Along the upper course of the scenic Oulu river, in Oulu's Sanginsuu district, lies an industrial plant that used to be a pharmaceutical factory. Today, it is used for developing cures for global environmental problems. The aim is to reduce the burden on the environment, increase well-being and make the world a greener place.
Lignocellulose plays a crucial role in this, but what exactly is it?
“Lignocellulose is a plant biomass consisting of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Chempolis’ technology can be used to produce biofuels, various fiber products and numerous biochemicals from lignocellulosic raw materials,” says General Manager Keijo Hytönen from Chempolis.
Chempolis wants to be a pioneer in the efficient use of renewable raw materials. Biomass-based products are made from raw materials that cannot be used as a source of nutrition. This makes the use of the available arable land more efficient. The technology developed in Oulu is able to use agricultural residues, for example, and process them into valuable products instead of burning them.
“In India, for example, around 32 million tonnes of straw are disposed of by incineration every year. This would provide enough raw material for 100 Chempolis biorefineries, while reducing local air pollution and increasing prosperity by creating jobs,” says Sofia Kajan, Key Account Manager at Chempolis.
Another example mentioned by Kajan comes from India, which is a target country for Chempolis at the moment.
“If agricultural biomass were used to produce textile fibers instead of burning it, the amount of fiber grown in the fields of the Delhi region alone could replace 50% of the world’s cotton production.”
Biorefinery in India
Founded in 1995, the company is currently busy with various customer projects, customer test runs and an investment project at the Oulu biorefinery. Chempolis has a cooperation agreement with Fortum to provide test runs and engineering services for commercial biorefinery projects.
“Together with Fortum and the Indian state-owned oil company NRL, we’re currently building the first biorefinery based on Chempolis' technology in India. It will produce bioethanol, biochemicals and energy from bamboo,” says Sofia Kajan.
The construction of the biorefinery in Assam in northeastern India is currently underway.
"We also sold one technology license to Europe last year,” Kajan continues.
The Oulu biorefinery is constantly developing and expanding. The latest major investment project is currently being completed. The project included the replacement of the old ABB automation system with a Simatic PCS 7 process control system.
Chempolis wanted a full-blooded control system that could be used by experts not only from Oulu but also from around the world.
“PCS 7 is a commonly used system in industry, which means that its use in customer projects is also a viable option,” says Keijo Hytönen.
The purpose was to increase the level of automation at the biorefinery by developing process control. The Siemens sequencing tool and standardized libraries, which have proven to be handy, have supported this goal. Standard libraries make it easy to implement process changes and carry out system maintenance.
The industry Chempolis operates in has strict reporting requirements. The PCS 7 system also helps to meet and monitor environmental and quality requirements.
“Mandatory monitoring can be carried out and reported more efficiently in future. Going forward, it’ll also be possible to more accurately observe, monitor and report on the quality requirements of test runs carried out for customers,” says Hytönen.
The implementation of major reforms requires an effective network. The migration was carried out by the local Siemens Solution Partner PCS-Engineering Oy, a partner Chempolis has already worked with in previous projects. PCS experts ensured that the implementation phase was kept short and efficient. The involvement of the operating personnel in the project from the planning stage facilitated the completion of the project. The schedule was also met.
“PCS-Engineering’s experience of the PCS 7 and engine control systems was essential for the success of the project,” Keijo Hytönen explains.