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Ann-Britt Edfast, R&D mMnager at Sveaskog, and Ulrika Rova, Professor of Biochemical Process Engineering at Luleå University of Technology. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

The forest as a source of climate-friendly new products

Published: 29 May 2019

The forest industry and the forest industry's products play a key role in the development towards a sustainable, bio-based society. Everything that is made of oil can in principle be made of forest. About this challenge to develop and develop environmentally adapted processes that reduce the use of oil and environmental pollutants, lectured Ulrika Rova, professor of Biochemical Process Engineering at Luleå University of Technology and Ann-Britt Edfast, R&D Manager at Sveaskog, at The Great Northern in Skellefteå.

–We need to produce more food and other bio-based products with minimized environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions, which do not produce any waste and which also have an adequate social value. The majority of chemical products today are from fossil raw materials consisting of carbon and hydrogen. By using renewable resources from the forest, the earth and the sea instead of fossil raw materials, we can develop more sustainable products and reduce the climate impact, Ulrika Rova, said.

World-leading reserach

The theme of the lecture was topical research collaborations with the aim of finding new climate-friendly products of forest residues, a research area where Ulrika Rova's research group at Luleå University of Technology is in many cases world-leading. It concerns everything from fish feed and health food to green fuel and biocol. Several new funded research projects are in the starting blocks. In several of these innovative projects, Sveaskog is an important collaborative partner, where the common goal is to optimize and safeguard the use of biological resources in the manufacture of materials and products.

–Sveaskog wants to be involved in driving the development of new areas where the forest can replace the oil, it can be about fuel, energy, composites or as a basis for completely new climate-friendly substances and products, Ann-Britt Edfast, said.

Common research projects

Chemicals are everywhere around us. Finding and developing environmentally-adapted processes that reduce the use of oil and environmental pollutants for the manufacture of products and manufacturing is a goal for both Sveaskog and the researchers at Luleå University of Technology, where the raw material is renewable and the products are biodegradable and not toxic. To understand the unique properties of the tree, Ulrika Rova showed how it can be divided into four components, which can replace fossil raw materials during manufacture. These four parts are hemicellulose (plastics, chemicals), cellulose (prebiotics, vehicle fuel, materials) lignin (carbon fiber, vehicle fuel) and extracts (drugs, adhesives). She believes that the production of renewable products must be linked to other industrial processes - biorefineries, for maximum utilization of the raw material.

– Research activities and research policy are needed to ensure sustainable management and processing of natural resources, which also enables us to secure sustainable food production to a growing world demand for food,  Ulrika Rova, said.

Forest residues replaces oil

Ann-Britt Edfast recalled which unique supply of forest raw materials and forest residues in Sweden has for these sustainable processes. There are 28 million hectares of forest land in Sweden, of which 4.0 million belong to state-owned Sveaskog. 80 percent of this forest is in Norrbotten and Västerbotten. And the forest makes great use of our climate, by growing and being close to our people. Sveaskog focuses on especially three development areas of production and environment, technology and productivity, as well as new areas of use for the forest raw material - for example in collaboration with Ulrika Rova's research group at Luleå University of Technology.

– Growing forests bind carbon dioxide. With active forestry we continuously bind carbon dioxide in the growing forest, but one must also cut off forests, in order for the trees to feel good and grow. If we, when we harvest the forest, use the forest residues to replace fossil-based products during production, the good effect of the forest raw material becomes even greater for our climate. Because it is actually that, as we now make of oil, can be made of forest-based raw material, Ann-Britt Edfast, said.

The lecture at The Great Northern was followed by a Question Time with many questions from the audience and also the opportunity for more informal conversations with the researchers after the lecture.