Bioeconomy initiatives and developments at BDC 2023
Latest Bioindustry trends – Boston, Massachusetts
AFRY Bioindustry Directors Soile Kilpi and Dr. Alexander Koukoulas recently attended a meeting of the Biorenewable Deployment Consortium (BDC) in Boston. The BDC is a non-profit that brings in participants from the bioeconomy sector to discuss the latest innovations within the sector.
This year’s meeting was centred on three general themes that we discuss further below. Soile Kilpi opened the meeting by presenting an overview of pulp and paper markets, which are coming off a challenging year relative to their post-pandemic highs. In spite of near-term headwinds, AFRY’s outlook for the industry is positive, especially as companies are now actively focused on maximising the value of wood-based chemicals, biogenic carbon and lignin.
The conference emphasised the pivotal role of lignin in the pulp and paper industry. One of three principal components of biomass, lignin is the world’s most abundant natural polymer. Used historically as a fuel, novel applications for lignin abound. Discussions revolved around its various applications and market dynamics, highlighting its emerging significance in the industry. With lignin separation now available from multiple equipment suppliers, the technology risk for separating lignin is now considered to be negligible. This gives producers the opportunity to offload their recovery boilers and increase pulp production. The separated lignin is finding a range of commercial applications, including a feedstock for the production of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) and as a replacement for phenolic resins.
Although the closure of a Nordic-based pulp mill and its lignin separation plant raised concerns within the lignin industry, AFRY believes that there is a continued commitment to growing the supply of lignin and that the emergence of new entrants bodes well for the industry.
The event showcased a range of innovative sustainability initiatives, including a novel graphene oxide-based membrane separation technology to concentrate weak black liquor, bio-plastics development stimulated by U.S. Executive Order (EO) 14081, novel lignin recovery techniques, bio-based dispersants, and the potential of nano- and microcellulose to produce sustainable packaging solutions.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel
Europe’s stringent regulations are driving the sustainable aviation fuel market. The goal in Europe is to replace fossil fuels by 10% by 2030 and achieve full replacement by 2050, with a requirement that the replacement fuels achieve a 50% reduction in GHG emissions compared to fossil fuels.
Production platforms, including hydrogenated vegetable oils (HVO), alcohol to jet (ATJ), and wood-based Fischer-Tropsch liquids, were discussed. Producers will need to consider the cost implications, given that jet fuel production is more expensive than diesel fuel production. Clearly, the forest products industry, with its substantial forest resource base, could have a critical role to play in the transition to SAF.
The BDC meeting in Boston shed light on several significant themes in the evolving bioeconomy sector. Lignin is clearly becoming a material of interest in the pulp and paper industry, with increasing opportunities for commercial applications, including SAF production, as well as providing operational efficiencies in recovery boiler-limited pulp mills.
The event showcased an array of innovative sustainability initiatives, from cutting-edge technologies to bio-based materials and sustainable packaging solutions. Europe’s stringent regulations are propelling the sustainable aviation fuel market, aligning with ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is evident that the forest products industry, with its substantial forest resource base, stands poised to play a crucial role in developing sustainable materials and chemical and fuel solutions, underscoring the dynamic and promising landscape of the industry.
Bioindustry Management Consulting
Bio-based alternatives and a circular economy approach have increased in their importance and are becoming the new norm. To survive and flourish, industries and companies need to adapt and innovate at an ever-increasing rate. This generates a growing and exciting market for our consulting services.