UPM builds tall oil-based biorefinery

Tall oil is another industry that the blogger started covering 11 years ago but unfortunately, has not been up-to-date with this market since 2009. If you want to know more about tall oil, I suggest contacting TAPPI, a big association for global pulp, paper, packaging and converting industries or the Pine Chemicals Association, which also has members from all over the world.

Most of the companies involved in the tall oil market are in the pulp and paper industry given that crude tall oil is obtained from treating skimming of black liquor (a byproduct of sulfate pulping) with sulfuric acid. I got this information from the American Chemistry Council:

Tall oil is essentially a mixture of oleic and other unsaturated fatty acids and rosin acids. More than 90% of the tall oil produced is distilled or fractionated for upgrading to fatty acid, rosin, and tall-oil pitch. The latter contains rosin anhydrides, estolides, miscellaneous hydrocarbons, and distilled tall-oil heads. The remaining crude tall oil is refined with acid or sold as crude tall oil. In its modified forms as salts, esters, and adducts, rosin is used in a variety of industrial applications. Major uses include printing inks, paper sizing, and adhesives as well as chemical intermediates, rubber, and coatings.

When the blog last posted about tall oil in 2009, producers have increasingly been burning the product for energy (they got biofuel credits for it in the US) and producers of tall oil chemical derivatives were complaining back then that they were losing their feedstock supply.

In Europe especially Finland and Sweden, using tall oil for fuel have been very popular given their vast supply of the material. The two countries provide 90% of total EU production and 80% EU consumption of tall oil, according to industry sources. One big producer in Sweden is Sunpine, which started a 26.4m gal/year tall oil-based biodiesel plant in mid-2010 in Pitea.

This time in Finland, pulp and paper giant UPM announced yesterday that it is investing EUR150m in a biorefinery in Lappeenranta that will produce 100,000 tonnes/year of crude tall oil-based biodiesel. Construction of the biorefinery will begin in the summer and expected to be complete in 2014.

UPM said the demand for biofuels in the European Union is expected to grow by 7%/year. The EU target is to increase the share of biofuels in transport fuels to 10% by the year 2020, and to 20% in Finland. UPM said its biorefinery’s annual output will contribute one fourth of Finland’s biofuel target.

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