 20 gigawatt hours of biogas a year, which is equal to the annual fuel consumption of roughly 1,800 passenger cars. The possible uses of the biogas include transport fuels. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has granted EcoEnergy SF an investment aid from the government's spearhead programme funds for carbon-free, clean, renewable energy. Furthermore, a letter of intent on making use of the biogas produced by the plant has been signed with Gasum Oy.
Aqvacomp Oy is investing in a plant that produces biocomposite. The biomaterial, which combines pulp fibre and plastic, can be used in the electronics and automobile industries as a substitute for plastic, for example. The production plant that Aqvacomp will build integrated to Metsä Group's Rauma pulp mill will begin operating in the beginning of 2017. Aqvacomp is also exploring the possibility to build a bigger plant in Äänekoski once the bioproduct mill is operational.
The bioproduct concept is further developed along several avenues. Metsä Group is, for instance, developing a concept, in which the odorous gases of the bioproduct mill are converted into sulphuric acid, to be used as a raw material by the mill instead of sulphuric acid bought from the market. A sulphuric acid plant connected to the pulp production process would represent a significant step towards more closed chemical cycles.
Textile fibres made from softwood pulp is another central development project in the context of new bioproducts. The new, environmentally-friendly production process for producing textile fibre from wood is based on ionic liquid technology developed in the research programmes of FIBIC Oy. Metsä Group has continued the development in cooperation with the Japanese Itochu Corporation. The first garments produced on a laboratory-scale, utilising this new production process, are now ready, and will function as a basis for considering a shift to pilot-plant scale.
The research concerning the processing of lignin into new products continues. Lignin-based products will be manufactured in a pilot plant during 2016.