One hundred years of cellulosic ethanol for the environment

SEKAB is situated in the centre of Örnsköldsvik’s biorefinery area. Sulphite ethanol has been produced in Örnsköldsvik for over one hundred years from Domsjö Biorefinery waste products, providing chemicals and fuels that deliver an extremely low carbon footprint.

Marie-Louise Wallberg

At SEKAB we refine, sell and deliver ethanol produced as it has been for the last 100 years from Domsjö Biorefinery waste products. Today, we deliver a cellulose-based waste product to a number of market operators with extremely high operational environmental standards. It is a product we are very proud to be able to provide.

Originally a by-product of pulp production

Pulp has long been an important industrial product in Sweden. Pulp was produced mechanically until the 1870s, after which chemical methods were used. Sulphite and sulphate processes became common in the new paper mills.

Cellulosic ethanol for environmental reasons, both then and now

With the sulphite process, nearly half of the cellulose meant to produce paper was wasted as it dissolved in the cooking liquor. The huge volume of generate waste product was, at that time, pumped directly into the nearest stream or river.

It soon became clear that this was bad practice, both for the environment and the economy. A 1933 government report found that around one million tonnes of organic material was emitted by Swedish paper mills. There was therefore an incentive to utilise as much as possible of what was left after the paper had been produced.

Cellulose consists of sugar

Sulphite lye, which contains a great deal of sugar, was a natural source for ethanol production. Sulphite ethanol was first produced from cellulose in Sweden in the autumn of 1908. Ethanol production became common in Sweden’s sulphite plants and a chemical industry based on ethanol as a raw material developed in Domsjö. Ethanol was also used as fuel during the First World War, when imports of petrol to Sweden were stopped.

Ethanol from Domsjö protects the environment, even today

Today, cellulosic ethanol from the sulphite plant in Domsjö is still used by SEKAB in the production of both fuel and green chemicals. The use of waste as a raw material from existing production provides an end product with excellent climate characteristics. Consequently, our products that have the best climate characteristics are based on ethanol from Domsjö.

The biorefinery, Domsjö Factories, has evolved from a traditional paper pulp mill to an advanced biorefinery that produces specialty cellulose, viscose and lignin.