We use the biorefinery technology to refine forestry and agricultural waste products

Fractionation of cellulose gives us carbon-neutral fuels, chemicals and raw materials for industry. This method works everywhere biomass is available.

Biorefinery technology

Over the past 20 years SEKAB, together with researchers from the universities of Lund, Umeå and Luleå, has developed a process using heat, weak acids and enzymes to extract sugars from cellulose. The sugar can then be converted into ethanol for sustainable fuels and green chemicals.

Biorefinery technology is now in place – pre-studies for its establishment are ongoing

SEKAB’s cellulosic technology is in place and is ready for commercialisation. Pre-studies are currently being conducted in which SEKAB, together with various actors, is exploring possible forms of co-operation. The first goal is to see how waste products can be converted into more high-grade products using SEKAB’s fractionation technology.

Cellulose is the best bio-based raw material

The use of cellulose as a raw material has two major advantages. Firstly, it is found in such large quantities that the issue of using agricultural land and resources becomes less important. Secondly, it also has better climatic characteristics than traditionally manufactured bioethanol.

Ethanol used as a biofuel is produced mainly from cultivated products such as sugarcane, wheat and maize. Produced in a sustainable way, it provides a CO2 reduction of 80 per cent, a very high figure. One disadvantage is that the raw material requires a lot of energy and water and cannot be grown just anywhere.

Today, most of the chemicals used in the chemical industry are synthetic – i.e., produced from fossil fuels such as gas and oil. Such chemicals have equally poor climatic characteristics as fossil raw materials.

A process for the refinement of waste products

The cellulose process has many advantages, including the option of using waste products from, for example, agriculture. If straw rather than grain from the wheat is used to produce ethanol, no claims are made with respect to foodstuffs and farmland is better utilised. In maize production, the cob can be utilised when the corn has been harvested

The fractionation of biomass has huge potential

This process is currently used mainly in ethanol production, but it can just as easily be used to produce other products, such as butanol. Ethanol is also an extremely versatile chemical that can replace oil as both a fuel and a raw material in a variety of chemical processes.

Our biorefinery technology is a fractionation technique, which means that a raw material is divided up into its component parts. Lignocellulose is split up into lignin and cellulose, which is then broken down into different sugars. The sugar can be fermented to ethanol or, for example, to butanol. It can also be used directly as a raw material in other processes. Another product of the process is lignin, a substance that binds together the cellulose fibres in wood. This is a solid material with a high energy content that can be burned to produce electricity, heat and steam, or as a raw material in the chemicals industry. A third useful product in SEKAB’s cellulosic process is biogas, which can be refined and used as fuel or in energy production.

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