The term “biochemicals” is not defined precisely. We define it as a bio-based chemicals that are deriving from sustainable, renewable and climate neutral feedstocks.
UPM takes the next transformative growth step and enters the biochemicals business by investing in a biorefinery at Leuna, Germany. The biorefinery will produce a range of 100% wood-based biochemicals which enable a switch from fossil raw materials to sustainable alternatives in various consumer-driven end-uses. The investment opens totally new markets for UPM with large growth potential for the future.
UPM will invest EUR 550 million in an industrial scale biorefinery to convert solid wood into next generation biochemicals: bio-monoethylene glycol (BioMEG) and lignin-based renewable functional fillers. In addition, the biorefinery will produce bio-monopropylene glycol (BioMPG) and industrial sugars. The total annual capacity of the biorefinery will be 220,000 tonnes. The facility is scheduled to start up by the end of 2022.
UPM’s bMEG and bMPG have exactly the same molecular structure as conventional glycols produced from fossil feedstocks. Therefore, they could be used as drop-in alternatives for all applications where today petrochemical based MEG or MPG is used.
The main advantage would be that customers would not need to compromise on processability, product quality or recyclability to benefit from the improved carbon footprint of UPM’s bio-based glycols.
MEG is a key raw material for polyesters used for textiles, bottles and packaging materials. It is also main component in deicing fluids and coolants. MPG is typically used in composites, pharma, cosmetics and within the food and feed industry as well as a wide range of technical fluids.
UPM´s Renewable Functional Filler (RFF) is derived from wood-based raw materials. This new generation of fillers features diverse performance benefits like weight reduction via significantly lower material density, excellent electrical insulating properties, highest level in purity, and absence of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). UPM’s RFF can partially or fully replace traditional functional fillers in virtually all rubber-parts in automotive and other industries, as well as in parts made from thermoplastic elastomers and thermoplastics.
Today, many other bio-based chemicals are based on so called first generation feedstocks like corn or sugarcane. Wood has several advantages compared to first generation feedstocks, for example it does not compete with food production and usually does not contain GMO.
Wood is UPM's most important raw material and we are committed to forest management and forest harvesting practices based on the internationally accepted principles of sustainable forest management. Moreover, we plant over 50 000 000 seedlings annually.
UPM monitors the origin of wood to ensure it is sustainably and legally sourced. Forest certification is an excellent tool to promote sustainable forestry. Eighty-five percent of all wood supplies are currently certified and UPM has set the goal to have all wood supplies certified by 2030. Already now, 100 percent of wood supplies to UPM are covered by third-party-audited chains of custody.
Lignin can be found in the cell walls of all plants and it is one of the most abundant biopolymers on Earth. Lignin is nature’s own “glue” due to its polymeric nature and its richness in functional groups. In nature lignin provides strength and protects plants against UV irradiation as well as fungal and bacterial attack.
Due to these properties, lignin can be used in various applications. For example, it replaces fossil phenol and formaldehyde in phenolic resins. In other polymer systems, it can be used as a structural or functional component. The main advantage would be that customers do not need to compromise on performance, to benefit from the improved carbon footprint of UPM’s lignin products.