Biorefinery – Est-For Invest

Initiators of Biorefinery project to local leaders: refinery not built at the expense of environment

Tartu, May 25th, 2017 – Main questions raised during a meeting between the initiators of the modern biorefinery planned in the Suur-Emajõgi basin and leaders of Tartu county municipalities yesterday covered the environmental impact of the refinery and potential locations.

According to one of the initiators, Member of Est-For Invest Management Board Margus Kohava, the meeting was constructive. “Evidently, local leaders of Tartu County are very interested in the process of building the refinery, and primarily in the environmental impact assessment. Today, we had an opportunity to explain that based on the preliminary information from the Ministry of Finance, first public discussions concerning the designated spatial plan may happen late this autumn,” Kohava confirmed.

In his words, the investors researching the possibility of building the refinery understand completely the importance of environmental issues for locals. “We will dedicate this summer to finding out the questions that the inhabitants of the Suur-Emajõgi region have, in order to be able to answer them,” Kohava added. The environmental impact assessment will presumably focus on the impacts for the basin of the watercourse, air quality, and areas surrounding the transport infrastructure. It will be carried out and the results evaluated in cooperation with scientists. Kohava confirmed the common interest of the investors and local people – the refinery will not be built at the expense of the environment.

Member of the Est-For Invest Management Board Aadu Polli said that the entrepreneurs behind the project will carry out more research than the Estonian legislation requires to ascertain the environmental impact of the refinery project. “In the beginning of this year, CentAR applied research centre carried out the socio-economic impact assessment of the refinery. We also intend to procure the carbon cycle impact assessment, which would explore the positive impact of the refinery on Estonia’s national commitments in the framework of the Paris climate agreement, as well as study the availability forecast of timber resources in Estonia and Latvia.”

On May 12, the Government launched the designated spatial planning process for the building of the biorefinery and the accompanying infrastructures, as well as strategic assessment of its environmental impact. The purpose of the designated spatial planning process is to find the most suitable location for the refinery within Viljandi or Tartu County in the immediate vicinity of River Emajõgi, and to create the detailed plan for the suitable site to enable construction permitting. Strategic environmental impact assessment forms a compulsory element of the designated spatial planning process, however, the impact assessment is much wider, covering the economic, cultural, social, and wildlife impacts of the project.

Additional information:
Margus Kohava
Est-For Invest OÜ
Member of the Management Board
Phone +372 503 6370

Aadu Polli
Est-For Invest OÜ
Member of the Management Board
Phone +372 510 0077

Background information

A group of Estonian investors with long-term experience in the field of forestry and timber industry is considering construction of a modern and sustainable wood processing plant (biorefinery) in Estonia. The size of the investment would be approximately EUR 1 billion, making it the historically largest industrial investment in Estonia. The refinery, when ready, would be the most modern in Europe.

It would be a unique new generation wood refining facility in Estonia, producing a number of renewable products, including cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin for different bioproducts, as well as green energy in an ecologically sound way. The renewable energy production by the refinery would exceed its own consumption by 25% on a continuous and stable basis. This would mean a 34 to 45 % increase for renewable energy production in Estonia.

According to the preliminary plans, the production would start in 2022. The planned production capacity is up to 700 000 tons of bioproducts per year. An estimated 3 million cubic metres of pulpwood and woodchips per year, currently exported at a four to five time cheaper price, would be used as the local raw material. The planned refinery would not increase logging volumes in Estonia. Most of the raw timber would originate in Estonia but, if necessary, also be imported from Latvia and Lithuania.

The feasibility of the project is being analysed in close cooperation with different Estonian authorities and noted scientific experts. The investors are seeking close cooperation with all the stakeholders, academic circles, and potential co-investors to ensure the environmental compliance and socio-economic sustainability of the technology and operation, as well as the project’s correspondence with the interests of the Estonian society.

It is a prerequisite to the opening of the biorefinery that the construction, technology, and operation of the plant must comply with modern environmental requirements, best available techniques (BAT), as well as the needs of Estonian economy and society.