Industry News

Yokogawa signs investment and partnership agreement


okogawa Electric Corporation announces that it has signed an investment and partnership agreement with

Bloom Biorenewables SA (Bloom), a Swiss start-up company focusing on the utilisation of biomass, with the aim of developing business opportunities in the bioeconomy field. The two companies will collaborate in

the commercialisation of a breakthrough technology from Bloom that maximises the extraction of lignin* from plant material to replace petrochemicals in a range of chemical products. Yokogawa and Bloom are both

undertaking initiatives to promote the bioeconomy, which involves the utilisation of biomass and biotechnology to solve global issues such as the depletion of natural

resources and climate change and enable long-term, sustainable growth. The agreement brings together Bloom’s lignin extraction technology with Yokogawa’s advanced technologies and knowhow related to the automation of industrial production processes, as well as its global sales network. Bloom was established in January,

2019, as a spinoff from EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. With the mission of making biomass a true alternative to petroleum, the startup is initially focusing on commercialising its new, far more efficient method of extracting lignin, especially monolignol, from biomass material such as wood. Its immediate goal is to demonstrate the technology in a pilot-scale plant. Bloom’s CEO, Dr. Remy Buser,

commented, “This new collaboration will help strengthen interactions with large industrial groups, drive internationalisation, and ultimately accelerate market entry, which are all essential factors for countering climate change and having a significant impact.” Tsuyoshi Abe, a Yokogawa senior vice

president, and head of the Marketing Headquarters, added, “Yokogawa aims to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through its core business activities, and the bioeconomy is a focus area in our long-term business framework. Lignin has huge long-term potential as a petroleum replacement, and we have high expectations that together we can contribute to the increased utilisation of biomass by integrating Bloom’s outstanding

UK waste wood exports decrease as imports expected to increase

Last year saw a decline in the UK’s export of waste wood to Europe, according to the latest statistics from the Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA). The drop had been predicted

12 months previously, when the association reported the UK would need an increased volume of biomass fuel for its own Chapter IV compliant biomass plants. However, at the start of 2020, it

became apparent that not all new plants had been fully commissioned. Yet despite this, the UK had still used 2.4 million tonnes of recovered wood biomass fuel during 2019. With a capacity for a further

600,000 tonnes when all the plants achieve planned output availability, the WRA is now predicting the country could soon be consuming all the waste wood it produces either through biomass, panel board production or other uses such as animal bedding or re-use. The 2019 figures, collated from a member survey carried out by the

WRA, saw an overall 6% increase in the amount of waste wood processed compared to the previous 12 months, bringing the total to almost 4 million tonnes.

The survey also found: ● The amount of waste wood processed into the panel board industry rose by 6% among WRA members, equating to an increase of around 12% across the UK as a whole

● The amount of waste wood processed into animal bedding, equine surfaces and other recycled products drop by almost 5% among WRA members, equating to an estimated decrease of 18% across the UK as a whole

● The amount of waste wood processed into small scale biomass increased by almost 39% across the UK.

Unfortunately, however, the UK’s waste wood supply chain was decimated virtually overnight when COVID-19 struck earlier this year.

Richard Coulson, Deputy Chair of the WRA, said: “Within weeks of lockdown the supply of raw material to WRA members dropped to on average circa 20% of its usual amount. This was mainly as a result of the closure of household waste recycling centres and the sudden shutdown of the construction industry due to lockdown. “At the other end of the chain the demand for panel board dropped dramatically, again due to the crisis, meaning there was no market for the finished product so no requirement for the waste wood feedstock,” he added. For biomass, demand for waste

wood was still high during lockdown, but plant operators struggled either because they didn’t have access to enough fuel and/or because they couldn’t complete planned outages due to the ban on travel from abroad, where many of the engineers are based. “The result of the impact of

COVID-19 was that the waste wood

technology and Yokogawa’s decades of experience in industry.” * Lignin is found in great abundance

in trees and other biomass as one of the main structural components that binds together with cellulose and hemicelluloses to form plant cell wall structures. It is composed of monolignol, which is a kind of phenolic. Phenolics are currently synthesised mainly from petroleum and used as a key raw material for many chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and functional chemicals such as inks and fragrances. For petrochemical substitution, the decomposition of lignin into monolignol is a necessary step. However, because of lignin’s diverse and complicated molecular structure, this has proven difficult to achieve at a commercial scale.

industry went into temporary decline,” said Richard. “Everyday during lockdown was a moving feast and both the industry and its off-takers alike had to respond to a different set of circumstances and challenges on a daily basis.” The WRA now fears that despite the domestic supply chain returning to a near-normal supply, the effect of COVID-19 regarding a lack of domestic raw material will have a longer-term impact and it is now predicting an increase in imports as a result. Richard continued: “UK end-users

have been aware of the opportunity to import from Europe for some time. Sporadic shipments have moved into the UK over the past few years and we estimate 20,000 tonnes was imported into the UK from Europe in 2019. “It will come as no surprise to us

if, when we announce our statistics for 2020 next year, we see that imports have grown significantly to balance what will be marginal UK exports this Winter,” he added. “This is particularly the case because we are now expecting the Winter of 2020/21 to be a difficult one for the waste wood industry.”

Autumn 2020 Forest Bioenergy Review 5

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