New products from the side streams of Finnish wood production

News 2019-07-08 at 12:38
Puun uuttoa
Wood extraction © Pielinen Karelia Development Center LTD PIKES

A partner of the Circwaste project, the Pielinen Karelia Development Center PIKES seeks, models, and tests sustainable utilisation methods of by-products and waste, as well as the related new business opportunities, together with the industrial companies and municipalities in the area. The project will carry out four practical experiments utilising side streams. The companies operate in the timber, agricultural, metal, and food industries. The PIKES Circwaste subproject was launched in autumn 2017, and it is set to continue until 2020.

The first experiment of the project developed added value to side streams of wood. The aim is to test the manufacturing methods of new products before actual production. The experiment examined the best methods for separating wood extraction agents and manufacturing technical coal from bark. Biocoil Oy in Kuhmo is currently taking the results into practice.

Multiplying the value of wood in Kuhmo

According to Biocoil’s estimate, Finnish sawmills produce 2.5 million cubic metres of sawdust and 6.7 million cubic metres of bark from softwood per year. Of these side streams, only 40% is used at the sawmills for energy production. This leaves 60% without significant use. Saw technologies are already far developed, which makes increasing the value of side streams, sawdust and bark, by refining them into more valuable products the best ways to improve profitability.

Valuable fractions can be separated from bark by extracting tannin, for example. After separation, the bark mass can still be reused in many ways. Bark and sawdust can also be used as desiccant, or it can be carbonised into fertiliser or technical coal.

Montinutra Oy and Biocoil Oy, both of which are starting their operations in Kuhmo, are striving to make forest industry side stream refining into a significant new industry in Finland. A research and production plant for refining bark material and sawdust into valuable compounds is currently being designed for the Kantola industrial area.

Saw dust helping with prostate problems

Montinutra Oy produces the patented Kuusikumi™ hot water extract food improvement agent from spruce. According to the company, the product is scientifically proven to heal urinary tract symptoms and prostate problems, which according to research affect more than 50% of men over 50 at some point in their lives. The company’s spruce extract won the first place in The changes in Demographics -category of the Uusi puu (New wood) 2017 competition.

The company is also researching how hot water extracts could replace guar gum in food products, cosmetics, and medicine, among other places, and how the bio compounds of Finnish wood species could be used. However, the use of wood-based ingredients in food products requires EU to grant spruce and any other Finnish wood species a novel food status. The company is currently planning to launch the related application process.

Valuable materials and technical coal from softwood bark

In the Biocoil Oy operating model, a refining unit using wood side streams as raw material can be opened in connection with a sawmill or another production plant which refines wood, in order to increase the value of the lesser raw material. For example, there has not usually been enough use for tree bark, even though some is used for garden mulch and jogging tracks.

The Biocoil field laboratory plant is currently developing a manufacturing method for technical coal. The company’s solution is to isolate valuable materials like tannin from softwood bark, and to use the rest of the biomass for technical coal. This multiplies the value of the bark. The biomass left over from the sawdust can also be utilised as raw material for technical coal.

Biocoil has also thought up use for technical coal as part of cattle litter, as it is efficient in binding phosphorus and nitrogen. After use, the litter can be used as organic fertiliser on fields, where they increase the organic matter content in the soil. Technical coal releases the nutrients into nature slowly and maintains its fertilising attributes for a long time.

Utilising side streams also increases domestic content

Corporate expert Heidi Tanskanen from Pielinen Karelia Development Center PIKES advocates new Finnish wood compounds. They could be used to increase the utilisation rate and value added of wood material collected from the forest, as well as replacing imported ingredients extensively used in the food, medical, and cosmetics industries.

‘Finnish spruce gum could in the future replace guar gum, which is mainly produced in India and Pakistan. In addition, tannins from spruce could replace fossil compounds in particle board adhesives and wood protection agents, for example.’

‘The global market demand for activated carbon is increasing steadily. Finnish wood-based activated carbon could replace fossil carbon products and other imported carbon.’

‘The new wood-based active ingredients and products have an enormous potential, and we believe that related side stream business operations will be born on the Nurmes green industry area within the next years. The area is designed for the needs of bio and circular economy’, Tanskanen says.

More information

Corporate expert Heidi Tanskanen, Pielinen Karelia Development Center LTD PIKES,