LUKE investigates alternatives to side-stream utilisation of Woodpolis Timber Cluster

LUKE1

Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE) made a survey on the alternative uses of side streams of wood processing in Woodpolis industrial area in the City of Kuhmo. Woodpolis Timber Cluster consists of Kuhmo Ltd.’s large saw mill and some ten SME companies specialised in further processing of sawn timber and side-streams of wood processing. A good example of new growing industries in the area are CLT, cross laminated timber and element factories producing prefabricated building products for multi-storey and one-storey buildings, such as residential, office, school and kindergarten houses.

In addition to saw mill chips supplied to pulp mill, versatile side streams from saw dust and bark to massive left-over pieces of log house and CLT construction are produced in the area. In 2015, of the total amount of 475,000MWh of bioenergy from the side streams 376,000MWh was used at the local CHP plant or for the briquette and pellet production, and 99,000MWh was sold to other CHP plants in Northern Finland. However, oversupply of wood chips and pellets for bioenergy as well as long transport distances reduce the profitability of selling the entire excessive bioenergy fraction. Increase of pellet or briquette production is not seen very profitable either. Therefore, new ways of utilizing side streams are actively sought.

The most technically challenging side-stream fraction is CLT leftover pieces because of their variation in shape, dimensions and chemical composition. Once the product is piled up with gluing, chipping it back to bioenergy or bio-refinery fractions is not easy or reasonable. New ways of utilizing them are sought from packaging and wood panel industries. If chipped, semi-finished products for manufacturing of for example wood-plastic composites should be given preference over bioenergy uses.

LUKE2

Bioethanol production would be a feasible step in the further processing of more advanced biofuel products from saw dust, planer shavings and bark. Biochar production for purposes which require bioactivity from the char, or for metallurgic processes may also provide promising options. In addition, saw dust and bark contain extracts some of which are already in the markets: for example, pine tar, turpentine, pyroligneous acid, and adhesives. However, bio-refineries (e.g. bioethanol plants) usually require large amounts of raw materials to be technically feasible and economically profitable, much more than what is generated now in Woodpolis industrial area.

Probably, the best potential for local bio-refinery production would be in high priced bioactive compounds or upgraded raw materials intended for uses like in health products, cosmetics, or food products. In all cases, new bio-refinery production in the Woodpolis area requires investments and operating capital, and attraction for new initiated entrepreneurship. There are no ready-made solutions for a new bio-refinery production. Technical implementation must be planned and tested on a realistic raw material basis and market perspective with a convincing proof-of-concept before the start of a full scale production. If they are realized, the new large-scale bio-refinery projects going on in Northern and Eastern Finland, St1’s bioethanol factory and KaiCell Fiber’s pulpmill and related bio-refinery activities being the closest, may increase quickly the demand of the side-streams generated in the Woodpolis industrial area.

The entrepreneurial community of Woodpolis Timber Cluster has worked together for a long time, which has enabled the refinement of joint development work and common practices. Therefore, Woodpolis can offer an example for other wood-based industrial clusters of the same kind about good practices, collaboration between SMEs and large companies regarding cooperation and new options to acquire and market raw materials, as well as product and service development activities.

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Green Gas Collaborative Network

Hydrogen refueling on the hydrogen filling station on the motor show

Action Renewables is acting as a facilitator for a Collaborative Network trying to stimulate green gas in the transport sector. Partners in the collaborative network are Translink, Belfast City Council, B9 Solutions, Queens University Belfast, Agri AD, Granville Ecoparks, Hydrogen Green Power and Red Kite Management.  These partners have been working together since October 2017. The Network will carry out a scoping study to determine what opportunities exist in the development of a supply chain for the production and distribution of biogas, particularly in respect of the transport sector.

Key objectives are to look at:

  • Technical and cost requirements involved in producing green gas, biogas and green hydrogen
  • The size of the potential market for gaseous biofuels
  • The export potential for gaseous biofuels produced in Northern Ireland
  • Financial return/business models associated with the use of green gas in various sectors
  • How an innovative fuel supply chain in Northern Ireland could align itself in order to comply with the requirements of the new RTFO scheme
  • Benefits of delivering an alternative fuel supply network in terms of emission reduction; air quality; job creation; and potential inward investment
  • Identifying enabling technologies, skills and resources necessary to take advantage of these new opportunities
  • Identifying the relevant skills gaps and how best these can be mitigated against either from within the group or by seeking additional expertise from other sources
  • Recommendations that will best accelerate the longer-term growth of participating companies as a result of having taken part in the project
  • The appetite to create a formal biogas supply chain collaborative network whose members can collectively and individually grow their businesses and the sector

It was Invest Northern Ireland that launched the Collaborative Network Growth Programme in Northern Ireland in December 2016. Invest NI allocated £5.7million funding over five years to help stimulate innovation among local businesses. One hundred per cent funding up to £25,000 is available to industry-led networks requiring facilitation support to scope innovative collaborative projects.

At the launch it was said that “Innovation is absolutely essential to wider economic growth and the Collaborative Growth Programme will support SMEs to combine expertise, funding and contacts to develop new products and services and open up new business opportunities worldwide.

Action Renewables will publish The Green Gas Collaborative Network findings in a report due out in June 2018.

Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme EES Roll–out completed successfully in Finland

KUAS

The roll-out of the GREBE EES in North Karelia took place in February-April. Three companies Eno Energy Cooperative, Rajaforest Ltd. and Havel Ltd. attended in mentoring sessions together with the Spiralia Ltd. – an experienced SME mentoring and consultancy. The results of the EES were positive: there was initiation of new business cooperation, business plan development for a new innovative technology, introduction of LEAN quality management principles, among others.

Eno Energy Cooperative is in a phase of business renewing and thus the focus was in creating and diversifying collaboration with other energy enterprises. These discussions identified opportunities to cooperate in acquisitions and raw material procurements, and potential of additional business activities in wood fuel sector. Rajaforest Ltd. had a technology development case on biomass drying and received support in business planning. Havel Ltd. Benefited from information on renewable alternatives for plastic raw materials, as well as introduction of LEAN quality management in production.

The EES process was rolled-out successfully as it resulted in new collaborations and business activities. The process, developed in GREBE project, will be further adopted for regional use in North Karelia. It was identified that there is still further work to do to establish stronger mentor networks, develop orientation guidance for attending businesses, disseminate the scheme for larger audience, and establish funding base for the service. One potential continuation is to integrate the EES into a new regional renewable energy research and development project prepared by the Karelia UAS and Finnish Forest Centre.

The GREBE project meets in Thurso, Scotland in May 22nd-24th, which provides a unique opportunity to share the EES roll-out experiences between the NPA Programme regions.

GREBE publishes its seventh project e-zine

Xmas Page2

The GREBE Project has published its seventh e-zine to showcase the activities and ongoing goals of the project.  

Since October we have continued to carry out the project activities and meet our objectives. Our 7th partner meeting in Enniskillen was hosted by Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and included a networking event and site visits. The aim was to highlight the benefits of renewable energy for SMEs and start-up businesses, and give participants the opportunity to meet with biomass experts from the Natural Resources Institute in Finland. Details can be found on page 3. A policy workshop was held by the Western Development Commission as part of their Regional Heat Study for the Western Region. Details can be found on page 4.

GREBE’s Funding Options tool has been launched and provides information on the funding mechanisms currently available in the partner regions. More details on this can be found on page 6 and is available at http://support.renewablebusiness.eu/

Another highlight for the GREBE project was the launch of the Renewable Business Portal. The Portal is an online training and networking portal which allows for flexible and easy access to training material and technology transfer information. Details can be found on page 7 and 8 and can be visited at http://renewablebusiness.eu/

Our Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme in Northern Ireland is complete and has now been launched in Finland, Scotland and Ireland. Details can be found on page 9. Our e-zine can be downloaded from the GREBE Project website here. This has been a great year as far as achieving our targets are concerned, and we have many more activities lined up for 2018.  We wish you a joyful and peaceful Christmas, and a prosperous New Year.

GREBE’s Funding Options Online Tool


Networking in Action #2

GREBE’s Funding Options tool provides information on the funding mechanisms currently available in the partner regions (Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway and Scotland). The information will be useful to both funding agencies (e.g. business support agencies and municipalities) and to SMEs giving details of funding options available in their regions. The tool will help to ensure that funders in the different regions can learn about mechanisms and implementation strategies in use in other parts of the NPA area.

The main focus is on public support for renewable businesses but both private sector and social investment options have been included where appropriate. The supports included are for SMEs and Micro businesses but also include options for those SMEs expected to grow rapidly (e.g. High Potential Start Ups). The business support funding mechanisms considered vary from standard ‘hard’ business support options (e.g. loans and venture capital) to softer supports (e.g. innovation schemes, business partner search supports etc.).  Options are available to search for mechanisms which are specific to the renewable energy sector, and also based on the geographical area (local, region, national, EU etc.) the support covers.  There is considerable variation in the ways different funding options are implemented and these differences will impact on the success of schemes.

Renewable businesses in each region will be able to check what supports are available in their own region and contact points for applications.  GREBE’s Business Supports Catalogue is also available to download on the tool. We hope that by using this tool those who seek funding and support for renewable businesses will have a clear portfolio of options which are available to them.  This tool is available on our renewablebusiness.eu platform at http://support.renewablebusiness.eu/

Nordregio Working Paper on Bio-energy Development in North Karelia, Jämtland, and Västernorrland

KUAS 08-11-2017

Nordregio has released a working paper looking into rural bio-energy development in the region of North Karelia in Finland, and Jämtland and Västernorrland in Sweden. The paper identifies the enabling factors behind the relatively successful local bio-energy development and considers how the bio-energy development has influenced sustainable local and regional development.

The working paper is a part of the TRIBORN Project, which investigates how to increase the production of bioenergy in ways that promote sustainable development understood as positive economic, social and environmental outcomes – in rural areas.

TRIBORN is a Norwegian-led research project investigating how to increase production of bioenergy in ways that promote sustainable development in rural areas. It aims to understand and foster systems for bioenergy innovation and related support policies that can produce positive social, economic and environmental outcomes. The Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO) leads the project, and the Research Council of Norway funds the project. In addition, the Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute and Nordregio, a Nordic research institute for regional studies, are key partners in the project.

For the GREBE partner region of North Karelia, the report summarizes the bioenergy sectors success factors and development, but also challenges related to the utilisation of the sectors potential. The report refers to the OECD Green Growth Studies stating that “many favorable institutional factors for regional innovation are in place in North Karelia: strong local government with willingness to act, local ownership of power utilities, presence of strong research institutes and education facilities, tradition of co-operative organization, legitimacy of local bioenergy production and presence of local and regional actors in several stages in the supply chain”.

As development challenges, the report identifies several aspects, such as changes in forest and bio-energy policy; access to risk finance and other economic challenges facing especially local small and medium-sized enterprises; the challenge of ageing population; and the question of openness of the current innovation platform for innovation and development around other thematic areas than forestry and bio-energy. For instance, bio-economy opportunities in the agri-food sector could be investigated in more detail.

The collaboration with Nordregio and TRIBORN project has provided valuable development information for the bioeconomy sector in North Karelia, as well as comparisons to the sector development in northern Sweden.

Publication Facts

Bioenergy Development in Finland and Sweden: The cases of North Karelia, Jämtland, and Västernorrland

Nordregio Working paper 2017:6

ISBN: 978-91-87295-53-9; ISSN: 1403-2503

Editors: Anna Berlina and Nelli Mikkola with contributions by Karen Refsgaard and Alberto Huerta Morales

Full text available for download: http://norden.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1147107/FULLTEXT02.pdf

LUKE and Karelia UAS hold GREBEs second Industry Advisory Group meeting in Finland

Finland IAG May 2017
GREBE partner Lasse Okkonen (Karelia UAS) presenting at the Finnish Industry Advisory Group meeting

GREBE Industry Advisory Group (IAG) contributes towards dissemination of GREBE outputs and learnings among their wider networks, including at local, regional and national policy level where possible.

The second annual meeting was organized at LUKE, Metla-talo Joensuu on Wednesday 26th of April 2017.  Finnish GREBE project partners updated the IAG on the project developments and outcomes over the last year, introduced the GREBE Renewable Business Portal (Robert Prinz, LUKE) and its contribution to the business mentoring through the Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme (Lasse Okkonen, Karelia UAS).

The group discussion was interesting and highlighted the importance of marketing & sales skills in companies and SME´s. The discussion also included the planned online/virtual course preparation and video production of Finnish technology & renewable energy cases showing the entire chain from the raw material to the end-use. The IAG provided valuable insights for the GREBE activities on support scheme, business calculations, entrepreneur enabler scheme and demonstration cases and mentioned the importance of National languages in dissemination material such as in videos or other selected material.

IAG also discussed on how to link and work together with other activities, projects and support and how GREBE activities can most effectively be implemented, based on their own experience of working in or supporting the renewable energy. The IAG in Finland includes representatives from the renewable energy SMEs, research and education, business development companies, regional authority and agricultural producers and forest owners union.