From sawdust to ethanol and green chemicals

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In the High Coast area of Sweden lies a company committed to tackling climate change by making use of the residues from the forestry industry. With a unique technology ready for scaling up, Sekab will revolutionize the way we look at saw dust and soft wood residue. And make the world a little bit better.

Ylva Strömstedt is Marketing Coordinator at Sekab BioFuels & Chemicals Sekab BioFuels & Chemicals. Eva-Marie Byberg is a communications consultant.

With increasing demand for sustainable solutions, Sekab sees an opportunity to contribute to climate change adaptation by commercialising its technology.

The climate goals are strict and distinct and our whole society must increase the pace of transition. The forest has the potential to contribute significantly more to a sustainable society. Most things that are made today from fossil raw materials such as coal, oil and gas can just as easily be made of products from the forest. This is where our new technology comes in, says Monica Normark, Chief Technology Officer at Sekab.

Sweden is a natural player to be one of the leaders in this development. With over 87 billion trees bioeconomy is of course one of the nation’s strengths. In the Örnsköldsvik area, where Sekab is located, lignocellulose-based ethanol has been produced since the beginning of the 20th century. Today, Örnsköldsvik is a centre for bioeconomic development.

The idea is simple, the technology is not

Sekab has since 2004 worked on a technology called CelluAPP. The idea is quite simple. There must be a way to make use of leftovers from the forestry industry such as residues from sawmills and make renewable, new materials.

It’s taken dedicated work, expert knowledge and a genuine desire to get results. But now we’re here. The technology has been thoroughly tested in our demo plant and now it’s ready to be scaled up and used to a much larger extent, says Monica Normark, CTO.

The CelluAPP technology makes it possible to refine almost any form of biomass into environmentally friendly, high-quality and marketable chemical products and raw materials such as biogas, cellulosic sugars, ethanol and lignin. Which in turn can be used as climate-neutral and high-quality raw materials in the manufacturing of many of the everyday products around us such as cosmetics, hygiene articles, biofuels, plastics and pharmaceuticals.

The technology is based on a well-tested pre-treatment and a steam explosion. The raw material is first transformed into a slurry. Enzymes then turn it into sugar, which can be made into ethanol or other chemicals. The technology also separates lignin, which can be used for asphalt production.

Next steps – at home and abroad

CelluAPP is ready for full scale production. Through a partnership with Indian company Praj Industries Limited, Sekab is offering the technology to a global market. Praj will optimize and integrate the technology.

Sekab is also investigating building a full-scale production plant based on the technology by their own headquarters in Örnsköldsvik. This would be a large investment and a facility with a capacity to produce 100 000 cbm of ethanol per year.

The time is right now. Demand for green products is increasing, there is a great willingness to invest in technological advances that contribute to climate change adaptation and we are happy to be at the forefront. If a large-scale production facility becomes a reality, it will help solve the challenges society is facing and at the same time strengthen our position as a leading player, says Monica Normark.

The feasibility study will carefully and thoroughly investigate the conditions for the building of a production facility. Partners, financing and location are issues that must be processed. As a first step, Sekab is currently seeking investment support from the European Innovation Fund. The feasibility study will be completed in the autumn of 2022.

The climate challenge is great, but technology optimism is part of the solution. We at Sekab have the capability to lead this change and it is with pride that we take on the task of utilising more of the potential of the forest. We cannot afford to just leave the softwood residues available, says Monica Normark.

The project can be followed continuously at

More information about CelluAPP:

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