SunPine AB

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Telephone : +46-911-23 28 00
Address : Haraholmen , Piteå , Sweden , SE-941 43

SunPine – first worldwide with biodiesel from tall oil

Swedish SunPine is  the first company worldwide producing biodiesel from tall oil. The plant is located in Piteå harbor in northern Sweden. The plant started 2010. At the Preem refinery on the Swedish west coast the tall oil diesel is upgraded to a high quality green diesel.

The company SunPine was created in 2006. Current owners each with 20% equity include oil company Preem;Sveaskog, the largest forest owner in Sweden; and, Södra, a forest owner cooperative operating four major pulp mills. The remaining 40% of the shares are held by Lars Stigsson through his company KIRAM AB. The structure of SunPine is evolving. Today the company has eight employees and also employs a number of consultants on a full-time basis. Before year-end, twelve operators will be handpicked for the operation of the Piteå plant.
“The tall oil diesel is unique in that the feedstock originates from the forest and that it can be blended into petro-based diesel fuel in higher percentages than ordinary biodiesel”, says SunPine CEO Magnus Wikman. “It also gives more energy and lower emissions than most other green diesel blends.”Ten percent of Swedish diesel consumption
Normally a maximum of 5 % biodiesel is blended into diesel fuel. Preem’s new green diesel, based on the tall oil diesel, contains up to 20% green component. In this way the projected production of SunPine of 100,000 cubic meters tall oil diesel per year will become 500,000 cubic meters per year of ready fuel, more than 10% of the total Swedish diesel consumption. The new green diesel can be used in all diesel engines and does not have the drawbacks of the traditional biodiesel such as bacterial growth during storage.

Lars Stigsson, founder of SunPine, discussing the construction of the production plant with CEO Magnus Wikman (right).

Research turned into reality
It was only five years ago that the research started that created the foundation for the SunPine product. Behind the idea stands Lars Stigsson, who was also instrumental in the founding of Chemrec. Already at the outset he predicted the criticism directed against production of biodiesel from food crops. It became the driving force to search after other feedstock that could replace fossil fuels. In the laboratory he, together with leading researchers in chemical technology, started studying the byproducts of the forest industry. They found that black liquor, the dissolved wood substance formed as a byproduct when producing cellulose pulp, contained a number of interesting substances. The idea for SunPine was born.

Calcium soap, the origin of tall oil, constitutes only a small fraction of the black liquor but northern softwood gives the highest yield and fatty acid content. Turned into biodiesel, tall oil shows very positive results in life cycle analysis. After a couple of years of laboratory studies it was clear that tall oil could be used to produce a high quality biodiesel.

“It has been possible to realize our project quite quickly,” notes Wikman, who has been directing the development the last couple of years. “Many other initiatives for second generation green diesel are still at the research stage. The tall oil is a relatively easy feedstock compared to producing the fuel directly from wood or other biomass. This in combination with a skilled team researching and developing the process has made it possible to progress rapidly.”

Forest industry and oil company in cooperation
“We have created a ‘dream team’ through our ownership structure where forest industry and an oil company cooperate,” Wikman continues. “SEK 230 million(€23 million, $30 million) is invested in the Piteå plant. It is a substantial sum and one feels quite humble at the responsibility.”

“It is very stimulating to be working in an emerging industry,” says Anders Skoog, logistics manager who came to SunPine from a career in the oil industry. “The oil you wanted to reduce, the biofuels you work to increase,” he adds.Limited feedstock availability
SunPine has contracted a large portion of the tall oil needed to utilize the capacity of the crude tall oil diesel plant. Initially the tall oil will come from pulp mills in Sweden and in the longer term also from other countries. SunPine takes all its feedstock from the byproduct from the forest industry.“This constitutes a built-in limitation of the production volume,” says production manager Johan Lundbäck. “The pulp industry determines the feedstock availability. Of the total wood intake to the pulp industry only 2% becomes tall oil. There is a total of 350,000 cubic meters (12 360 ft³) of tall oil available in Scandinavia. SunPine needs a third of this volume and competition is tough.”

The tall oil is today used as fuel in the industry and as a feedstock for thechemicals industry.

 Ill: Helikopter Reklambyrå

The SunPine process step-by-step:

1. Crude Tall Oil is mixed with biomethanol and sulphuric acid. Via the esterification a crude tall oil diesel component is built.

2. In a destillation tower the component is destilled to the main product crude tall oil (CTO) and the by-product pitch fuel.

3. The crude tall oil is then upgraded to a high quality diesel fuel at Preem refinery in Gothenburg.

4. The by-product pitch fuel is a green fuel oil. In the future it is also planned to extract other useful substances, such as resin acids and sterols.

Tall oil comes from pine, spruce and birch

The name tall oil is derived from the Swedish word for pine but tall oil is extracted also from spruce and birch. During the pulping process resinous substances in the wood are dissolved and form calcium soaps. This soap is skimmed from the black liquor and subsequently washed and acidified to form crude tall oil. The yield of tall oil diesel from the crude tall oil is high, up to 65-70 percent. The remaining 30-35% becomes pitch fuel, a renewable fuel oil which is returned to the pulp mills. Also other residual products such as sodium and sulfur are returned to a pulp mill. The SunPine production process does not generate any waste. In the future it is also planned to extract other useful substances, such as resin acids and sterols.

The produced raw fuel is delievered to Preem in Gothenburg.

Preemraff - Sweden's largest refiner
Preem is responsible for 80 percent of Swedish refinery capacity and 30 percent of the Nordic. Total refined 18 million cubic meters of crude oil every year at both our wholly owned refineries Preemraff Gothenburg and Lysekil Preemraff, giving a total refining capacity of approximately 345,000 barrels per calendar day. The two refineries are operated as a single system, and ranks among the most modern in Europe, producing more than what the Swedish people making off with for a year.Parts of Preemraff in Gothenburg is converted for the production of biodiesel. The new facility, Green Hydro Treater, is designed to process crude tall diesel and other biomaterials. The process has now been implemented and coprocesses fossil gas oil with crude tall diesel. Preemraff Gothenburg takes in 100,000 m3 of crude tall diesel from SunPine about 23% of the finished Evolution Diesel. Along with 7% of RME will be a renewable diesel by about 30% renewable providing approximately 600 000 m3 of ready-Evolution Diesel.

The Preem refinery from raw talloil diesel to Preem ready diesel product blend

The Preem refinery from raw talloil diesel to Preem ready diesel product blend