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Jan-Olof Andersson, researcher at Energy Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.
Jan-Olof Andersson, researcher at Energy Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

More biomass with efficient sawmills

Published: 1 April 2014

The biomass produced in sawmills, in the form of sawdust, bark and wood chips, has become an important resource in the transition to renewable energy. A new thesis at Luleå University of Technology presents techniques to reduce the use of biomass in the process industry.

– If a sawmill wants to be on the market in ten years, they must adapt to current market conditions in accordance with the advice given in the thesis. It is largely applied research that is written so that the sawmill industry will benefit from it, says Jan-Olof Andersson, who recently completed his doctorate in Energy Engineering at Luleå University of Technology.

Important biomass

In the thesis, Jan-Olof Andersson describes how sawmills can reduce the use of biomass, allowing more biomass to be sold on the market. That is important from two aspects: first, biomass has become an important source of revenue for the sawmill, it is also important to increase the amount of biomass in order for the government's environmental and energy plans to be realized.

– If we are to replace non-renewable sources of energy, the current use of biomass will play an important role. 75 percent of renewable energy comes from biomass and waste, says Jan-Olof Andersson.

Swedish sawmills can save energy (4.9 TWh/year) by reusing heat in kilns. The technique Jan-Olof Andersson recommend is an open absorber. It is also advantageous to coordinate start times for kilns so that heat from a kiln can be reused for another.

Great potential for integrated processes

The thesis does not stop within sawmills, but Jan-Olof has also investigated the possible energy savings by integrating the processes of related industries to sawmills, such as pulp mills, pellet mills and power plants.

– A total of 7.1 TWh could be saved by process integration, thanks to higher resource efficiency and overall efficiency. In the current situation, however, it is not economically viable to integrate processes, due to the price relationship between different types of energy. If politicians are serious about their plans, instruments should be implemented to promote the further development and use of renewable energy, says Jan-Olof Andersson.

The research was funded by the the Swedish Energy Agency. SCA and Martinsson have contributed with control groups. Future research will investigate the possibility for sawmills to produce biofuels.