Veolia and Metsä Fibre announced a long-term partnership agreement on the refining of crude methanol generated in pulp production at the Äänekoski bioproduct mill into commercial biomethanol. As part of this cooperation, Veolia will build a crude methanol refinery connected with Metsä Fibre’s Äänekoski bioproduct mill. The €50-million investment is supported by a grant from the Finnish ministry of economy and employment.
The Kraft pulping process converts wood chips into pulp, which is used to make a large range of paper products. Black liquor, a waste byproduct from the kraft pulping process, contains most of the original cooking inorganic elements and the degraded, dissolved wood substance, including methanol, and hundreds of other components.
The Veolia black liquor evaporation systems for the pulp and paper industry feature methanol rectification and handling systems, among other characteristics. This will be the largest biorefinery project producing bio-methanol from a pulp mill.
Developed in close cooperation with Metsä Fibre, the largest cooperative forestry association in Europe, the biomethanol refinery will be based on Veolia’s innovative industrial-scale concept of commercial bioproduct-derived bio-methanol production, which safely integrates the refining of crude methanol into the pulp production process. Raw methanol recovered from the pulp process needs to be purified from nitrogen and sulfur and then further refined for use as commercial biomethanol.
Owned and operated by Veolia, the refinery will be adjacent and partly built into Metsä Fibre’s Äänekoski plant in Finland. The plant is estimated to begin operations by 2024, and will have an annual production capacity of 12,000 tons; this will allow the avoidance of up to 30,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year by replacing fossil fuel for transportation.
Estelle Brachlianoff, COO of Veolia said: “Our biorefinery project with Metsä Fibre is in line with Veolia’s strategy to develop local energy loops allowing decarbonization and energy sufficiency. It illustrates our capacity to act as an ecological transformation enabler through industrial integration across various sectors to develop scalable and sustainable solutions for locally produced CO2-neutral fuels. The advantage of our industrial concept is that it is replicable at around 80% of the pulp mills worldwide. It has a potential to unlock an additional, locally generated feedstock of CO2-neutral biomethanol for biofuel that could be estimated at 2 million tons.”