Innovation has a key role in energy efficiency

Published 17 February 2016
Interview with Markus Mannström, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), who is responsible for coordinating Stora Enso's R&D Innovation agendas, managing the group's investment processes, and leading Energy Services.

Stora Enso has defined innovation as not just what it produces but how it is produced. What does this mean in the company’s transformation to a renewable materials company?
It is all about opportunities, and wooden fibre as a raw material gives us unique opportunities to create new and modified products. Wooden fibre is a renewable natural resource. In a world facing climate change issues, we can make sustainable products with wooden fibre that can substitute existing fossil fuel-based products.

Being renewable touches every part of our business. Broadly, we look at renewability as a cycle, from raw material to product after-life through recycling or degradability – and reuse as energy.

In production, our processes recycle chemicals and use biomass side streams to produce power and heat. Residuals and by-products such as bark and wood waste, lignin, black liquor and wastewater treatment sludge can be used for internal bioenergy production, among other things. Excess heat or energy is often sold to nearby businesses or communities. Some 98% of all our waste and residuals is reused either in our own production or externally.

How does Stora Enso combine innovation with energy?
We have a long history in reducing the consumption of energy in production. We have employees who are specialised in this, we call them ‘energy hunters’. They visit the mills, spending long periods of time with hands-on tasks to find and develop solutions which lead directly to electricity or heat savings.

For many consecutive years, we have had an internal investment fund to support ideas, originating from the mills, to reduce energy spending or decrease the use of fossil fuels in a very tangible way. These investments are usually rather modest, pay themselves back in about 12–18 months and often serve to reduce our CO2 emissions. It is great to see that there are still many ways to make improvements by being innovative and sharing best practices between mills even if we have run the fund for several years.

What are the forces that drive Stora Enso to develop its energy solutions?
The driving force comes from Stora Enso as a company, our targets, and the nature of the industry. We have processes and raw materials that enable more environmentally sustainable energy production. At the same time, the less we consume energy, the better we are financially.

What we are doing actually goes very well with the discussion ongoing in the society at large. We are already environmentally sustainable and financially efficient when it comes to energy in our production, and we will be even more so as our transformation journey continues.

What are Stora Enso’s challenges regarding energy efficiency?
The better we become, the more difficult it is to find ways to improve. However, we still have much to do on that front, we have not reached the limits yet. We can increase using biofuels in many mills as long as there are reasonable prerequisites like a market for biofuels and good enough transportation possibilities for it.

Let’s not forget that the share of biomass in our internal energy production rose to 81% last year, so our position is already remarkably good. We are able to combine environmental sustainability with financial efficiency, and that in itself is a winning formula.

Will there be a time when Stora Enso could be completely free of fossil fuels in energy for its production processes?
We have what it takes to be close, but it may take a decade. All in all, Stora Enso is already well on its way in becoming independent of fossil fuels in production.

- The share of biomass in the group’s internal energy production 81% in 2015 (79% in 2014)
- Self-sufficiency in electricity production 39% in 2015
- The group-wide target is to reduce specific electricity and heat consumption per tonne of pulp, paper and board production by 15% by 2020, compared with the baseline year of 2010. In 2015 this indicator was 5.7% lower than 2010 benchmark level (3.7% in 2014).

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