• Sweden's news in English

Swedish forests spawn new 'green' diesel

Karen Holst · 2 May 2011, 14:23

Published: 02 May 2011 14:23 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

For decades, scientists have been foraging for viable alternative energy sources that don’t rely on the planet’s shrinking natural fossil fuel resources.

In recent years, rising concerns over traditional fuel’s harmful pollutants sparked a global rage for biofuels derived from biomass ranging from discarded corn husks to animal fats.

Earlier this year, Preem, a leading Swedish oil company, emerged as the world’s first company to offer an innovative biodiesel made from tall oil, a renewable by-product of the forestry industry.

“The future is our market and we know that we need to find new roads to replace fossil fuels,” says Thomas Ögren, spokesperson for Preem.

“We have a lot of tall oil in Sweden and now we have a process to make diesel from it.”

Known as Preem Evolution Diesel, this green diesel is composed of about one fifth raw material and according to the company, cuts carbon emissions by 16 percent when compared to traditional diesel, which corresponds to the leading carbon emissions rate-cut of any biodiesel on the market.

“The best thing about our biodiesel is that every diesel engine can drive with it, it doesn’t require a special engine, and it can be mixed with other diesels – it’s an easy choice,” adds Ögren.

The idea for using tall oil, a component also found in adhesives, inks, rubber and drill fluids, came from a creative Swedish entrepreneur Lars Stigsson.

After an initial meeting between Stigsson and Preem executives, a plan was hatched that drew in two other partners, forestry companies Södra and Sveaskog.

Six years later, with more than 65,000 work hours logged, 2 million test-kilometres driven and more than 600 million kronor ($96.5 million) invested, Evolution was born.

Its creation and launch outpaced competitors in Italy, Brazil and Ireland with similar research initiatives and attempts underway and by early April, Preem’s Evolution Diesel has been launched in 370 of their 600 stations across Sweden.

“We already had the best standard diesel in the world because it has fewer particles in it and now, with Evolution, no one in the world has a better diesel,” says Ögren, adding that the expensive initiative was entirely funded by private money as Preem received no help from the state.

Tall oil, also known as liquid rosin, is a gummy, yellow-black odorous residue extracted from black liquor when pulping mostly coniferous trees.

It has previously been considered a waste product by the paper and pulp industry.

“In the past, we delivered fuel to members of the forestry industry, but today they are the ones delivering fuel to us,” says Ögren of the new use found in tall oil and its increase in product value to foresters.

Now the raw material is collected, reprocessed and then split to a molecular level that is identical to regular petro-based diesel molecules at Preem’s new factory in Piteå in northern Sweden.

The tall oil is then transported to a refurbished bio-refinery in Gothenburg in southwestern Sweden where the product is further refined and then mixed with fossil diesel, resulting in Evolution.

Whereas most biodiesels on the market today offer a blend of 5 percent renewable material, Preem’s Evolution is a mix that consists of about 15 percent tall oil and 5 percent rapeseed oil, setting a new global height for renewable content.

In theory, the matching molecular structure between the two diesel components could make it possible to blend higher ratios of tall oil diesel with petro-based diesel, thus creating greener diesel fuels in the future.

Preem aims to produce about 100,000 cubic metres of crude tall oil per year and claims that diesel vehicles that run on the Evolution fuel will have the same torque, the same power, and attain the same fuel efficiency as ordinary diesel while not costing a single krona more.

“Our customers like easy choices and it is very important for us to give a better product at the same price,” says Ögren, who also states that if the government installs a tax on the currently exempt biodiesel fuel it will be “too expensive” to sell in Sweden.

The 16 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, when compared to traditional fossil diesel, amounts to about 250,000 tonnes.

Preem says this is the equivalent to the emissions from 120,000 cars per year.

Statistics from the national green vehicle organization, MiljöFordon, show a total of 4.6 million cars registered in Sweden, which means Preem's reduced emissions amounts to less than 3 percent of the total number of vehicles in the country, however.

In addition, reports by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) show that Sweden has the most fuel-thirsty fleet of vehicles in the European Union, and the carbon dioxide emissions of new petrol and diesel cars are still among the very highest despite a decrease of 5 percent in recent years.

And while Preem’s Evolution Diesel has received plaudits globally as a step forward, concerns about the sustainability of tall oil remain.

Story continues below…

“It is a good product, but we should also be aware that the world’s tall oil (supply) is very limited and this blend will only serve a fraction of the need,” says Lars Lind, a biofuel expert employed with the Swedish specialty chemical company Perstorp.

“It is quite a big investment for a small impact with a quite limited raw material. While this is a step in the right direction, there are other alternatives to tall oil that are much more effective and should continue to be explored.”

Other biofuels on the market mentioned by Lind include those produced from vegetable oils, such as rapeseed, canola, soy and palm. Due to their need to share available arable land, these blends have sparked a frenzied debate around the impact caused to the food industry.

While Ögren applauds Evolution’s effectiveness and praises its independence from affecting food production, he does admit to tall oil’s limited availability.

“Tall oil cannot replace all fossil fuels in diesel but it is one of several solutions," he explains.

"We must continue to find a mix of several renewable sources and continue to assess new alternative and sustainable sources that we have here in Sweden,” Ögren states.

Lind agrees.

“Diesel replacement is the best way forward since diesel engines are the best engine. And there is space in the market for all replacement efforts.”

Karen Holst (kholstmedia@gmail.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

05:49 May 4, 2011 by MarkinBoston
Biodiesel? It's petroleum with a little bio oil added. And that's a big deal?
19:50 May 5, 2011 by Twiceshy2
It's using a previously wasted product to produce something that has real value.

Is it a big deal? I don't know... but it's definitely a good thing.
03:50 May 9, 2011 by millionmileman
If the concentration is too high then there will be problems with rubber seals in the engines, unless they are specifically designed to run on this stuff.

There were a lot of problems in Minnesota with older engines a couple of years ago. This kind of fuel engineering is best left to engineers and not bureaucrats who think they are rocket scientists! We have Washingtonians who want to mandate E15. It's bad enough that I have to import synthetic oil from Germany to have enough zinc in it.
09:41 May 14, 2011 by bs3eggs
certainly a step in the right direction but I am not sure if it reduces our gross C02 if it is a waste product now
Today's headlines
Sweden's consumption footprint 'among the worst'
Trucks transporting goods on a Swedish highway. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden has been criticized for its unsustainable consumption of the planet's resources in the latest edition of a major WWF study.

Video: How to be Joel Kinnaman for a day
Kinnaman with one of the camera rigs that will allow people inside his head. Photo: Tele2

The Swedish Hollywood actor will strap a camera to his head, stream it live and allow viewers to interact with him this weekend.

Presented by Invest Stockholm
How Stockholm's cold climate boosts creativity
Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

Do long, dark winters actually make Swedes more creative and more productive? We spoke to Stockholm startups to find out.

Meet Sweden's lonely Donald Trump voter
A Donald Trump campaign button. Photo: Rogelio V Solis/AP

The Local talks to an American Donald Trump supporter on what it is like living in progressive stronghold Sweden.

Sweden to keep record-low interest rate in 2017
Sweden's landmark negative interest rate will continue towards 2018. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The Swedish central bank said that it will take longer than expected to reach its inflation target.

Presented by Stockholm University
9 unexpected programmes at Stockholm University
Photo: Niklas Björling

Did you know Stockholm University offers 75 master's programmes taught in English? And some of them are programmes you won't find anywhere else...

Creepy clown messes with the wrong dog walker in Sweden
Not the clown in the story. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A dog helped its owner fight off a creepy clown chasing the pair in southern Sweden.

A million Swedes are digitally excluded: report
How should Sweden bridge the digital divide? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Tech-savvy Swedes? Perhaps not. A new study suggests that at least a million of its residents feel the pain of the digital divide.

Malmö's 19th Swedish title sets Champions hopes alight
Malmö fans celebrating after the match. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Malmö FF have their eyes set on the Champions League after winning the Swedish league for the 19th time.

What's on in Sweden
Five great autumn events in Sweden this week
Jazz in northern Sweden. Photo: Umeå Jazz Festival

Food, music, movies and more food. What better way of helping yourself forget that the days are getting shorter and colder?

Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 26th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available