Blog Posts Risto Korpinen Forestry

The Finnish bioeconomy and its growth depend on the main flow from the forest, i.e. on roundwood and on its cost-effective harvesting.

Roundwood is used by two important branches of industry: the wood pulping industry and the wood products industry.

The pulp industry manufactures cellulose from roundwood, for example, as raw material for cardboard and tissue.

Products manufactured by the wood products industry include, for example, sawn timber and plywood.

Forest chips are obtained in conjunction with wood procurement and forest management. They are produced mainly from small-sized trees, logging residues and stumps and from poor-quality roundwood.

Forest chips are primarily used as fuel in heating and power plants.

According to the Natural Resources Institute Finland, a total of 7.3 million cubic metres of forest chips were used in 2015.

When heating for low-rise dwellings is added to this, the figure is close to 8 million cubic metres.

This is a substantial volume of biomass.

Depending on the starting material in forest chips, it consists of actual wood material, bark, needles and leaves.

It is challenging to separate these materials from each other once they have been chipped, and so separation should be carried out before this.

When the compounds are at the end of their life cycle, burning them is justifiable.

The wood, bark and other materials contain structural components, for example, polymeric cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which nature has synthesised from very simple starting materials at a low temperature.

Not even the cleverest scientist can do this.

The raw materials in forest chips also contain low-molecular-weight substances, so-called extractives.

Primary burning of wood biomass is by no means sensible. Instead, separation methods that retain the original nature of the compounds as far as possible should be developed, which means that the elements of the starting material are also utilised in the end product.

When the compounds are at the end of their life cycle, burning them is justifiable.

The needles of conifers contain, among other things, compounds that can be used, for example, in the synthetisation of influenza medications.

Fresh needles contain a relatively high amount of chlorine, and so burning needle biomass causes boiler corrosion.

Wood bark material contains, for example, phenolic compounds such as tannins and flavonoids.

Some of these compounds have been found to have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Forest chips thus contain a huge number of substances that can be utilised.

The manufacture of new products must, however, take into account the availability of forest chips as well as harvesting, transportation and storage costs.

The energy required by methods involving the extraction of various compounds as well as the recycling and recyclability of chemicals potentially used in processes must also be taken into account.

Overall, the entire production chain must be sustainable both economically and in terms of the environment.

 

Published in Finnish in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus 23 of January 2017.

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