Island nation takes climate step – must have 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2030

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It’s warm inside the red brick building in Bureå south of Skellefteå. In the past, Modo had a wood sanding shop on the premises, today there is a modern coal mill here, a little pointed. “You heat the wood, or pellets in our case, without adding oxygen. In this way, moisture and volatiles, i.e. volatile oils, are driven out. Basically it’s the carbon mile principle, in modern parlance it’s called pyrolysis,” says Lars-Gunnar Almryd, CEO of Envigas. The Bureå facility produces 5,000 tons of biochar per year. With that production, Envigas are big in their niche. But it is only one percent of the biochar that the industry is expected to need in a few years. In a first step, Envigas wants to build a biocoal factory that is ten times as big as the one in Bureå. “We have the largest plant in our part of the world, but it is nothing. If we are to be relevant and meet the industry’s needs as the player we are, we need to start now,” says Lars-Gunnar Almryd. As in many other discussions about industry and new ventures in northern Sweden, H2 Green Steel and Hybrit quickly come up . With hydrogen, Sweden will become a world leader in fossil-free sponge iron and fossil-free steel. But completely fossil-free is not the new steel. During H2 Green Steel’s environmental testing in Boden at the beginning of June, it emerged that the company may become the fifth largest emitter of carbon dioxide in Sweden. The reason is that carbon atoms in the form of natural gas will be needed to handle certain parts of the production. Nor does Hybrit, which is run jointly by LKAB, SSAB and Vattenfall, dare to promise a completely fossil-free production. The company is tight-lipped about how much carbon dioxide the company will emit, the amounts will not become clear until the environmental application for Hybrit’s facility in Gällivare is submitted. This is where biochar comes into play. With coal made from wood products, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions could be pushed down further.”If you said it should be fossil-free, something other than fossil coal is required. Even if it is only three percent of today’s emissions,” notes Lars-Gunnar Almryd. The company Envigas in Bureå. Lars-Gunnar Almryd, CEO Photo: Anders AlmEnvigas is not alone to have identified this market. Norwegian Vow Green Metals also has its sights set on the metallurgical industry and is already cooperating with the industrial group Elkem. Behind Envigas are several well-known investors. Joakim Karlsson, former partner at Nordic Capital, is via Imran one of the main owners. The major owner is also the investment company Concejo and among those with a smaller stake is Karl-Johan Persson’s (H&M) venture capital company Philian. During the spring, Envigas held talks with more potential investors. The goal is to raise half a billion kroner for the next facility. The Nordic market is estimated to be worth five billion kroner. The goal is to be ready in time for the large new steel mills to be commissioned in the second half of the 2020s. “The needs are so great and building industry takes time. There is so much that needs to happen quickly in the entire value chain, and then you have to start building as soon as possible. We have to start now if it’s going to be late,” says Lars-Gunnar Almryd. During the year shall the company decides where the biochar plant is to be located. Luleå is a hot candidate, but Bergslagen and Sörmland are also conceivable alternatives. The basis is that the factory must be close to large customers and that there must be provision for the residual heat and energy that arises during manufacturing. Another important part is that the plant is close to the raw material. Many industries want to eat residual products from forestry, which will be used for everything from pine diesel to packaging, which will be a challenge for Envigas and other stakeholders. “You need to think structurally about how the raw material is to be used. It should be used for the most highly refined products first and then you get by-products. If you are smart, I think there will be enough raw material. However, it will not be enough if everyone isolated from each other says that we should have this and that much,” says Lars-Gunnar Almryd. The major steel manufacturers are not the only ones who see biocoal as an alternative when emissions need to be reduced. Even for smelters and smaller foundries, which find it difficult to switch to hydrogen gas, biocoal is of great interest. Experiments are also underway with mixtures in plastic and rubber, for example in car tyres. “Several car manufacturers don’t just talk about fossil-free steel, but about the end product being fossil-free. Then it’s not just steel, but aluminum, plastics and all kinds of stuff where you want to replace carbon atoms,” says Lars-Gunnar Almryd.

Biochar

If biochar is to be used to make the steel industry fossil-free, 500,000 tons will be required. The market in the Nordic region is estimated to be worth five billion kroner. The largest player in Sweden is Envigas, which in a facility in Bureå produces 5,000 tons per year. The main owners of the company are Concejo and Imran. The chairman is Per-Olof Wedin, who also sits on LKAB’s board. Concejo’s vice president Thorleif Jener and Imrans Joakim Karlsson, as well as entrepreneur Carl Palmstierna, are also on the board. The biggest competitor is the Norwegian company Vow Green Metals. The company cooperates, among other things, with the Norwegian industrial group Elkem.

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