VTT expands its bio and circular economy pilot center

By VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland | June 12, 2017

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland will expand the operation of the Bioruukki pilot center located in Espoo, from thermochemistry to novel ways of biomass utilization, recycling of textile fibers and green chemistry technologies. The pilot center will develop into a new kind of an ecosystem, welcoming companies and research organizations to develop their ideas towards industrial-scale production. The world markets for bioeconomy and circular economy products and technologies are in strong growth, and VTT wants to offer its partners an environment and its expertise for the development of new competitive products and processes.

"We are turning Bioruukki into a globally unique technology and business hub for the promotion of bioeconomy and circular economy, and renewable energy sources. New innovations are created at the interfaces between traditional sectors. Bioruukki's special strength is that it allows various industrial sectors to meet under one roof," says Jussi Manninen, executive vice president of solutions for Natural Resources and Environment Business Area at VTT.

In 2019, Bioruukki will house a research entity that is unique in global scale. At Bioruukki, VTT combines different pilot environments into an entity that serves value chains at various stages of development. Combining various pilot projects makes the expensive pilot stage faster and more efficient.


Technochemical testing

The first phase of the pilot center was ready in 2015, and the first operation launched was technochemical testing for the production of biobased fuels and chemicals from biomass and recycled feedstocks using gasification and pyrolysis technologies. In the development work, the focus is on improving energy efficiency and reducing investment costs. This can be achieved by developing production processes to be integrated into industrial and municipal energy production systems. The ongoing projects include major gasification and pyrolysis projects financed by Tekes and the EU and several company-commissioned development projects.


Movable synthesis unit for energy storage

In autumn 2016, Bioruukki completed a movable synthesis unit for chemical energy storage placed in a sea container. It produces synthetic natural gas, liquid fuels and feedstocks for petrochemicals from hydrogen and carbon oxide through chemical reactions. The goal is to develop and demonstrate distributed production concepts for industrial needs. The main research focus is on utilization of biomass and industrial waste gas flows for renewable products. In summer, the synthesis container will be on display at the demonstration of the SOLETAIR project, financed by Tekes, in Lappeenranta, and next winter it will be connected to Bioruukki's gasification pilot as part of the COMSYN project, included in the EU Horizon program.



Research facilities for biomass

Research facilities for biomass will be completed in autumn 2017 in Bioruukki. The size of the laboratory and pilot facilities designed mainly for the processing of forest biomass and pulp production will be 2,300 square meters. The objective is to develop methods by which new materials and chemicals could be produced from cellulose with the help of methods such as nanocellulose and fiberization technologies. This development work supports the pulp mill projects currently pending in Finland.


Testing environment for textile fibers

During spring, Bioruukki will introduce a testing environment for alkaline dissolution and spinning of cellulose-based textile fibers. The environment enables research of a diverse material base, including development of cotton waste recycling. The first test runs will be performed by summer.


New building for green chemistry in 2019

At the beginning of 2019, a new building will be completed on the Bioruukki site for production of chemicals and new feedstocks using green chemistry methods.

Bioruukki, located in the industrial area of Kiviruukki in Espoo, is one of the biggest investments ever made by VTT. The research complex is being developed in collaboration between the city of Espoo, educational institutes and other stakeholders.

At the moment, there are 15 people working at Bioruukki, but approximately 500 VTT employees are involved in tasks closely connected to its operations. R&D will continue in VTT's existing research premises in Espoo, Jyväskylä and Tampere, and it supports the pilot projects performed at Bioruukki.