Biorefinery – Est-For Invest

Universities to advise on research concerning the innovative Biorefinery

Upon the agreement of the Rectors of Tartu University, Estonian University of Life Sciences and Tallinn University of Technology, the high-level independent Est-For Academic Council was set up last week, in order to carry out research concerning the establishment of the billion-euro wood refinery, which would induce a leap in Estonian GDP.

According to the Rector of Tartu University Volli Kalm, the Academic Council will take on the responsibility of advising Est-For on issues requiring profound scientific knowledge. “The Council will give Est-For recommendations on formulating the objectives and methodology of the research necessary to establish the refinery, as well as on selecting the best available local or international researchers,” Kalm explained.

“We are glad that the management of Est-For has acknowledged our initiative during our meetings and has expressed their willingness to cooperate,” Rector of Tallinn University of Technology, Member of the Estonian Academy of Sciences, Jaak Aaviksoo noted during the opening ceremony.

Rector of Estonian University of Life Sciences Mait Klaassen added: “Estonian University of Life Sciences is the only Baltic University that belongs in the top-100 of global forestry universities, which makes it abundantly clear that our researchers carry world class competence in evaluation of timber resources as well as in sustainable use of natural reserves. Cooperation between private sector and universities helps to ensure prudent use of our natural reserves and to put the scientific results of Estonian University of Life Sciences in the fields of renewables, forestry, and conservation into practice faster.”

According to Margus Kohava, Member of the Management Board of Est-For Invest, cooperation with academic circles matters greatly for the project, as the initiative group of investors wishes to ascertain that the building and operation of the refinery would take place in compliance with all requirements and standards set by Estonian and EU legislation, as well as social expectations in Estonia.

In the work of the Council, universities will also depart from the principle that the construction, technology, and operation of the refinery must comply with modern environmental requirements, best available techniques (BAT), and the needs of Estonian economy and society.

Est-For Academic Council is independent from the company in its positions and its members are not remunerated. The council is comprised of the Rectors of Tartu University, Estonian University of Life Sciences, and Tallinn University of Technology.

The planned refinery will have a visible positive impact on the forestry sector of the region, as well as Estonian economy as a whole. Compared to the raw material currently exported to the Nordic countries, the value of the timber would rise by 4 to 5 times. An estimated 3 million cubic metres of pulpwood and woodchips per year, currently exported, would be used as the local raw material. The project would not increase the current logging volumes.

Most of the timber would originate in Estonia but, if necessary, also be imported from Latvia and Lithuania. The planned production capacity is 700 000 tons per year. The biorefinery would serve as 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. According to the preliminary plans, the production would start in 2022.

Additional information:
Volli Kalm
Rector, Tartu University
rektor@ut.ee