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VTT’s advanced gasifier test equipment.

VTT Technical Research Center of Finland has launched a gasification test plant project designed for the development of second-generation transport biofuels as well as power-generation applications (gas turbine and fuel cell power plants), and the generation of hydrogen for transportation.

The gasification equipment will be able to exploit any carbonaceous feedstock, including forest industry residues, bark, biomass from fields, refuse-derived fuels and peat. In Finland, the main focus at the moment is on exploiting forest industry residues and by-products without risking the supply of raw-materials to the forest industry. Because of the existing logistics, synthesis gasification is specifically being developed to be realized in connection with forest industry plants.

The gasification test plant in Otaniemi is one of the largest energy projects financed by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Tekes. Apart from VTT, the project involves the Helsinki University of Technology, Neste Oil, Foster Wheeler Energy, Andritz, Vapo, Pohjolan Voima and the large forest industry companies UPM, StoraEnso, M-Real and MetsäBotnia.

The commercialization of the gasification technology will be carried out in three phases. The output capacity of the first phase plant for power generation recently launched is 500 kW. The second phase plant, estimated to be launched in 2008-2009, will have the output capacity of 50 MW. This phase involves verifying the risk-free operation of the process. The third phase, from 2010 onwards, encompasses the construction of a demonstration plant which will be able to cover about three percent of the transport biofuel demand.

The total cost of the development and demonstration phase will amount to approximately €300 million (US$376 million). In the commercial plant, the estimated production costs of synthetic biodiesel will be €0.45-0.60/liter (US$2.12-$2.84/gallon US). In Europe, the estimated market for transport biofuels will be approximately 20 million tons after 2010, which corresponds to an annual turnover of €15 billion (US$18.8 billion).

According to VTT Development Manager Esa Kurkela, new production technologies will enable the reduction by half of the additional costs incurred for the national economy from the use of biofuels. Additionally, with the domestic supply of raw-materials, the share of bio-energy could amount to as much as 20% by 2020.

Finland is committed to increasing its share of biofuels by 2010 in accordance with EU requirements. The Finnish government has therefore drafted a bill for parliament to consider that will see 5.75% of all fuels are bio-based by 2010.


Rafael Seidl

Note that Finland accounts for almost 1/3 of EU forestry products, a close second to Sweden.


Rafael Seidl,
Both are uniquely positioned as countries with low pop density, and high waste biomass utilization potential. Poplar (native species) cultivation would be another possible source of biomass/wood. CH4 production could be added in the future, and make both countries self sufficient in energy. There might even be some exports to the rest of Europe.


We have been able to gasify long before cheap enzymes, so I do not understand why this has not been used for cellulose biofuels sooner.

Roger Pham

Good point, SJC.
I've been wondering the same thing for quite a while. Hoping some genius(es) out there can give us a straight answer!

Paul Dietz

One problem with biomass is the tension between transportation costs and economies of scale. If you make your plant big enough to achieve the latter (for example, making oxygen blown gasification affordable), you have to bring biomass in from large distances, increasing the former.

Biomass would benefit from approaches that increase the cost efficiency of small facilities. One of the advantages of ethanol fermentation is that it can be done on a relatively small scale.

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