Biorefinery – Est-For Invest

SEI Tallinn: Biorefinery would reduce Estonia’s carbon footprint

Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre gave an assessment to Est-For Invest`s planned biorefinery`s life cycle based carbon footprint. According to the study, the refinery`s carbon footprint is negative and operating the mill will help avoid formation of fossil CO2. The study is available here

The aim was to assess the refinery`s carbon footprint, impact on climate change and contribution to meeting international and national climate and energy policy objectives. The life cycle based study, which considered carbon sequestration in forests and the product, the mill`s manufacturing process, transportation and raw material production, finds that the mill`s carbon footprint is negative and operation helps avoid formation of fossil CO2 under the condition that it replaces manufacturing power generated from oil shale. Thereby, the mill helps alleviate climate change, for three reasons.

First, a wood refinery, like many other mills utilising biomass, differs from other industries as it enables sequestering carbon into products. Secondly, the analysis showed that processing raw material near the mill would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the logistics process, as the raw material would not be transported by ship, road transportation would decrease and a significant part of the transportation would take place by rail.

Thirdly, according to a conservative assessment, the biorefinery would increase the generation of green power in Estonia by at least 48 per cent compared to 2016. Estonia`s carbon footprint would be reduced the most at the precondition that power from fossil sources used currently would be replaced with renewable energy. Altogether, the refinery would be able to decrease formation of greenhouse gases in Estonia by 1.6 per cent compared to 2015. This is equal to 83 000 fewer passenger vehicles on Estonian roads.

In the first stage of the study, the refinery`s operating carbon footprint was calculated. When the developers have decided on the final product portfolio, then the follow-up study will also calculate the products` life cycle based carbon footprint. This data will most likely become available in 2019.

According to Evelin Piirsalu, Senior Expert of Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Tallinn Centre, who led the study, directing the renewable electricity generated as a by-product of the biorefinery`s operation into the grid would reduce production of high carbon footprint oil shale electricity.  “Through this, the refinery could contribute to meeting the Paris Agreement`s and Estonian climate policy`s main goal – reduction of greenhouse gases,” she said.

By 2050, Estonia must decrease its greenhouse gas emission by 80 per cent compared to 1990. “Our geographic location is not favourable to fully transitioning Estonia`s energy production to hydro or wind energy. We have to look at a combination of solutions. We can learn from the Finnish experience, where biomass makes up a significant part of power generation,” said Piirsalu.

The study was authored by SEI Tallinn Centre`s experts, and commissioned by Est-For Invest OÜ. SEI Tallinn Centre is a foundation established by the Stockholm Environment Institute in 1992. SEI is an independent analysis centre in the areas of sustainable development, climate and energy, environmental economy and management and the main activity is research and supporting sectoral policy development.

Estonian investors with long-term forestry experience are investigating the possibility to establish a biorefinery in Estonia. The developers of the refinery disclosed the plan on January 11th, 2017. The Government initiated the special planning in May. On August 17th, the Ministry of Finance in cooperation with the State Shared Service Centre announced a public procurement. The procurement is aimed at finding a consultant to advise on the planning, impact assessment and to ensure all necessary studies are carried out.

The planning process includes environmental impact assessment and public consultations of the interim outcomes for all four stages. Every disclosure of the planning process interim stage is followed by requesting feedback from different stakeholders. According to current estimates, environmental impact assessment, determination of location, environmental permit applications, public consultations and technology analysis will be completed in 2019.

The group of investors investigating the possibility to build a biorefinery includes Aimar Varula, Arvo Türner, Heiki Vahermets, Peedo Pihlak, Toomas Mets ja Virko Lepmets (OÜ Combiwood), Peeter Mänd (Ivard OÜ), Kaido Jõeleht (Kaamos Group), Jüri Külvik (Lemeks Grupp), Mati Polli (Tristafan OÜ) and Tiit Nilson (Woodwell).

The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Tallinn Centre`s study is available in full here.


Additional information:

Evelin Piirsalu

Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre

Senior Expert

+372 5648 1858