Broad partner network around Äänekoski bioproduct mill

An essential part of Metsä Fibre’s unique bioproduct mill concept is the creation of industrial ecosystems.
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  • 2022, Pulp, Sustainability

The core of the ecosystem is a partner network operating around Äänekoski bioproduct mill and using the pulp produced by Metsä Fibre or side streams of its pulp production. This generates extensive value chains and offers significant opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises to manufacture innovative bioproducts with high added value.

Äänekoski bioproduct mill began operations in 2017. Since then, its ecosystem has evolved further and an entirely new area of business has been born. Its more traditional products – softwood and birch pulp, biochemicals and bioenergy – have been joined by new bioproducts.

“The business model of a bioproduct mill is based on an efficient partner network, in which new products are upgraded in cooperation with various players. A single player cannot master every conceivable area of expertise, so it makes sense to build a network of capable partners to seek new hit products,” says Kaija Pehu-Lehtonen, Senior Vice President, Business Development Metsä Fibre.

Located alongside the bioproduct mill are the board mill, birch plywood mill and textile fibre demo plant of Metsä Group, as well as the production facilities of various partners.

“Businesses that specialise in biomaterials, biochemicals, bioenergy, and so on, are invited to join the ecosystem in Äänekoski. They can be of various sizes and at different stages of development,” she points out.

“Collaboration between the ecosystem partners stimulates the evolution of new bioproducts. This model creates significant synergies by joining together a wide range of core competencies.”

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Turning pulp into textile

Metsä Group’s innovation company Metsä Spring is involved in investment projects for new bioproducts. The company and its partners focus on new projects to identify and develop business opportunities related to the sustainable forest-based bioeconomy and circular economy.

Metsä Spring and Japanese ITOCHU Corporation have built a demo plant for the production of bio-based textile fibres in Äänekoski.

The idea is to convert Äänekoski pulp into textile fibre using an innovative production process, explains Katja Konola-Manninen, Development Manager for the demo plant.

“We are presently conducting test runs to develop the quality of the textile fibre, but it is already at a fairly solid level. We are very confident in the product and are learning more all the time. ITOCHU has long experience in the textile industry and is playing a key role in exploring the textile fibre market,” she says.

Test runs will show the feasibility of the new concept. In the best scenario, a significantly larger textile fibre mill will be built in Finland in the future.

“Textiles fit well into the Äänekoski ecosystem. In the broader context, it is clear that the global textile industry needs new solutions. Turning Metsä Fibre’s pulp into textiles may be one way forward,” Konola-Manninen says.

Biodegradable food packaging

Metsä Spring has invested in a demo plant at Äänekoski to manufacture bio-based 3D fibre products. Its partner in this project is Valmet, a Finnish company that supplies technology and services to the pulp and paper industry.

The demo plant will enter its start-up phase in autumn 2021. It is estimated that by early 2022 the pilot plant will produce ready-made 3D fibre packages directly from wet wood fibre pulp without intermediate steps.

Jarkko Tuominen, Vice President, leading the project at Metsä Spring, explains that the goal is a 3D fibre product that can replace other kinds of package, such as those made from fossil raw materials.

“We feel there is a great opportunity to introduce a new kind of business to our local ecosystem,” he says. The roles of the partners are clear, with Valmet’s competency in the technology and Metsä Group’s expertise in packaging materials.

Pulp from Äänekoski bioproduct mill will be used as the main raw material for the 3D fibre products. The products are recyclable and biodegradable.

The first phase of the project aims to develop a new type of food packaging that is more sustainable, environmentally friendly and easy to use. According to a customer survey, there is already significant demand for such a product. If all goes well, the pilot plant will be followed by a full-scale industrial plant.

“The pilot plant will test the market in 2022 and the final investment decision will be based on those experiences,” Tuominen says.

High quality pulp production is really the platform that makes all the innovations of the ecosystem possible.

High-quality pulp promotes innovations

Another user of pulp from the Äänekoski bioproduct mill is Metsä Board´s Äänekoski board mill next door. Metsä Board is a part of Metsä Group.

Veli-Pekka Kyllönen, Director of the mill, says that collaboration with Metsä Fibre’s pulp operation is running very smoothly. The companies engage in joint R&D to develop quality and boost performance.

“We have a strong spirit of cooperation,” he says, citing openness and trust as its main elements.

“High quality pulp production is really the platform that makes all the innovations of the ecosystem possible.”


This article was originally published in Fibre Magazine issue 2021-2022.

Innovation in collaboration

Surplus heat from Äänekoski bioproduct mill for AURA® blue cheese production.

Valio’s Äänekoski dairy uses heat generated by Äänekoski bioproduct mill as a secondary steam to produce AURA® blue cheese. Valio, a Finnish food company, began working with Metsä Fibre at Äänekoski in 2008. It had a heating centre running on heavy fuel oil with a renovation waiting in the wings when it began investigating the use of Metsä Fibre’s steam. Instead of building a new heating plant, it made the transition to domestic renewable energy.

The heat energy utilised by Valio is district heat generated by surplus steam in the Äänekoski bioproduct mill’s process and thus represents sustainably produced renewable energy.

Working with Metsä Fibre’s Äänekoski bioproduct mill has been economically sound, as well as in line with Valio’s environmental targets.

”Thanks to the bioproduct mill, we have switched to domestic renewable energy, which supports Valio’s goal of carbon-neutral dairy by 2035,” says Marko Palosaari, Plant Manager at Valio’s Äänekoski dairy.

Specialty Minerals Nordic uses carbon dioxide (CO2), derived from flue gas at Äänekoski bioproduct mill

Next to the Äänekoski bioproduct mill is Specialty Minerals Nordic. Their end product is Precipitated Calcium Carbonate. One of the users of PCC is the paper and board industry.

Specialty Minerals Nordic manufactures several products and can tailor them to each customer’s quality needs. The company pumps flue gas from the chimney of the Metsä Fibre’s bioproduct mill through its purifier to chemical reactors where the desired product is made.

The partnership began in 1993. The PCC plant was built in Äänekoski precisely because of ecosystem synergy and the availability of carbon dioxide from the old pulp mill.

“Thanks to this collaboration, we are able to manufacture various PCC products according to customer specifications. At Äänekoski, we make fillers and coatings for paper and board production,” says Tommi Aksela, Plant Manager at Äänekoski & Tervakoski PCC Plant, Specialty Minerals Nordic.

Sidestreams to boost Kekkilä’s growth platform production

Kekkilä composts side streams from the Äänekoski bioproduct mill’s brown stock screening to boost growth platform production. Side streams produced by screening brown stock, a by-product of pulp production, are composted together with other waste fractions into land improvement compost. This is used as a growth platform by Kekkilä, a producer of horticultural substrates and fertilisers.

The partnership began in 2016. Metsä Fibre and Kekkilä mapped out the side fractions and selected the side streams for which Kekkilä could offer a cost-effective, long-term treatment option.

Composting is suitable for the treatment of almost all organic fractions.

“We are also exploring the use of other potential side streams. It is important to find suitable alternatives for growth platforms”, says Nina Kinnunen, Director, Sustainability, Brand and Communications, Kekkilä-BVB.

In this article


Katja Konola-Manninen
Development Manager of Metsä Spring’s textile fibre demo plant. She is responsible for process and product quality development as well as the design and implement¬ation of test runs.



Kaija Pehu-Lehtonen
Senior Vice President, Business Development Metsä Fibre is responsible for the development of existing and new products and technologies.



Jarkko Tuominen
Director responsible for the 3D fibre product project at Metsä Spring. He has also worked for some 10 years in various management positions at Metsä Board.



Veli-Pekka Kyllönen
Director of Metsä Board’s Äänekoski paperboard mill, with 19 years of work experience in various positions at Metsä Group.