A large project to map the availability of forestry residues, with a focus on conifer needles as feedstock for chemical production, has kicked off thanks to funding from the European Union and regions involved in Sweden and Finland.
“We want to know what is required for taking out the forestry residues [from the forest] for the purpose of turning them into chemicals. Today, the sector is not adapted for this”, Athanassiadis told Bio4Energy Communications. He is a scientist on the research and development platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy and affiliated with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
“If we find that there is considerable value [to be gained] from the forest residues, the production chain will be adapted. For instance, it may be necessary to take the forestry residues out before the timber, since especially the needles need to be taken out fresh to have their value conserved”, he said.
The project relies on the assumption that the needles of coniferous trees, such as spruce and pine, contain valuable substances that, by means of extraction and processing, could be turned into high-value chemicals. These could be platform or specialty chemicals, for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, dietary supplements, foams, coatings or even bio-based plastics.
Forestry and leather industries are stakeholders
The intention of this joint effort by scientists and industrial companies in Sweden and Finland, is to advise those interested in starting production of chemicals from extractives of conifer tree needles. Target groups are forestry industry, forest owners, chemical industry, leather industry, as well as entrepreneurs in any of these sectors.
“One of many companies we will work with is Kokkolan Nahka Oy-Karleby Läder Ab. They are interested in tannins”, Athanassiadis wrote in an e-mail.
Forest owners Holmen, Norra Skogsägarna, SCA and Sveaskog, part of the Bio4Energy Industrial Network, contributed letters of support to the funding application.
Swedish national television sized on the project, which resulting video clip aired on TV4 Nyheterna. Clip published with permission.