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Borregaard runs one of the world’s most advanced biorefineries with the focus of full utilization of renewable raw material to high value chemicals. The goal of the company is to provide sustainable solutions based on green carbon resources and specialised competence.
During SusValueWaste’s annual meeting in August 2017, the project team was given a guided tour at the Borregaard plant which stretches over an area of several square kilometers surrounded by the city of Sarpsborg. This site is a conglomerate of century old units and brand new state of the art units due to evolution of the industrial site over the years. The plant produces speciality cellulose, lignin performance chemicals, bioethanol and vanillin – the latter is the wood-based substitute for synthetic vanilla.We were greeted by Gulbrand Rødsrud, Technology Director Business Development who gave an introduction to the company and its many research and development (R&D) activities.
An innovation focused organisation
Borregaard is focused on transdisciplinary innovation and has about 100 employees in their R&D division. The company has received both funding from The EU, The Research Council of Norway and Innovation Norway to build and operate a demonstration facility called the BALIBiorefinery Demo. Demonstration projects such as this one are considered to play an important role in developing new bio-based fuels, energy and products which can replace oil-based alternatives.
World leader in targeted markets
Borregaard’s strategy is to have dominance in global niche markets and is considered a leading supplier of lignin based performance chemicals. To hold this position they collaborate closely with customers when developing products. With expertise in organic chemistry and wood chemistry Borregaard develops chemicals for various applications for sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, pharmaceuticals and construction.
Biorefineries’ role in the future Bioeconomy
Biorefineries are highlighted to be a central part of the circular and sustainable bioeconomy. A biorefinery can offer the green option to utilize what earlier was categorised as waste, but now is increasingly identified as valuable resources with the potential of becoming marketable bioproducts and bioenergy. First generation of biorefineries has been under critique due to their utilization of food for feedstock and the land used for growing the crop. For the evolving second generation biorefineries, careful selection of suitable biomasses is extremely critical for sustainable practices. Borregaard makes use of bioresources from the forest, using the fraction of the forest which are not suited for building materials.
Borregaard’s internal circular economy
Continous development of an area with long industrial traditions
Borregaard in Østfold County has an industrial history going centuries back and is today a modern and highly automated production unit. The plant is strategically located next to the Sarpsfossen waterfall which has secured supplies of clean energy from early industrialisation period. The Glomma river has enabled transport of timber downstream and a shipping connection to international markets. The company has a continous focus to upgrade the plant to optimalize production processes towards circularity and has reduced CO2 emissions with 50% during the last years. Today, the plant also use energy made from the municipal household waste at the site. In addition, the area has a newly constructed “anaerobic only” treatment facility that both purifies the water used in Borregaard’s production and supplies renewable energy.
Waste and other residual materials from industries and households are of increasing value in today’s economy. Substances that have long represented a cost to the economy are now becoming a valuable resource. Exploiting the full potential of these resources requires increased innovation, systemic change as well as better regulation and governance.