Lignin crumbs

Bioeconomy initiatives at PaperWeek Canada and BIOFOR International 2022

Written by Maryam Arefmanesh

During the recent PaperWeek and virtual PAPTAC conferences, the hot topics of net-zero, circular economy and Industry 4.0 were discussed, and it seemed that these emerging trends would continue to lead. The list also included the growing digitalisation and industry sophistication.

The conference theme focused on “bioeconomy initiatives“ that are not without the risk however are inevitable to navigate through current and converging challenges. The right decisions and supporting tools are key to mitigating the risk in these future-oriented solutions. Amongst the various sessions at the conferences, which included papermaking, energy, management and environment, the following insights were shared:

The impact of climate change on forests and fibre supply

These impacts are real and visible: fires, insects and disease outbreak, drought, and floods. Climate change adaptation should be at the forefront in the forestry sector. Making forests adaptive will help us to take the negative impact of climate change and seek benefits or create new opportunities.

The role of digitalisation in the forestry sector

To support forestry industry competitiveness, sustainability and energy use reduction, the role of digitalisation was discussed as a key enabler in addressing climate change. There is an opportunity to learn from what was done in other industries and adapt that to the forest industry, including advanced tools and analytics, Industry 4.0 for energy reduction (digital twin models in pulp and paper industry). The key to this adaptation is guidance, demonstration of the benefits to stakeholders to help them see the value, show them where to invest their money, appropriate training for operators, contractors and private landowners. Overall, developing action plans and collaboration are essential.

The importance of lignin bioeconomy

The importance of lignin bioeconomy, including a review of advanced pathways to enhance the value of lignin beyond being used as an adhesive, was discussed. The global lignin market reached $954.5 million in 2019, and it is expected to grow steadily to $1.12 billion by 2027. Industrial application of lignin was also discussed, such as application in the food industry or how Canadian standards developed to characterise lignin can assist in reaching new markets.

New measures for supporting the deployment of bioeconomy

Importance of new policies, developing standards and certifications to support the deployment of bioeconomy in Canada and elsewhere, by learning from European Commission’s examples, were discussed. These measures could help facilitate the deployment of renewable fuels and chemicals, establish a stable quality of bio-based products as well as increase awareness and drive the shift to low carbon products. The forest products sector can contribute along this path towards a net-zero future. Bioeconomy is moving in every direction, and standardisation needs to be prioritised to mitigate future market access issues and make full use of forest resources.

Low carbon policies

Impacts of low carbon policies in the forestry sector were also discussed. According to Canmet Energy, NRCAN, without mitigation measures, fossil energy expenses in Canadian forestry sector could increase by 52% in 2030. This extra cost will be transferred down the value chain. Renewable fuel production and clean fuel regulations are crucial for mitigating the risk. There is also an opportunity in using biomass for renewable fuels and biomass has the potential to fully supply future aviation, maritime and rail traffic.

Bioeconomy is driven by the regions, and it’s important to consider bioeconomy clusters, also known as bio-hubs. The importance of various components of the bioeconomy value chain, and how successful the emerging bioeconomy value chain will be, is multi-sectoral and could become global, geographically distributed and comprised of stakeholders from different industry sectors. The value chain must be continually re-engineered to accommodate innovation and bioproducts. To create creative competitive advantage, anchor companies are also needed to build trust and confidence.


Maryam Arefmanesh - Senior Consultant, AFRY Management Consulting

Maryam Arefmanesh

Senior Consultant, AFRY Management Consulting

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