Fibenol replaces oil with wood-based chemicals

Replacing oil as a raw material is an innovation that is key to a more sustainable future for the materials and chemicals industry, and this is exactly what Fibenol, an Estonian company exhibiting at NEXPO, is striving to achieve. Fibenol has established a groundbreaking technology in its pilot plant, with the aim of creating wood-based chemical products and valorising all the main components of wood. Peep Pitk, Board Member and Head of Development at Fibenol, sheds light on the company’s innovation and the biggest challenges facing the bioindustry.

Sustainable materials through an eco-friendly industrial model

Fibenol, an Estonian greentech firm, is at the forefront of the sustainable materials industry, offering an eco-friendly alternative to oil-based chemicals. “We employ Sunburst™ technology, which is unique in the world and enables wood to be refined through mechanical force, pressure and temperature in a far more efficient and environmentally friendly way than ever before,” explains Pitk. The company manufactures wood-based biomaterials with a minimal environmental footprint, including lignin and sugars, which can replace fossil-based chemicals in a wide range of everyday applications, such as construction materials and cosmetics. Fibenol’s overarching goal is to transform current oil-centric industrial models into sustainable ones, thereby enabling the development of transparent and novel product value chains.

“The biomaterials produced by Fibenol are fully sustainable, with a clear understanding of the entire lifecycle from input materials to the finished product,” says Pitk. These biomaterials originate from certified forests, resulting in a low ecological impact. Remarkably, Fibenol can convert approximately 90% of input materials into the final product during wood biomass processing, a significantly higher efficiency compared to other wood valorisation methods. The company’s industrial model also champions sustainability, as it relies on 100% renewable energy, using minimal chemicals and recycling at least 70% of process water.

The emerging bioindustry

Pitk observes that the bioeconomy is still in its infancy, both in Europe and around the globe. A constant race is underway to discover optimal solutions and apply know-how. Pitk asserts, “Estonia, exemplified by Fibenol’s achievements, represents a unique success story. The experience of establishing the Fibenol demonstration plant, our technology and the extensive experience of Estonian wood valorisation are an opportunity we can exploit globally.” He adds that, in addition to sustainable materials, they possess the capability to offer technology, skills and knowledge that are unmatched elsewhere.

While acknowledging that Estonia’s bioindustry is still in its early stages, Pitk emphasises that active collaboration can provide solutions to many challenges and potentially create a completely new industry. This could position Estonian innovators with a competitive advantage on the global stage. Pitk comments, “The entire bioindustry is an untapped resource for both the public sector and entrepreneurs. Our willingness to collaborate has generated significant interest in Fibenol’s endeavours.”

Navigating innovation challenges in a regulated landscape

Pitk acknowledges that Estonia has a considerable journey ahead to establish a business environment that fully supports innovation and sustainable solutions with practical implementation. “The most formidable and crucial challenge lies in navigating the complex web of regulations,” he points out, adding that many pilot projects, not to mention finalised solutions, get bogged down in various regulations and requirements largely based on traditional industry. Pitk advocates for government involvement, emphasising the need for factors like value-based procurement, support for innovation projects, and the promotion of pilot initiatives to encourage entrepreneurs and industries to take concrete steps towards a sustainable future.

Discover Fibenol’s biomaterials at NEXPO

You can explore Fibenol’s biomaterials at the upcoming greentech exhibition, NEXPO Tallinn, scheduled for 13–17 November. The exhibition will showcase Fibenol’s complete range of biomaterials, including lignin LIGNOVA™, cellulosic sugars and speciality cellulose (MCC). Visitors will have the opportunity to see, touch and experience these materials firsthand. The exhibition will also demonstrate various applications of Fibenol biomaterials, including asphalt products, biobags, construction materials and cosmetic products.

Pitk expresses his enthusiasm about the fact that events focusing on green technologies and sustainable solutions are being held in Tallinn throughout GreenTech Week. “We are keen to seize the opportunity to be part of presenting Estonia’s innovations to the world,” he says. The Fibenol team eagerly anticipates meeting representatives from local and international companies, as well as public sector and research institutions, with whom they can collaborate in the burgeoning bioeconomy sector.

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