Pathways for Increased Use and Refining of Biomass in Swedish Energy-intensive Industry
Events in recent decades have placed climate change at the top of the political agenda. The European Union has assumed a vanguard role in global climate negotiations, pushing for ambitious international commitments. Furthermore, Sweden is positioning itself as a leader within the EU when it comes to setting the agenda for climate change. In Sweden, energy-intensive industries are responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions and their ability to switch to a renewable energy source could contribute significantly to the transition to a decarbonised economy.
This study analyses the role of three energy-intensive industries with regard to increased refining and use of biomass and will also take a glimpse into the future in an attempt to gain further insight into what will affect future developments in this area. The study is limited to the pulp and paper industry, the iron and steel industry and the oil refining industry as well as the EU legislation that affects these industries. For each industry the operations of the following case companies, Södra, SSAB and Preem AB, are analysed specifically and for each company one or two selected plants exemplify the outcome of the implementation of different technologies. This interdisciplinary study combines a range of methods taken from engineering and social sciences.
The industries studied all have different preconditions for transformations and the technological options available diverge to a large extent. There are many options for the pulp and paper industry compared to the iron and steel industry and the oil refining industry. The most likely technological option for this sector is to utilise internal resources for conversion to energy or material products and export of excess energy. Options for the steel producer SSAB include the substitution of part of the coke in the blast furnace with biomass or refined biomass products such as syngas and biomethane and forming an industrial symbiotic partnership. There are several options for the oil refining industry to substitute fossil feedstocks without the need to modify the existing infrastructure. One option is hydrotreatment of bio-oil into green diesel, which will be implemented at the Preem refinery in Gothenburg. However, green production of transportation fuels and substitution of coke in the blast furnace require large amounts of biomass and since biomass is a limited resource this is likely to act as a barrier to the development of these technologies.
Furthermore, it can be concluded that the companies studied could contribute significantly to the development of technologies that are in line with their core capabilities, while the development of technological options that require a change in their core capabilities is more limited. This discovery is further supported by the finding that the EU directives relevant to this report do not push industrial operators beyond efficiency measures along established technological lines. On the one hand, these legislative instruments, which are designed in the spirit of ecological modernisation, encourage the most cost-effective technologies and processes for the abatement of greenhouse gases relevant to each industry. On the other, they do not appear to be sufficient to raise the cost of carbon emissions and this contributes to a situation where incentives to make different biomass-based technologies economic are not present on the market. Over a longer time perspective none of the case companies believes that biomass will have increased significantly in the Swedish energy system by 2050. These case companies claim that biomass is too limited a resource and can only contribute in part to the necessary substitution of fossil fuels.
refining of biomass
substitute fossil feedstocks
Energy intensive industries