Sustainable forestry supports groundbreaking biochemicals business

Expected to start up by the end of 2022, our state-of-the-art biochemicals biorefinery in Leuna, Germany, 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.

The Leuna plant will use hardwood trees native to Germany, where the share of mixed forests has increased, as they are more resilient to the effects of climate change and help to maintain biodiversity. According to Andreas Meggendorfer, Senior Manager Sourcing and Supply Chain Biochemicals at UPM, the new business will now be able to find use cases for hardwood, where industrial applications have so far been limited.

The new business will now be able to find use cases for hardwood, where industrial applications have so far been limited.
“We will mainly use industrial wood from thinnings and can also utilise residues from sawmills. In the area where the biorefinery is situated, there are not that many operators that use hardwood, and it is mostly incinerated, which should only happen at the end of a product’s lifecycle. We are trying to find smart ways of making the most of valuable raw materials,” Meggendorfer notes.

Locally sourced, certified feedstock
The biorefinery will start out by using beechwood, and once the production is running stable, the aim is to look into utilising also other hardwood species. Increasing the industrial use of hardwood in general supports the future goals of climate adaptive forest management.

“The catchment area for raw material for the biorefinery will be as close to the Leuna site as possible,” Meggendorfer says.

Regional sourcing of raw materials and other services for the biorefinery will enable local value creation and ensure compliance with high social and environmental standards. In addition, a railway connection to the mill will further help to lower the total CO2 emissions of operations.

“All feedstock entering the factory will be 100% certified according to either the FSC or PEFC standards. Our dedicated wood sourcing organisation will work with a broad range of forest owners, from major state-owned organisations in Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria to private forest organisations and small owners,” Meggendorfer says.

Currently 83% of all UPM wood supplies are certified, and we have set the goal to reach 100% by 2030. Already now, all wood supplies to UPM are covered by third-party audited chains of custody.

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