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Taaleri and Savon Voima reveal Finnish biocoal plant plans

Just before Christmas, Finnish finance and investment group Taaleri Oyj and compatriot municipal energy company Savon Voima Oyj revealed plans for a commercial-scale biocoal plant to be built at Savon Voima's Iiksenvaara combined heat and power (CHP) plant site in Joensuu, eastern Finland. Subject to regulatory approvals and a final investment decision, the 60 000 tonnes-per-annum plant could be operational already in 2022.

Taaleri Oyj and Savon Voima Oyj have recently revealed plans for a commercial-scale biocoal plant to be built at Savon Voima’s Iiksenvaara combined heat and power (CHP) plant site in Joensuu, Finland (photo courtesy Savon Voima).

Announced on December 21, 2020, the proposed venture builds on Finland’s national regulation that bans the use of coal in energy generation by 2029. Many municipalities and companies have declared 2030 carbon-neutral climate goals while numerous energy utilities have announced fossil-phase out by 2025.

In addition, torrefied biomass is replacing coal in energy production and other industries such as iron and steel. Biocoal combustion is seen as carbon-neutral while greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the biocoal value chain including logistics and production are just a fraction compared to the equivalent value-chain with coal.

The first plant in Joensuu

Taaleri plans to build its first biocoal plant in Joensuu, Finland, on Savon Voima’s Iiksenvaara combined heat and power (CHP) plant site. Savon Voima is wholly owned by Savon Energiaholding Oy, which is owned by 20 municipalities in North Karelia and charged with heat and power generation and distribution.

The biomass and peat-fired CHP plant was acquired by Savon Voima from Fortum Power and Heat Oy in January 2020. Amongst other things the site features the world’s first integrated bio-oil plant as well as the more recent fully automated biomass sampling technology from compatriots Prometec Tools Oy (Prometec).

Taaleri has signed an agreement with Savon Voima Oyj on the purchase of services and the lease of the site and of certain equipment.

The parties have also agreed to establish a joint biomass procurement company to enhance and secure the supply of raw material. Joensuun Biohiili Oy, a company founded by Taaleri for the project, will be a minority shareholder in the biomass procurement company.

The total investment for the 60 000 tonnes-per-annum plant is estimated at EUR 15 million and according to Taaleri, the plan is that customers will also be able to invest in the project at a later stage. The plant could be operational as early as 2022, subject to regulatory and funding approvals, and final investment decisions by the companies.

Cooperation with Taaleri brings significant synergies in terms of staff and facilities as well as biomass procurement. The project also creates new jobs in the Joensuu region and supports our strategy to promote carbon-neutral production. We are very pleased with our new innovative cooperation with Taaleri, said Arto Sutinen, CEO of  Savon Voima.

Develop biocoal cluster

The plant will utilize forest industry side streams and forestry residues such as small-diameter roundwood, woodchips, and bark, as feedstock, and the annual biomass requirement is approximately 250 000 m3.

The aim is to build a cluster around the Joensuu biocoal plant, including development cooperation partners such as the Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke), University of Joensuu, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, and Business Joensuu.

Through the strong research and development cooperation within the cluster, the Joensuu biocoal plant will be a global leader in product development and new biocoal application implementations, such as in the use of biocoal for soil improvement and water treatment as well as in various ways to utilize activated carbon.

The project under preparation fits perfectly with the City of Joensuu’s strategic goal of being a world-class expert in the utilization of renewable natural resources and the circular economy, said  Mayor of Joensuu Kari Karjalainen.

First of several plants

Taaleri plans to build more biocoal plants in the future, possibly also elsewhere in Europe and North America.

For over a decade now, Taaleri has systematically invested in renewable energy production, such as wind and solar energy. In the bioindustry, Taaleri has already invested in a biorefinery, which processes tall oil mainly for the production of biodiesel. Biocoal complements our impact investing portfolio. We are very pleased with the great cooperation with Savon Voima in this project, said Robin Lindahl, CEO of Taaleri.

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