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Hydro and Norske Skog Evaluating Wood-to-Diesel Project

Hydro, the Norwegian energy company, and Norske Skog, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of newsprint and magazine paper, have agreed to carry out a joint feasibility study relating to the production of synthetic diesel from wood via gasification and Fischer-Tropsch processing.

The partners are examining the possibility of establishing such a Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) production facility in south-east Norway. Such a plant could come on stream by 2012 at the earliest.

We consider ourselves to be natural partners as far as wood-based biodiesel is concerned. Hydro has wide experience derived from the construction and operation of major processing plants and from the quest to find new forms of energy. Norske Skog has considerable expertise when it comes to wood purchasing and treating wood pulp.

—Hydro senior vice president Alexandra Bech Gjørv and Norske Skog vice president Terje Engevik

The feasibility study will primarily provide an overview of the technologies available in the market, identify the availability of raw materials, and create a realistic picture of the external governing conditions that must be in place in order to reach an investment decision.

CO2 emissions represent a climate threat that affects all of us, and we can see that the political will exists to promote biodiesel as an environmentally friendly alternative to regular fuels. There is great potential for biodiesel in the market of the future, but if this market is going to materialize we are in need of a sound, long-term operating framework from the authorities.

—Bech Gjørv and Engevik

Other groups internationally are also exploring the use of wood as a feedstock in BTL processes.

  • A Maine non-profit group has released a plan detailing how the state could turn its vast quantities of forest waste into a range of biofuels and chemicals, providing up to 50% of the state’s annual energy needs. The study assessed the potential for three primary forest-waste biomass conversion technologies: Pyrolysis, Gasification and Fractionation. (Earlier post.)

  • The University of Maine announced it was embarking on a $10.35-million research project to develop an integrated forest biorefinery—one that allows mills to create new, high-margin revenue streams while maintaining their traditional production. This could be the first integrated forest biorefinery in the US. (Earlier post.)

  • The Biomass Technology Research Center (BTRC) of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has succeeded in continuously synthesizing Fischer-Tropsch diesel from wood via a new compact process. This marks the first successful continuous production of Fischer-Tropsch (FT) diesel from wood in Japan, and is intended to bolster the development of small or portable BTL plants. (Earlier post.)



As long as plantation timber is used in a sustainable way. How likely is this as the price for liquid fuels rises? Also, what is forest waste? How does it fit into the nutrient cycle of the soil and forest? I think some serious ecology has to be injected into the discussion on these types of processes.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Actually, I should clarify something. Biodiesel and synthetic diesel are not the same thing. Biodiesel is mainly vegetable oils and animals fats. Synthetic diesel (what they describe above) is plant matter (grass, wood, etc.) being turned into diesel fuel.

This idea isn't new BTW. During the 70s oil crises, research was done into getting gasoline and diesel from plant matter too. It was ditched though as being too costly and time-consuming.

Rafael Seidl

A full Fischer-Tropsch plant needs to be quite large to produce affordable fuel. Cp. the Shell GTL in Malaysia. One alternative at smaller scales is to limit the synthesis step to methanol or DME, depending on what you need. These fuels can be used in specially adapted vehicles owned by fleet operators (delivery/buses).


Surely some of the nutrients can be captured at the gasification stage and spread back on to the forest floor. Being a hydrocarbon synfuel doesn't need phosphorous or potassium. It should in effect be hydrogen and carbon from the environment given some fuel value by sunlight.

allen zheng

The mineral ash after gasification and processing has the minerals that could be spread onto the soil by forestry crews after they remove wood.


during WW2, a lot of farm vehicles, and private motorcars, in new zealand, were run on 'wood gas'. some sort of burner thing was mounted in the front seat and fed wood, and the exhaust was fed through to the carb. my dad told me about it (he's an alternative fuels chemical engineer from way back). obviously, it must have been pretty dangerous, having a firebox in the passenger compartment like that.

shaun mann


Forest waste includes anything that is uneconomical to collect and carry from the forest to the processing facilities. This includes the crowns, most of the branches, stumps, basically anything that isn't the trunk.

Different parts of the world use their tree resources differently, leaving different parts behind to decay, but this is generally what is meant. According to Kyoto, whether you cut down an acre of forest and use 20% of the mass of the wood or 100% of the mass of the wood, the same amount of CO2 has been created.

As such, it is effectively a free waste that involves no CO2 output. The only cost would be in collecting the material in order to proces it on-site, then either use the fuel locally or transport it for distribution.


This company has some information about using waste wood from storms, normally municipalities pay to have it burned or dumped according to the site.


@lotfw: I just went to that site. I can only shake my head over the ignorance of the Americans regarding energy. Greenenergyresources is collecting wood waste and is shipping it to Europe in order to produce energy in Europe. As we had not enough woodwaste here in Europe! And they are obvisiouly competitive! That's totally absurd. I must say, the Iranian president is very right saying, that oil is still to cheap. Americans are that addicted to cheap oil, that they don't even use 1/0000 of their wood waste for energy production. They just don't know, what wood waste is. Shame.


I would like to see us make methanol from biomass and use it to fuel methanol to hydrogen fuel cell plug hybrids. Good efficiency and CO2 neutral.

ray golden

honoring the earth ltd is an historical black college environmental consortium using pyroloysis for tire recycling. interested insynfuel.


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