US Biobased Products Industry: Economic Impact Analysis

paperinsight bioeconomyA detailed report commissioned by the USDA’s ‘BioPreferred® Program’, has been released. Some highlights are:

  • A conservative estimate of 40,000 bio-based products were sold in the USA in 2013 with an estimated value of $126 billion.
  • The bio-based industries contributed $369 billion to the US economy in 2013.
  • The bio-based products industry directly employed 1.5 million Americans in 2013.
  • The biobased products are currently displacing about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year – equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road.

The seven sectors considered to be involved the US bio-based products industry were:

  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Bio-refining
  • Biobased Chemicals
  • Enzymes
  • Bioplastic Bottles & Packaging
  • Forest Products
  • Textiles

A good read for those interested in the bio-based economy and the future potential of bio-renewables.

For the full report, please click here

The interest & investment in nanocrystalline cellulose continues – two new commitments are made in Europe

paperinsight bioeconomyOn the 11th March, 2015, Sappi Limited announced that it will build a pilot-scale plant for the low-cost production of Cellulose NanoFibrils (nanocellulose) at the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen in the Netherlands.

The pilot plant is expected to be operational within nine months and the raw material would be supplied from any of Sappi’s Saiccor, Ngodwana and Cloquet dissolving wood pulp plants. The pilot plant will test the manufacturing of dry re-dispersible Cellulose NanoFibrils (CNF) using the proprietary technology developed by Sappi and Edinburgh Napier University. The CNF produced by Sappi will have unique morphology, specifically modified for either hydrophobic or hydrophilic applications. Products produced using Sappi’s CNF will be used in areas such as lighter and stronger fibre-reinforced composites and plastics, in food and pharmaceutical applications, and in rheology modifiers as well as in barrier and other paper and coating applications.

The location of the pilot plant at Brightlands Chemelot Campus provides Sappi with easy access to multiple partners with whom Sappi will seek to co-develop CNF-containing products across a range of applications.

The pilot plant is the precursor for Sappi to consider the construction of a commercial CNF plant and fits with Sappi’s strategy which includes seeking growth opportunities by producing innovative performance materials from renewable resources.

Please click here for the detailed Sappi announcement.

In another announcement, MoRe Research, Holmen and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, stated that they are investing in, ‘Europe’s first pilot facility for nanocrystalline cellulose‘, in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.

The role of each of the participants can be summed up as follows:

  • The pilot facility is located directly adjacent to MoRe who have in-depth knowledge of cellulose, and wide-ranging experience of pilot operations and extensive laboratory and analytical resources.
  • As SP operates in many different sectors it will be able to pave the way for commercially interesting applications beyond the forestry sector’s traditional boundaries.
  • MoRe and SP will have central roles in the construction and operation of the facility, which is expected to be in place during the first half of 2016.
  • The operation in the pilot plant is based on technology developed by an Israeli start-up company Melodea.
  • Holmen is working actively to develop new products based on raw materials from forests and are participating as a catalyst in the creation of the facility and in their role as a co-owner of Melodea

The facility will allow interested companies to develop nanocrystalline cellulose from cellulose-based material on a large scale.  As with the Sappi announcement, the interesting material properties of nanocrystalline cellulose were emphasised, and examples were given for potential applications – as a building material, in biocomposites, printed electronics and dye additives.

The plant is supported financially by Västernorrland County Administrative Board, Holmen, the Kempe Foundations, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Önnesjö Foundation.

Please click here for the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden announcement.


Metsä Fibre signs financing agreements for the Äänekoski bioproduct mill

paperinsight bioeconomyOn the 10th June, 2015, Metsä Fibre Corporation, part of the Metsä Group, signed financing agreements for the Äänekoski bioproduct mill project and refinanced its existing EUR 270 million revolving credit facility.

The EUR 750 million financing for the bioproduct mill consists of a EUR 400 million Finnvera guaranteed loan, EUR 200 million loan from European Investment Bank (EIB), EUR 80 million loan from commercial banks and EUR 70 million loan guaranteed by Swedish export credit agency EKN. Other lenders, include Danske Bank, DNB Bank, Pohjola Bank, SEB, Swedish Export Credit and Swedbank.

The financing has been coordinated by Nordea.

So, what does this bio-product mill do? In summary, it:

  • Refines wood into bio-materials, bio-energy, bio- chemicals and fertilizers sustainably and with great resource efficiency
  • Uses 100% of the raw materials and side streams as products and bioenergy
  • Does not use fossil fuels
  • Emphasises energy efficiency when choosing equipment and machinery
  • Has an operating model based on an efficient partner network
    • New products will be created in collaboration with various experts joining the network
    • Creates opportunities especially for small and medium-sized enterprises to produce innovative bio-products with high added value.

For the detailed press release, please click here.

For details of the bioproduct mill project, please click here.

Benecol – a success story for the forestry and pulp industries

BenecolAs the forestry, pulp and paper industries start to find a new place in the options for a sustainable future, it is worth reflecting on one of the success stories. The key ingredient of Benecol comes from pulp mills – the pulping of trees. With full credit to the following web address, here is a full transcript of the Benecol story:

‘Dr. Ingmar Wester, the Finnish chemist was stumped by a technical roadblock. For nearly 6 months, Wester had been looking at a class of molecules called phytosterols at Raisio (then called Raisio Margariini). Phytosterols occur naturally in plants and were known to reduce absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract. The problem was that there were no suitable methods for including it in foodstuffs because the ingredient crystallized when extracted from its natural source.

While playing with his 18-month-old daughter in 1989, an idea suddenly struck him. Wester raced to his lab to test his theory and made a breakthrough by inventing how to create Plant stanol ester, an evolved version of plant sterols. Ingmar’s innovative process enabled Raisio to produce food-grade, fat-soluble, plant sterols and stanols and to incorporate higher concentrations of plant stanols in foods without compromising the taste and effectiveness.

The company patented the process and the use of plant stanol ester for reducing elevated blood cholesterol levels. It engaged with research partners and aligned the product testing with an ongoing public-health initiative in Finland, called the North Karelia Project, which had been launched two decades earlier in response to the local petition to reduce the exceptionally high coronary heart disease mortality rates in the area. The work was done through healthcare professionals, food manufacturers, and other organizations and by the local people themselves with the bold objective of improving public health, especially through preventative measures. The main emphasis was on changing diets and reducing smoking. High cholesterol was amongst the issues considered as it was already recognized as one of the significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A clinical research study on plant stanol ester ingredient developed by Wester was included in this effort.

The study was led by Professor of the University of Helsinki, Tatu Miettinen, MD, who early on had suggested looking at phytosterols to help reduce cholesterol. The double-blind clinical study showed that Plant stanol ester incorporated into margarine, successfully reduced LDL cholesterol by 14%. The data from this 12 month study was published to great acclaim in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 1995.

Just as the study was published, Raisio introduced the first ever commercial phytosterol-based food – Benecol®- margarine. This was a logical route to the market as Raisio already held more than half of Finland’s margarine market.

The research results created a sensation. “It is like an atomic bomb we didn’t mean to invent,” Jukka Mäki, Raisio’s former deputy chief executive told the New York Times in 1996. “We were just looking for a better margarine. We never thought it would be that big.”

For more information, please click here, or here.



BioSight up to 2025: Changes in supply and demand affecting the global bio-based chemical industry

Pöyry has produced a report, ’BioSight up to 2025’ forecasting both the supply and demand trends in the bio-chemicals sector through to 2025 which confirms that the bio-based chemicals sector is a growing, global market.

In the report, Pöyry introduces its concept for structuring the bio-chemicals sector. Chemicals are divided into sugar, oil, lignin and gas platforms according to their feedstock. These platforms form the basis of the extremely broad spectrum of end-uses including automotive, electronics and packaging.

Pöyry has forecast business opportunities over the coming years for each of the four platforms. First, Poyry’s experts found that whilst the oil and fat platform is the most mature, sensibilities around sustainability arguments mean future supply is uncertain. In the coming years, Pöyry believes that the European market will invest effort in supplying lignin. The report makes this assessment on the basis that lignin is currently underused but is a market enabler for lignocellulose sugars and therefore has potential for significant growth.

Pöyry point out that there is a lack of solid understanding of the demand side and the added value of bio-based components. During the study, Pöyry did an estimation of bio-based plastics as a large end-use by itself for bio-based chemicals, representing approximately 900 kt in 2013. Demand for bio-based plastics is increasingly brand driven and many leading consumer brands have set targets for introducing bio-based plastics to their products. However, despite rapid growth rates, bio-based plastics will account for less than 2% of the total plastics demand in 2025. The question is whether this would be typical of an analysis of any other bio-based product.

Pöyry expect changes to supply and demand to affect the various geographical hubs that dominate the biochemicals industry. Asia leads global production and is expanding thanks to significant government support. Globally, North America, Europe and Brazil all compete with their different competitive advantages.

Pöyry admit that the bio-based chemical and polymer industry is complex and a tough business to forecast. However, the Pöyry ’BioSight up to 2025’ addresses these and many other significant market issues. The report offers an insight into the bio-based chemical business, providing value to investors and companies active in the financial sector, forest and agricultural industries, chemical industry, end-users and brand owners as well as to authorities and government agencies.

For the detailed press release, please click here.