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Fortum to invest in Indian bamboo biorefinery

Finland-headed energy major Fortum Oyj has announced that it will invest EUR 13.5 million in a joint venture together with India-based Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) and Finnish biotechnology process developer Chempolis Oy to build and operate a biorefinery in Assam, India.

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Aerial view of Chempolis head office, biorefinery, and R&D campus in Oulu, Finland (photo courtesy Chempolis).

According to Fortum, this joint venture is part of the company’s Bio2x research and development program that aims at more resource-efficient use of biomass. The aim is to find ways to separate and put to use all usable fractions of the biomass. Fortum will get a 28 percent share of the joint venture.

In Bio2x programme we are investigating new business opportunities with fractioning-based technologies and end-products of the process. We believe that valuable end-products can be produced from biomass and used in place of fossil or other less sustainable raw materials, said Heli Antila, Chief Technology Officer at Fortum.

Fortum is currently testing several different fractioning methods. Fortum has also co-operation projects with different companies to test the end products of different methods.

The new biorefinery will use bamboo to produce ethanol and will be based on Chempolis’s proprietary “formico-technology, a company in that Fortum is the largest shareholder with a 34 percent stake. The ethanol will be sold to NRL which will use it as a blendstock for gasoline.

In addition, the biorefinery will produce biochemicals and biocoal, of which the latter will be used as fuel in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant to produce heat and power for the biorefinery with excess power sold to NRL’s oil refinery where it will replace fossil electricity production.

Chempolis’ solution is one of the fractioning technologies that we are investigating. We are happy that with this joint venture we can finally prove it on a commercial scale and in this way take a step forward in our Bio2x programme, said Heli Antila.

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