We all face a huge challenge in which old energy sources must be replaced by renewable ones. At Sekab, we are proud and happy about the sustainability work we have successfully carried out so far, but it does not end here.
In the final analysis, we are all affected by how quickly we convert to a fossil-free society, here are some challenges:
Today, Sekab has the capacity to produce just over 100,000 metric tons of renewable acetaldehyde, renewable ethyl acetate and renewable acetum every year. This requires us to use renewable raw materials and we are proud that we can provide these products. But we are competing with fossil raw materials which are cheaper. However, we are pleased to note that demand from the market has begun to increase and we believe in the broad impact of bio-based chemicals in the near future. This would mean that we could produce and provide only bio-based chemical products. But until then we are following market demand.
A common objection to the production of biofuels is: Why should we use energy and agricultural land to produce biofuels, when instead we could be growing food? Our answer is: there is no contradiction.
The conditions in the Nordic region are very good for increasing the production of biofuels. At the beginning of the 20th century, 50 per cent more arable land was cultivated in Sweden than is the case today, arable land that today is largely fallow. By using that land to grow crops, we could greatly increase the production of biofuels, without requiring food production to decrease.
The Swedish Riksdag has decided that Sweden’s vehicle fleet shall be fossil-independent in 2030 and that in Sweden we shall have zero net emissions by 2045. In 2018, the UN Climate Panel IPCC established that the world needs to reach zero emissions by 2050 if we are to meet the 1.5-degree target. Sweden must therefore rapidly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Thousands of puzzle pieces must be fitted together so that we can make our society climate neutral. Sweden wants to be a pioneer country and we at Sekab are part of this transition to a fossil-free society. At Sekab we work primarily with two areas:
The chemical industry’s share of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions is approx. 5 per cent, since it uses fossil raw materials and fossil input energy. By switching to bio-based raw materials and renewable energy, we can greatly reduce the chemical industry’s climate impact.
Biofuels that are part of the natural cycle are already providing us with climate-friendly transport. By using the cellulose in the residues of forestry and agriculture as the raw material for biofuels as well as the residual flows from both industry and society, we can further reduce emissions.
Biofuels are an important component in reducing emissions from traffic, but more than this is required. We have significant logistical challenges ahead of us. We have to transport fewer goods than we do today and these transports must be streamlined.
Our vehicles must utilise energy more efficiently. Today, much of the energy is wasted in the form of heat and noise.
Passenger transport must be streamlined through, for example, public transport, car pools and car sharing. Far too often today only one person travels in each passenger vehicle and this is not energy efficient.
The world is still dependent on energy from fossil raw materials for society to function. We use petrol and diesel in our cars and buses, and in large parts of the world power plants are still coal-fired. At the same time, our industry is dependent on chemicals and plastics from fossil sources.
This is the cause of the on-going climate change; this is why the earth is getting progressively warmer. We must, therefore, replace these fossil raw materials with renewable, and above all, use less energy. Our vehicles must use less fuel and the energy must come from renewable sources, the world’s coal-fired power plants must be replaced by renewable energy such as solar and wind power and we must find new methods for manufacturing e.g. plastics.
This implies a huge transition that must take place swiftly. While the production of renewable energy is increasing sharply, energy from fossil fuels is not decreasing. Instead, our total energy usage is increasing.
Those of us who belong to the richest part of the population today live far above our assets. Our lifestyle and high energy and resource consumption all mean that the planet cannot support us in the long term. The organisation Footprint Network illustrates this every year with the Earth Overshoot Day campaign, the day on which we have spent all the resources the planet can rebuild in a year. In 2018, this day was on 1st August – in eight months, we had used resources equivalent to what the planet needed a year to recreate.
Most of the world’s ethanol production comes from cultivated raw materials, which means that the supply varies based on agricultural harvests. Sekab is trying to broaden this raw material base in order to obtain a more steady and higher production of sustainable ethanol.
Climate, weather conditions, droughts and floods affect harvests and thus the availability of ethanol. Modern agriculture is relatively stable, but yields nevertheless vary.
To be able to offer our customers a steady supply and a consistent price, Sekab tries as far as possible to sign fixed, long-term agreements with suppliers. This makes for safer, more stable conditions for us, for our customers and for the producers.
We work with bioethanol, a product that has a great climate advantage compared to fossil products – it is renewable. Renewable products from sustainable agriculture and forestry are essential for us to achieve a fossil-free society.
It is essential to be able to manufacture chemicals and biofuels from more renewable raw materials. This is the contribution that CelluApp, the cellulose-based biorefinery technology that Sekab has developed, makes today. It makes it possible to extract ethanol, and other important products, from residues of the forest and agriculture such as straw, bagasse and wood chips. CelluApp demonstrates that we at Sekab have real cutting-edge expertise. Thanks to this technology, we have managed to fractionate both spruce and pine, which are among the most challenging biomasses. CelluApp, is tested and available.
A broader raw material base not only means that Sweden can become fossil-free faster. By producing biofuels from domestic raw materials in large volumes, we can secure our access to energy and make ourselves independent with respect to importing oil and other fuels from countries that can be both unstable and undemocratic. It also creates business development and job opportunities in new industries.