Forchem factory in Rauma.

Biorefinery that is keen on renewable energy

Based in Rauma, Finland, Forchem refines crude tall oil (CTO) for purposes including innovation award-winning animal feed. The plan for the future is to switch from natural gas to biogas, says Forchem CEO Risto Näsi.

Forchem is an oil refinery, but instead of crude fossil oil we use crude tall oil (CTO), which is a co-product of the kraft pulp industry. We have been refining CTO into a variety of products for more than 20 years, almost exclusively for exports.

Oil distillation requires a lot of heating energy. We used to produce it using a fuel which was created as a side stream of our own process. That, however, had to be discontinued for technical and administrative reasons. 

We explored a variety of solutions, and natural gas was the most convenient fuel for our purposes. One of the decisive factors was the future option of switching to biogas, which would enable us to change tonewable fuels.                                    

Gas is a convenient source of power

The initial investment was quite large, and it takes time to learn the new technology. Gas is delivered to us by a road tanker and it is regasified on site at our facility.

Our annual energy consumption is around 150 gigawatt hours, and the road tanker visits us almost once a day. The system has been running for around six months and, now that we have learned the ins and outs of it, using gas is practical, convenient and almost effortless.

Compared with natural gas, biogas is a renewable fuel, and we would like to go back to using renewable energy.

Valuing local raw material

Our aim for the future is to further develop new higher value-added products from crude tall oil (CTO), which is a great renewable raw material. The more you refine it the more it will benefit the society.

For example, our customer Hankkija developed animal feed that replaces antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics in animal production is a major cause of resistance to antibiotics, which is a big problem around the world. The CTO-based feed material we produce for Hankkija yields the same result without any antibiotics. 

Active ingredients of cholesterol-reducing foods are also made from CTO, but these are not currently manufactured in Finland. We have been considering to start the production for a long time now. The biggest challenge is access to the raw material, as CTO is used increasingly to make biodiesel. Our aim, however, is to provide CTO with a more sustainable and valuable value chain.