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Bioeconomy in focus

Published 31/07/2015 by Marie Anheden

The discussion on the transformation into a society based on supply of renewable products and energy cannot go unnoticed in today’s debate. As a researcher and project manager, I have seen how this significant interest results in numerous requests for new projects and new business ideas. Two promising areas involve producing chemicals and fuels from bio-based raw materials. With the pulp and paper industry’s extensive experience of handling and processing of biomass raw material, they have beneficial opportunities to become an important contributor in this area.

One currently ongoing project is looking at intermediary biofuels, and how the pulp mill can take in biomass raw material, process and upgrade them and send them to other industries for final upgrading and production of a final product. The role of the pulp mill will then be to handle the raw biomass and process it into a form that is simpler to transport and upgrade. The benefit would be that the existing infrastructure and utility systems in the pulp mill for handling of biomass is utilised with minor additional investments and that the overall costs and energy requirements for transporting biomass raw materials over long distances are reduced. There are various types of intermediaries that may be worth examining and that could meet the needs of many industries, including everything from the iron and steel industry to chemical manufacturers and oil refining industry.

Much of what is currently being researched involves using lignin from the pulp mill for chemicals and energy raw materials, and for transportation fuels. Developments have been investigated for many years and Innventia has been closely involved in this process. As the implementation phase approaches, we can support the industry by verifying the performance of the processes and the new products that are developed. The challenge lies in ensuring high utilisation of raw materials to obtain a high yield while reducing the loss of energy or materials and a high availability in the production throughout the processes.

Parallel to these activities focusing on future businesses, we are also working with how to optimise today’s processes financially using various simulation tools. One area that is of particularly interest currently is model-based performance monitoring which involves calculating various Key Performance Indicators based on continuous analysis of normal operation data. These Indicators are used for measuring how a process is currently performing compared with optimal operation and – by extension – to make an economic evaluation based on this information. In this way, it is possible to generate a picture of how factors such as different raw materials, operating settings and maintenance affect operations so that production can be maximised and maintenance and operating costs minimised. The advantages are early detection of reduced efficiency, support for proactive maintenance, greater decision-making support for operators and process engineers and the creation of an information database to help with trouble shooting and operational planning. Our aim is to work with developing tools for the industry for this and visualising the results so that the results are easier and faster to interpret.

Working with issues of an everyday nature in customer-focused projects enables a greater and an essential understanding of the mill’s operational situation. This could involve helping to resolve various operational problems relating to the equipment and processes involved in the mill’s energy supply. By combining a devotion to future-focused activities with real-time practical issues, researchers gain from better insight of the technology that will result improvements in processes, new products and an increased profitable business.

Marie Anheden

Marie Anheden is Team Leader Energy & Chemicals within Innventia's business area Biorefining.