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March 17, 2015

Wood-based renewable diesel bio-refinery goes on-stream in Finland

The bio refinery in Finland creates value from renewable and recyclable fibre or biomass based materials.

In January the first wood-based bio-refinery producing renewable diesel began commercial production in Lappeenranta, Finland, with technology from Topsoe. The renewable diesel produced by the Lappeenranta facility reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80% compared to conventional diesel.

The biorefinery is owned and operated by the UPM Group, one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies. UPM Group focuses on solutions that create value from renewable and recyclable fibre- or biomass-based materials. The renewable diesel is produced out of crude tall oil, which is a residue of pulp production mostly derived from UPM’s own pulp mills in Finland.

The biorefinery represents an investment of €175 million and was built without any public investment grants. The annual production capacity of the new plant is in the range of 120 million liters of renewable diesel that will be marketed under the name UPM BioVerno diesel.

As part of the project, Haldor Topsoe A/S has supplied the process design and license for the renewable fuel hydrotreating process (HydroFlex™), design of the amine regeneration unit, all the hydroprocessing reactor internals and catalysts as well as supervision and training services. Like all diesel manufactured by means of HydroFlex™, the end product works with all diesel motors fully on par with regular diesel.

By ensuring the quality of the end product, Haldor Topsoe technologies support UPM’s ongoing effort to transform the pulp and paper industry. The results of this collaboration have earned UPM BioVerno the European Union’s Sustainable Energy Europe Award 2014, which rewards Europe’s best sustainable energy projects in the fields of energy efficiency, renewables and clean transport.

“The production process works as planned and the high quality end product, UPM BioVerno diesel, fulfils customer specifications. The start-up phase of the bio-refinery began in early autumn, and has now concluded. We are now happy to move forward and concentrate our efforts on the regular production process,” says Petri Kukkonen, Head of UPM Biofuels business.

“I want to thank our partner, Haldor Topsoe, for their co-operation since the inception of the project, throughout feasibility studies, design, construction and the start-up phase,” adds Kukkonen.

Haldor Topsoe’s HydroFlex™
Haldor Topsoe’s HydroFlex™ technology provides the renewable fuel industry with a production process that carries the lowest initial capital investment as well as operating cost for bio-refiners.

Combining and leveraging Topsoe’s expertise within engineering and catalysts, HydroFlex™ greatly simplifies the process design by eliminating costly unit operations in the high-pressure loop. The technology can be adapted to stand-alone and co-processing units alike. The HydroFlex™ technology makes it possible to produce drop-in renewable diesel, gasoline, and jet-fuel from a variety of renewable sources: tall oil, palm oil and other vegetable oils, animal fat and greases, pyrolysis oil and algae for example. This feedstock flexibility is part of the HydroFlex™ design, and it is an important element for the long term profitability of the plant because it minimizes the impact of volatility in the pricing of renewable feed-stock sources.

“The successful start-up of the UPM Lappeenranta biorefinery solidifies Topsoe’s commitment to renewable fuels. The development of HydroFlex™ and the required specialty catalysts has resulted in breakthrough results over a number of years. Today we can offer a technology that has an unmatched low initial capital investment and operating cost. This is a significant factor when the go-ahead decision has to be made for these types of plants - a decision that is otherwise often contingent on governmental financial support,” says Morten Schaldemose, Group Vice President for Refinery, Haldor Topsoe.

“UPM Lappeenranta is the first Biorefinery of its kind, and we were all awaiting the start-up with great excitement. In such a complex process with an unconventional feedstock, the start-up may reveal unexpected challenges. We prepared the procedures carefully together with UPM, and that allowed the joint UPM-Topsoe team to handle the whole process confidently and on-schedule. This experience and the mutual collaboration have increased the level of expertise of both parties greatly,” says Lars Jørgensen, Chief Engineer and Refinery Technology Supervisor in Haldor Topsoe. 

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