BRUSSELS, Nov. 15, 2012 (RISI) -I recently took part in an editors' tour of Finland, with a big difference; there were no pulp and paper mills on the program! Why would our hosts, Metso, even dream of taking up our valuable time outside of the pulp and paper industry to show us technology that is so ‘off message'? Actually, it was a clever move as some 50% of Metso's power business comes from the pulp and paper industry and this clearly emphasizes the position of the recently formed division within the group, Metso Pulp, Paper and Power.
And one overall conclusion of this tour was that power and energy - in all its shapes and sizes - is going to be instrumental to this industry going forward, and the trip unearthed all sorts of new things, some of which are mind bogglingly ambitious in their scale and application.
Oil from trees
One of the sites we visited was a pilot plant for the production of bio oil from trees. Now of course we have all heard about this concept, some of us might have even seen the odd diagram, but it is only when you are actually confronted with a jar of it, when you open it and smell the acrid fumes, that you suddenly realize that the forest industry is actually sitting on an oil field - or shall we say oil forest. We visited Metso's pilot plant in Tampere which is carrying out trials with all kinds of species of wood, and isolating the types that are going to see the maximum yields in the future. It was fantastic, visionary stuff.
We also visited a biomass plant in Pori that was maximizing the use of biomass in the form of stumps, thousands of them piled up in the receiving bays, and we visited a waste to energy gasification plant in Lahti Finland which is providing the town with electricity and heating supplied in a large part by burning local household rubbish. It is clear to see that these dynamic Finns at Metso have not been sitting on their laurels waiting for a savior from the pulp and paper industry, and instead have been keeping themselves occupied by working intensively on some seriously groundbreaking projects which are sure to add another string to a pulp and papermakers bow in the future.
The future has begun
According to the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), that future has already begun. I have just come from European Paper Week being held in Brussels, and have to say hats off to CEPI. These guys - headed by the indefatigable Teresa Presas - never fail in their mission to inject new life into an industry and world region that has serious challenges in front of it. But, instead of running around in panic and paying lip service, CEPI is forever coming up with new ideas, new opportunities and even ways to get valuable investment for its members from the European Parliament.
At this year's event, the 14th of its kind, the association has come up with the theme "Enabling the Bio-economy" and has produced a brochure entitled: "The Future Has Begun". Basically the plan - which implicitly involves the pulp and paper industry, and is indeed depending on its participation - is completely clear that a full blown entrance into the bio-economy is needed, by means of much more work on developing low carbon alternatives. Examples of these include biofuels and bioenergy, and doing all the industry can to lower the carbon footprint, will create wealth and jobs not only for this industry, but will go a big step in helping the European region get out of its own challenging position. This type of initiative really is a tonic for the troops, and the bullet proof enthusiasm displayed by the CEPI team is really quite infectious. Good work!
Something to celebrate
Other good work is also being done, this time by the RISI events team. This week we had our PPI Awards celebration, also in Brussels, and it was a fabulous occasion. All the winners of all the categories can be viewed on the RISI website (www. risi.com), and we will have the full report of the event in our next issue of PPI. Congratulations to all the winners!