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Preem, RenFuel and Rottneros to assess world’s first lignin for biofuels plant

In Sweden, oil refiner Preem AB along with bioprocess technology developer Renfuel AB and pulp, paper and packaging producer Rottneros AB have jointly announced that the trio is assessing plans for the construction of the world’s first lignin for biofuels plant. Planned to be sited at Rottneros's Vallvik pulp mill in Söderhamn with completion in 2021, the plant is expected to produce 25 000 to 30 000 tonnes of lignin annually.

Dick Carrick (left), RenFuel and Petter Holland, CEO, Preem (photo courtesy Fredrik Kron).

According to the statement, the collaboration between the companies means that Preem will be the first fuel manufacturer in Sweden to use lignin in its fuel production.

Lignin can be refined to create both renewable diesel and renewable petrol, and used in all vehicles. Lignin, like tall oil, will help us phase out fossil fuels to an even greater extent. It is a valuable raw material in our renewable fuel efforts and is based on by-products from the Swedish forestry industry. It is also available in large volumes, said Petter Holland, Managing Director of Preem.

Via the company Lignolproduktion AB, which is jointly owned by Preem and RenFuel, the aim is to reach a total annual production capacity of 300 000 – 500 000 tonnes of lignin, based on the assumption that more plants similar to that in Vallvik are established in the future.

RenFuel’s lignin oil, Lignol, has considerable climate benefits and is a key factor in achieving Sweden’s goal of the transport sector reducing its fossil emissions by 70 percent between 2010 and 2030. Lignol makes today’s petrol and diesel cars clean vehicles. All current vehicles can run on this type of fuel, said Sven Löchen, Managing Director of RenFuel, who also considers there to be major export opportunities for this innovation, to countries that, like Sweden, have good access to well-established forest industries.

Deliveries of samples of lignin from Rottneros’s pulp mill in Vallvik are already being made to Renfuel’s pilot facility, which was established for the production of Lignol with the assistance of the Swedish Energy Agency. The Lignol oil is then taken to Preem’s refineries, where the raw material is processed to make biofuels.

Rottneros is keen to contribute to strengthening Sweden’s bioeconomy, in which the pulp industry is already a key element. In addition to contributing to the transport sector’s shift to become fossil free, the extraction of lignin also gives us the opportunity to increase our pulp production. This ensures that all parties benefit from the collaboration, said Ragnar Lundberg, Vice President Technology at Rottneros.

In 2017, approximately 9 million m3 cubic of liquid transportation fuel was sold in Sweden, of which about 1.9 million m3 was classified as a biofuel, according to the Swedish Petroleum and Biofuels Institute (SPBI). About 15 percent of the biofuel was produced in Sweden, with the rest being imported from other countries.

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