Green Energy

  • The construction of UPM’s innovative biochemicals facility starts in Germany
  • Juuso Konttinen
  • Jyrki Ovaska

The construction of UPM’s innovative biochemicals facility starts in Germany

Oct 22 2020 Read 471 Times

UPM celebrated today the official start of the construction of the state-of-the-art biochemicals facility in Leuna, Germany. The biorefinery investment of EUR 550 million is a major milestone in UPM’s strategic transformation.

UPM will produce a range of 100% wood-based biochemicals that enable a switch from fossil-based products to sustainable alternatives in a number of end-uses such as plastics, textiles, cosmetics and industrial applications. Technology and process have been developed by UPM over the past ten years, mainly building on the company’s own innovation capabilities and selectively working with international partners. The biorefinery is expected to start up by the end of 2022.The investment has been awarded The Bio Act of the Year 2020 by the World BioEconomy Forum earlier in September this year.

“Today marks a new era for UPM’s biomolecular businesses. The biorefinery in Leuna will be the nucleus for an entirely new and high-value growth business and opens totally new markets for UPM with large growth potential for the future,” says Jyrki Ovaska, Executive Vice President Technology at UPM. “Awareness of climate change has increased customer demand for sustainable alternatives to fossil-based products. UPM has committed to UN’s Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and constantly innovates more sustainable products from renewable raw materials. The biorefinery in Leuna opens new perspectives for UPM as well as the bio-economy as a whole,” Ovaska continues. 

The total annual capacity of the biorefinery will be 220,000 tonnes bio-monoethylene glycol (BioMEG) and lignin-based renewable functional fillers. In addition, the biorefinery will produce bio-monopropylene glycol (BioMPG) and industrial sugars made from sustainably harvested beechwood sourced regionally in Germany. MEG is used for the production of textiles, plastics, PET, packaging and industrial coolants while MPG is used in composites, pharma or cosmetics products. Renewable functional fillers are used e.g. in a variety of rubber applications such as tires and sealings.

UPM’s wood-based products can be used to replace oil, gas or coal-based materials and they perform consistently in established production processes and the existing recycling infrastructure. They will significantly reduce the CO2 footprint of the end-use products. Furthermore, raw materials and other services for the biorefinery will be sourced in the region which enables local value creation and ensures compliance with high social and environmental standards.

The biorefinery will be built in Leuna, a renowned chemical site with more than 100 years of history, that has undergone significant transitions in the past. The state government has committed to supporting the build-up of new, sustainable industries and has also supported UPM in the process to date. The state’s Prime Minister, Dr. Reiner Haseloff welcomes UPM’s investment: “Saxony-Anhalt develops more and more into a hub for future technologies. The UPM Biorefinery is a key investment for the state of Saxony-Anhalt and I am grateful that UPM decided to invest in our state. Leuna offers a well-developed infrastructure and a business environment which is supportive to such investments.”

UPM has already established the project office at the site and is now ready to start the construction phase of the project. The work has continued uninterrupted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with high health and safety standards ensuring safe working conditions. 

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